Germany were expected by many to roll Sweden over in the Euro opener. Instead, the Scandinavians' persistent pressing muted the holders' midfield metronomes and earned them a historic point, writes DW's Matt Pearson.
It wasn't the start Germany wanted. Or the one most of Europe expected. The favorites opened their campaign for a seventh successive women's Euro title with a goalless draw against Sweden that flickered in to life at the beginning of both halves, but ultimately failed to live up to the expectations placed on the standout game of the group stage.
Losing finalists to the Germans in the Rio Games last year, Sweden had never got so much as a draw against their opponents on Monday in a competitive encounter. But after a hard-pressing display that upset the champions' flow and saw the Scandinavians create their share of the game's best chances, the women in yellow may feel they could have taken an even bigger step than they did.
On a hot summer's evening in Breda, two sides not considered to be evenly matched at least had parity in support. The main stand of the boxy and unremarkable Rat Verlegh Stadium was split evenly between yellow shirts and white, with the bleeding of the two colors in the middle symbolic of the amiable atmosphere around the Netherlands in the tournament's opening days.
There was no such affection on the pitch. The Swedes started at a frantic pace, forcing the Germans in to a series of uncharacteristic mistakes.
"We started [pressing] in the middle and when we got a signal we tried to push," defender Magdalena Eriksson, who has just signed for English club Chelsea, told DW. "Sometimes they'd deliver a bad pass and then we'd try to go on that signal. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't."
In the opening period it worked more often than not. Both sides began with a furious intensity forged in the months leading up to the game. In the stands, the Swedes pounded out a consistent rhythm on a drum while, to their right, the German fans opted for chants and making their own beat with their hands.
Both teams had chances, both spurned them. After the early frenzy died down, the European champions looked to have a measure of control, but Sweden were determined to stop the German music by targeting the players that set the tone. Suddenly the queens of the women's game didn't look quite so regal.
As the sun dropped and the floodlights came on, Germany seemed to find their spark, their conductor Dzsenifer Marozsan suddenly finding pockets of space in which to operate – but the Swedes were relentless.
"We were expecting it would be a tough game and Sweden did a very good job," Germany striker Anja Mittag told DW. "First half maybe we didn't work that well but second half we got better and better. It's the first game and the first tournament for a lot of young players and new players, so it's ok. I hope we'll get better."
If history is any judge, they will. Germany drew the first game of their last Euro win (in 2015) 0-0 and showed enough in this game's dying embers to suggest number seven is far from beyond them. It may not be beyond their opponents either.
"I'd rather beat them in the final than tonight,"said Eriksson with a confident smile as she headed for the team bus. "We knew that we were going to get one or two really good chances because they leave their wing backs high and stay with two center backs. It's a shame that we didn't score but I think we will take them when we meet them again."
On Tuesday's showing, both sides have some work to do before they can think too much about the final. For Germany, reaching the main event is a minimum – and, despite a stumble on their first step, the path to lifting that trophy is one they know like the back of their hands.