The Germany U21s have maintained their perfect record in the 2017 European Championship qualification. Manager Horst Hrubesch’s side beat Russia 2-0 on Tuesday evening in Rostov-on-Don and added another three points to their tally, leaving them with 21 in total. In seven qualifiers, not one opposition has been able to take so much as a point from the group leaders.
Hrubesch was more than satisfied after the game and began to look to the future: "I am happy about and proud of the way in which my team is playing. It was no easy game - it's not as though we could have decided the game earlier. We put away our chances well. With this young selection of players - most of whom will still be able to compete in the U21 EUROs in 2019 - the best is yet to come. We have the quality to achieve something great at the 2017 EUROs in Poland. I believe in Marcus Sorg and this team to qualify very soon, and then some."
Davie Selke put Germany in front early on following a lovely build-up combination. Throughout the rest of the first half, despite numerous opportunities at both ends, the goals remained untouched. The spectators had to wait for the second half to see the net bulging once more, this time courtesy of Germany U21-captain Max Meyer.
Hrubesch’s team went about the game in a highly professional manner - starting with full concentration and remaining focused for the whole 90 minutes. With a solid defence, the young internationals relentlessly worked their way forward towards the Russian goal. Following a one-two with Julian Brandt, Köln’s Yannick Gerhardt sent the ball into the penalty area where Selke had the simple job of holding his foot out and putting his team into the lead. Just moments later, the Leipzig man almost doubled the lead with a headed effort.
Germany lowered the tempo after the goal, albeit without handing over control of the game to the Russians. The hosts only posed a real threat from their set pieces - one of which saw Mahmoud Dahoud called upon to clear the ball off the line in the 38th minute. On the stroke of half time, and effort from Nikolai Komlichenko flew just wide of Timon Wellenreuther’s goal.
The Russia U21s had improved significantly in the second half and they very nearly made it count with a goal just seconds after the restart. The home side broke away down the left of the German defence and crossed the ball into the penalty area where Roman Zobin’s header struck the crossbar: a heart-in-mouth moment for the Germany U21s who required a bit of time to settle down into their rhythm again afterwards.
In the 59th minute, Brandt found himself with a chance to head home, then in the 62nd minute Leroy Sane’s shot was deflected inches over the Russian goal. The second half was altogether livelier than the first with the hosts taking more risks and being able to profit from a more vulnerable-looking German defence. Up at the other end, Max Meyer continued to find ways through the defence and create good chances. The captain’s first effort went wide, but minutes later the Schalke man was able to celebrate the decisive goal of the game.
In the coming months, operation Euro qualification will be put on hold. The next qualifier against Finland is only scheduled for the 9th September. Before then, the spotlight will be on the summer’s Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro.