Nations League: Germany labor to victory in Ukraine | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW | 10.10.2020

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Nations League: Germany labor to victory in Ukraine

Germany finally got their first ever Nations League win, but it took them an hour to show any sign of the quality expected of them. Julian Draxler impressed, again, but the goals came from elsewhere.

Ukraine 1-2 Germany, Olympic Stadium
(Malinovsky pen 77' — Ginter 20', Goretzka 49')

It seems hard to believe this was Germany's first Nations League win, but on reflection of how this team has played over the last two years it isn't really that surprising.

With the scoreline reading the right way for Germany and the dreaded late equaliser avoided, Germany did what was expected of them in Ukraine. Julian Draxler, surprisingly starting ahead of Kai Havertz, impressed as Löw's core group of players returned.

Joachim Löw had said beforehand that "confidence is the glue of a team" and until Leon Goretzka's reactive header shortly after the restart Germany spent a long time looking for it.

After that, thanks to Draxler and a busy Serge Gnabry, Germany got the win. In particular the PSG midfielder, seemingly inspired by Löw's unwavering faith in him, was full of neat passes in tight spaces and agilely slid in between yellow jerseys.

Niklas Süle's reckless challenge in the box gave Ukraine a way back in, and opened the door for Germany to concede yet another equaliser. Fortunately for them and for Löw, it never came. It's absence though, wasn't enough to hide the issues still on show in this Germany team.

Draxler (on the right) impressed once again

Draxler (on the right) impressed once again

Big names return, big performance missing 

The return of the five-man Bayern block did little to inspire or stabilize Löw's team.

Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka both lost the ball needlessly inside the opening minutes and it was a sign of things to come as Germany's team looked a group of players on different pages. Löw's persistence with a back three left Germany unsettled again, and trying to squeeze Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos and Leon Goretzka into midfield didn't really work.

"We didn't play a lights out performance," Matthias Ginter said afterwards. "We lost a lot of balls and made simple errors today. Mistakes like that and the number of them are rare in a Germany team."

Ukraine's efforts to exploit a stuttering Germany were hindered only by a lack of quality. Keeper Heorhiy Bushchan was the epitome of this. The 26-year-old made some excellent saves but his glaring error gifted Germany their second and effectively ended the contest. To be fair to Bushchan, this was just his second appearance and had only been selected because Ukraine's first three keepers had been ruled out with COVID-19.

With that in mind, perhaps it is only fair to be critical of this Germany side. A narrow one-goal win that did little to cover up a jolted performance against a team that is comfortably inferior was far from encouraging in terms of Germany's long-term development. Then again, they won the game and this is the first time this team has played together in months. That there is room to improve was always going to be the case this far out from a tournament, especially for a team still figuring itself out.

Either way, Löw's biggest problem is that this team is tough to watch at the moment. There are flashes of brilliance — there is too much individual quality for it not to — but the flowing, fluid, confident performance often associated with Germany is still missing.

Ukraine's late penalty threatened to upset Germany's day

Ukraine's late penalty threatened to upset Germany's day

As it happened:

90'+4 FT Ukraine 1-2 Germany — Germany finally win a Nations League game. Goals from Ginter and Goretzka secure the win. But it was an uncomfortable finish to the game for Germany, who had to weather a late storm after Malinovsky's penalty had given them hope.

90'+1 There will be four additional minutes for Germany to see the game out. 

90' Germany sub: Can on, Klosterman off.

88' Rüdiger makes an important clearance as Ukraine continue to pump balls into the box.

86' Werner swings a leg at the ball on the edge of the Ukraine box, but he doesn't get anything on it and Ukraine can breathe again. Emre Can stripping off for Germany...

84' Malinovsky hits a free kick so high and wide that it did well to stay within the city limits of Kyiv. However, these are an uncomfortable final few minutes for Germany, who appeared to have the game sewn up.

82' Werner is straight into the thick of it with a quick through ball for Gnabry, whose shot is saved well by Buschan once again. Gnabry had to take it early with his left.

81' Germany sub: Werner on, Draxler off.

79' Germany were in complete control of this game but now Ukraine sense they can snatch something from it.

77' GOAL! Ukraine 1-2 Germany — Malinovsky calmly puts the ball into the bottom corner. Neuer goes the right way but it was right in the corner. It's game on here.

76' Ukraine penalty! Süle chops down Yaremchuk and that's a clear penalty kick for the home side.

74' A poor Ukraine clearance goes straight to Gnabry, but the ball was fired at him at pace and the Bayern man wasn't able to bring it under his spell.

72' Yaremchuk drives into a space between Halstenburg and Rüdiger, but seems to be short on energy so takes his shot on early — but it's an ambitious one that Neuer watches fly by his left-hand post.

69' Ukraine double sub: Marlos and Zubkov on, Yarmolenko and Tsigankov.

68' It should be said that despite his clear error for Germany's second goal, Buschan has kept the score down for Ukraine.

65' Ginter goes for goal — or was it a cross gone wrong? — that Buschan has to tip over.

63' Chelsea pair Havertz and Werner are among the substitutes warming up. Looks like we might see them soon.

60' Draxler has certainly provided Germany with a direct route to goal and has shown good understanding with Gnabry. A decent display by a player whose selection by Löw divides opinion.

57' Klostermann chance! Very well played by Draxler, who beats his man down the left and stands up a cross to the far post the Klostermann volleys into the ground and Buschan has to improvise to tip it over. And awkward one ofr the keeper and a fine combination between Draxler and Klostermann.

56' It's been a lively start to the second half, it would be fair to say. Both sides are much-improved from their midweek showings, but it's Germany who have that extra quality. Whisper it, but Germany might be about to win a Nations League game.

54' ...and Malinovsky slams the resulting freekick into the wall.

53' Kroos into the book for a pretty blatant trip on Malinovsky in a threatening area.

51' Draxler almost scores! Buschan is having a nightmare at the moment. He lets Draxler's low shot squirm under his body and has to be helped out by a clearance from Karavaev from under his own bar.

49' GOAL! Ukraine 0-2 Germany — Goretzka makes it two! Germany have their second and it's a moment to forget for Buschan, who had been so solid in the first half. He drops a cross and Goretzka nods in.

UEFA Nations League | Ukraine vs. Deutschland | 2. Tor Deutschland

Goretzka nods in Germany's second goal after Buschan's mistake.

46' SECOND HALF. Here we go again.

45' HT Ukraine 0-1 Germany — That will do for Germany at the break. Ginter's goal the difference but Germany could have had a couple more if not for the fine work of the Ukraine keeper Buschan. Ukraine have had their moments, but this is Germany's to lose.

43' Kroos goes close! Toni Kroos doesn't break stride as he sends a curling left-foot effort from the corner of the penalty box just over.

41' Ruslan Malinovsky is the first name in the book tonight after an untidy clattering of Matthias Ginter.

38' This is a much improved Germany performance, which is hardly surprising given that most of Germany's best players are on the field. Funny, that. Joachim Löw's critics will still point to Thomas Müller's creative touch being missing for the Germans.

35' Germany seem to have Ukraine where they want them at the moment. Die Mannschaft just starting to find those holes in the Ukrainian's defense.

34' Gnabry chance! It's another fine save by Buschan, who is keeping Ukraine in it at the moment. This time Ginter picks out Gnabry with a teasing cross from the right, and the Bayern man's header is palmed around the post by Buschan, low down to his left.

30' Kimmich chance! Amazing shot from the Bayern midfield from at least 25 meters out. It was swerving and dipping just under the bar, and needed the tip over the top by Buschan. 

27' Draxler has a go from distance with a powerful enough low drive, but it's very central and easy for the keeper.

24' Chance for Germany as Klostermann powers in a cross that Gnabry tries to flick behind him and into the net. Gnabry would have been better off leaving the ball for one of his teammates who were in better positions behind him.

21' A minute after giving Germany the lead, Ginter almost hands Ukraine an equalizer by dribbling the ball straight into Yaremchuk, who drills an early shot just over the top.

20' GOAL! Ukraine 0-1 Germany — Ginter gives Germany the lead! Two of Germany's center backs combine as Rüdiger engineers some space down the right and fires in a low cross, which dummied by Gnabry and finished from close range by Ginter.

UEFA Nations League | Ukraine vs. Deutschland

Antonio Rüdiger's powerful run led to the opener.

18' Ukraine definitely a threat going forward, and more so than Germany at the moment. 

17' Chance for Ukraine as Ginter loses sight of Tsigankov, who fires a shot across Neuer's goal. It actually flashes past the face of Neuer, who flapped at it but didn't actually make contact.

14' A hum of anticipation spreads around this arena every time Ukraine attack. For a side that just lost 7-1, they look confident and are playing a very direct game.

10' Almost a howler at the back for Germany. A risky backpass reaches Neuer, but the keeper has to improvise his clearance to avoid his clearance being closed down.

9' Gnabry tries to pick out Klostermann's run into the box, but the Bayern man can't quite guide his pass through to the marauding right-back.

6' Nice link up between Draxler and Gnabry there.

5' The first we see of Germany as an attacking force as Gnabry thumps a shot at goal from the edge of the box—but Ukraine's goalkeeper Buschan gets himself behind it. 

3' A decent breakaway chance for the hosts as Yarmolenko attacks space down Germany's left. His cross with his weaker right foot is a dangerous one, but no one is there in the middle to make contact.

2' There are a few fans in attendance tonight, spread lightly around the Olympic Stadium in the Ukranian capital. Enough to create some kind of atmosphere, at least.

1' KICK OFF. Here we go in Kyiv.


Despite laying on two assists for Germany on Wednesday and having made an impressive start to life in London with Chelsea, there is no place in the starting line-up for Kai Havertz. A strange one, but a vote of confidence for he much-maligned Julian Draxler.

Ukraine bounceback?

Ukraine were absolutely thumped on Wednesday, losing 7-1 in a friendly against France. It was their heaviest ever defeat, and their coach — the legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko — also needs his team to perform.

Feeling the heat

Joachim Löw could really do with a win tonight, with a little disquiet resurfacing about his position. He's still never won a Nations League game and, following the somewhat underwhelming performance against Turkey, he needs a strong performance and a convincing win. 

Team news!

Joachim Löw recalls Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, Marc Halstenburg, Lukas Klostermann, Toni Kroos, Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Süle, Matthias Ginter and Manuel Neuer to his starting XI. In fact, only Antonio Rüdiger and Julian Draxler survive from the side that drew 3-3 with Turkey earlier this week.


COVID-19 latest

Despite high coronavirus numbers in Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko has relaxed restrictions and permitted up to 20,000 fans with hygiene measures in place.

The number of daily coronavirus deaths in Ukraine has exceeded 100 for the first time since the epidemic began, jumping to 108, the national security council said on Saturday.

Possible line-up: Germany

Neuer - Gosens, Süle, Can, Ginter, Klostermann - Kroos, Kimmich - Gnabry, Werner, Goretzka

Possible line-up: Ukraine

Buschan - Mykolenko, Platsun, Matvienko, Karavaev - Sydorchuk, Kovalenko - Shaparenko, Malinovskyi - Yarmolenko, Yarmechuk


If Germany can't pick up a win here then serious pressure will mount on Joachim Löw. Germany's inability to seal games they have been winning has been their Achilles' heel of late. And although a better Ukraine team will take to the field tonight than played France last time out, this is a must win game for Germany.

Squad update

After the taxing draw against Turkey last time out, Germany have slimmed down their squad for the clash tonight.

From the coaches’ mouth: Joachim Löw

After some strong words from former Germany legend Lothar Matthäus, Joachim Löw isn't bothered. 

"I haven't read anything in the last two days because I don't care who says what and how," Löw said ahead of the game. "There are different opinions, that's just the way it is. No matter what I do, I do it with absolute conviction."

"Of course I was annoyed that we conceded a late draw once again. But there were also positives. Florian Neuhaus, for example, made a good debut. Everyone has the right to be critical and to express their opinion. But I can assess the situation very well by myself."


Germany's last 5 internationals:

3-3 vs. Turkey
1-1 vs. Switzerland
1-1 vs. Spain
6-1 vs. Northern Ireland
4-0 vs. Belarus

Ukraine's last 5 internationals:

1-7 vs. France
0-4 vs. Spain
2-1 vs. Switzerland
2-2 vs. Serbia
1-0 vs. Estonia