Germany suffered a setback in their opening match of the Tokyo Olympics as coach Stefan Kuntz’s team lost 4-2 to defending champions Brazil in Yokohama on Thursday. Next up for Germany is Saudi Arabia on Sunday (13:30 CEST), before they take on the Ivory Coast next Wednesday (10:00 CEST), with the top two teams from Group D progressing to the quarter-finals.
Everton’s Richarlison netted a superb first-half hat-trick in just half an hour (7’, 25’, 30’) to put the Brazilians in control of the group-stage tie. Bayer Leverkusen's Nadiem Amiri pulled a goal back (56’), before Ragnar Ache of Eintracht Frankfurt set up a tense finale of the match with his strike (84’). However, it wasn’t to be for Kuntz and his team as Leverkusen's Paulinho scored deep in injury time to seal the win for Brazil (90+4’). The clash was a rematch of the 2016 Olympic final in Rio, when Germany were beaten on penalties and were awarded the silver medal.
Four European U21 Champions in the starting XI
Stefan Kuntz named all four European U21 Champions - David Raum, Amos Pieper, Anton Stach and Arne Maier - in his starting XI. Florian Müller was in net behind a four-man defence of Felix Uduokhai, Raum, Pieper and Benjamin Henrichs. In midfield, Maier, Stach and captain Maximilian Arnold were tasked with controlling the centre of the park, while Marco Richter, Nadiem Amiri and Max Kruse formed the three-man offensive line.
However, it was a nightmare start for the Germans as Brazil put Kuntz’s team under heavy pressure from the get-go and succeeded in breaking down the defensive structure to net three goals in half an hour. The South Americans were more aggressive in duels and were highly efficient in transition, forcing Müller into making a great save in the first five minutes.
Two minutes later, Richarlison took advantage of an error by Pieper to open the scoring on the second attempt after Müller parried his first effort. The Brazilians’ next big chance came again from a German error as Pieper’s header back to his goalkeeper was too short and Richarlison was fastest to the loose ball, with only another great reflex save from the Stuttgart ‘keeper stopping a second.
Müller saves Cunha penalty
Brazil kept up the pressure on Germany as the first half progressed and stopped the development of their build-up play. With 25 minutes on the clock, Guilherme Arana was played in down the left, taking advantage of a disorganised German defence to cross to the back post, where Richarlison was again on hand to head home to double the advantage. Just five minutes later, the Everton man completed his hat-trick as he curled the ball beyond Müller to make it 3-0.
Shortly before the break, referee Ivan Barton from El Salvador pointed to the spot after Henrichs was deemed to have handled the ball in the area. However, Florian Müller was equal to the task as he made a brilliant penalty stop to deny Cunha’s penalty and prevented an even larger deficit at half time. Germany’s only shot on target in the first 45 minutes came from Amiri in the 25th minute, but it did not seriously trouble Santos in the Brazil goal.
Amiri and Ache score while Arnold sees yellow
Kuntz was proactive at the break and made a switch, bringing on Jordan Torunarigha for Pieper, but the German team still struggled to get into the match. Despite this, it wasn’t too long before Germany had their first goal of the tournament as Amiri succeeded in finding the back of the net in the 56th minute. Shortly after, Arnold was shown a yellow card for a tackle in the 62nd minute, meaning he will not be available for Sunday’s match against Saudi Arabia.
The outstanding player from Germany’s point of view was goalkeeper Florian Müller, with the Stuttgart man making a series of outstanding stops to keep the Brazilians at bay. As the game neared its end, Müller went from strength to strength as he got down sharply to deny an effort from Bruno Guimaraes in the 75th minute. In spite of the scoreline, Germany showed their fighting spirit as substitute Ache netted a second goal in the 84th minute to set up a tense finish in Yokohama. Germany threw everything forward in search of an equaliser, but it was not to be as Leverkusen’s Paulinho took advantage of the space opened up to seal the victory for Brazil in the fourth minute of injury time with the sixth goal of the afternoon.
The victims of the flooding disaster in Germany were in the minds of the team as they took to the pitch in Japan. DFB vice-president Ronny Zimmermann said: “Despite the 9,000km that currently separate our Olympic football team from Germany, we have been very moved by the images coming from home. As a team, we’re mourning the victims of the disaster and our thoughts are with their families.”