Fresh start. Dream start. Germany got their EURO 2020 qualifying campaign off to a perfect, albeit dramatic start away to arch rivals Netherlands. Joachim Löw’s young side led 2-0 at half time thanks to world class goals from Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry, but were pegged back in the second half to 2-2. With stoppage time approaching, it was Nico Schulz left-back who stepped up to steal the victory in Amsterdam.
Joachim Löw made seven changes to the side that started the 1-1 friendly draw against Serbia: In place of Marco Reus (thigh problems), goalscorer from the last game Leon Goretzka made the starting XI behind Sané and Gnabry. Timo Werner was also on the bench. As expected, 2014 world champion Toni Kroos returned to central midfield alongside Joshua Kimmich.
Matthias Ginter, Niklas Süle and Antonio Rüdiger formed a back three, supported on either side by Thilo Kehrer and Schulz. Manuel Neuer led the team out as captain, equalling Oliver Kahn’s feat of 86 international appearances.
Germany took the lead with just the second major chance of the game, as Kroos released Schulz down the left wing with a long ball from the halfway line. The Hoffenheim man struck a firm cross into the area, where Matthijs de Ligt slipped in an attempt to beat Leroy Sané to the ball. The young German emerged with the ball in space, and took full advantage with a lethal left-footed strike across the goalkeeper into the far side of the net. His third goal for Germany in his 19th appearance.
Before the lead was doubled, it was Neuer’s turn to impress. Two reflex saves out of the top drawer denied Babel in the space of two minutes and had the spectators in disbelief. On the half-hour mark, Neuer spared Rüdiger’s blushes after a failed clearance, pulling out a stop from distance from Denzel Dumfires.
The Dutch were on the front foot. But a stroke of genius from Serge Gnabry relieved all the pressure, for the time being at least. The 23-year-old took down a long pass from Rüdiger and off he went: Cutting inside from the left, Gnabry left the Netherlands defenders lying in his tracks and eventually let fly, planting the ball perfectly into the top corner.
Not long after, with the Dutch visibly shaken by the brilliance of Gnabry, Cillessen rose to the occasion to keep the hosts in the game. Sané broke free through the middle, slightly to the right of the goal, which meant the shot had to be attempted with his weaker foot. Despite a noble effort, he was denied his second of the game and the score remained 2-0 going into half time.
As the second half got underway, Germany began to lose control of proceedings, and the Oranje soon rewarded themselves for their dominance with a goal to halve the deficit. After failing to clear from a corner, Depay’s ball back in was headed in by de Ligt past a helpless Neuer.
The pressure mounted, and Germany struggled more with every minute, losing composure in possession and winning far fewer of their fifty-fifties. In the 63rd minute, a Dutch ball into the penalty area found its way to Depay. Süle, Ginter and Rüdiger all failed to clear as the Lyon forward retained possession and slid the ball in at the near post to level things up.
Only in the closing stages, did Germany begin to shake off the Netherlands’ clasp: Toni Kroos had the visitors’ first attempt on goal of the second half in the 82nd minute from a free-kick. Two minutes later, the first shot on target came courtesy of Gnabry, with Cillessen in the way.
With two minutes remaining plus stoppage time, Marco Reus was brought on to replace Gnabry and made a telling impact. In the 90th minute, the Dortmund captain burst into action on the left, dragged the ball towards the penalty spot, where Nico Schulz stabbed the ball first-time into the far corner beyond Cillessen to win the game for Germany in dramatic style.