The Germany national team were beaten 3-2 by Belgium in their second international of the year in front of 42,910 fans at Cologne’s Rhein-Energie-Stadion. Yannick Carrasco (6’) and Romelu Lukaku (9’) fired the Red Devils into an early 2-0 lead, but a handball in the box allowed Niclas Füllkrug to pull one back from the penalty spot shortly before half time (44’). Kevin De Bruyne added a Belgian third in the closing stages (78’), meaning Serge Gnabry’s late goal (87’) was nothing more than a consolation.
Head coach Hansi Flick made three changes from the 2-0 win over Peru on Saturday. Nico Schlotterbeck and Kai Havertz had since departed from the squad with knocks and were replaced in the line-up by Thilo Kehrer and Serge Gnabry. The other change saw Leon Goretzka, winning his 50th Germany cap together with Matthias Ginter, come into midfield in place of Emre Can.
Both sides looked to get on the front foot early on, pressing their opponents high up the pitch. Gnabry had the first chance of the game after Goretzka won possession, but he didn’t catch the ball sweetly enough (5’). Belgium were more clinical down the other end. De Bruyne’s ball in behind put Carrasco through. The Atletico Madrid man cut inside to shake off the chase of Marius Wolf, before firing out of Marc-André ter Stegen’s reach (6’). A second goal was only three minutes behind and followed a similar pattern. De Bruyne’s well-timed pass sent Lukaku beyond the backline, and he too held his nerve to beat the Germany keeper and make it 2-0 (9’).
Flick’s side were looking a little rattled by the early quickfire double, and a chance to put a dent in Belgium’s lead came and went in the 15th minute as Gnabry failed to get the ball under control in the box. The away side continued to look threatening, constantly keeping the hosts’ defence on their toes. A Germany corner led to their next chance, with Dodi Lukebakio breaking away and running the length of the pitch, before slipping his shot one-on-one with ter Stegen narrowly wide of the post (19’).
The pressure didn’t ease up. Lukaku’s header from a corner smacked against the crossbar in the 21st minute, and David Raum just about managed to scramble the ball away from the big striker in the box only moments later (22’). Belgium eventually began to take their foot off the gas though, happy to wait for counterattacking opportunities.
The DFB-Team began probing for gaps, albeit to no avail initially. In the 32nd minute, an injury to Leon Goretzka forced the coach to turn to his bench. Felix Nmecha came on for his senior debut, and was also joined by Emre Can, as he replaced Florian Wirtz in a tactical alteration. Germany started to register some chances now, with Timo Werner’s effort only a yard or so wide (40’). Koen Casteels was called into his first action a minute later, smothering a volley from Wolf (41’).
A stroke of luck brought Germany back into the game just as half time was approaching. Füllkrug’s header from a corner was blocked by the outstretched arm of Lukaku and the referee pointed to the spot. The Bremen striker took on the responsibility himself and sent Casteels the wrong way to reduce the deficit with his sixth goal in his sixth Germany appearance (44’). Lukaku tried to offer an immediate response, but ter Stegen was on hand to ensure it stayed 2-1 at half time (45+1’).
The second half was a far more balanced affair compared to the first during the opening exchanges, although there was the occasional opening for Belgium on the counter. Germany’s attacks were beginning to look more dangerous too. Wolf drove down the right flank and crossed for Gnabry to shoot first time, but the ball went inches wide of the target (52’).
Germany had much more of a foothold in the game now and were winning the ball in more advanced areas. Gnabry kept on getting into promising positions, but in the 54th minute, he was crowded out in the box before he could shoot at goal. Belgium were starting to struggle with their build-up play in stark contrast to their first-half performance, while chances for the home side were in good supply. Füllkrug came close with a header from Raum’s free-kick, but just couldn’t keep his effort down (57’).
The ball was in the back of the Belgium net just before the hour mark. Nmecha played Werner in behind and he coolly nutmegged the goalkeeper, however, the flag correctly went up for offside (59’). The pressure was increasing and both Werner and Joshua Kimmich had shots blocked on the edge of the box (65’), before Flick opted to bring the fresh legs of Christian Günter on for Raum at left-back (68’).
Kimmich, so often lurking just outside the area, had another go from range in the 70th minute. This time it ran through to Casteels, but the Wolfsburg goalie was quick to get low and hold onto the shot. Then, in the blink of an eye, Belgium restored their two-goal advantage. A quick counterattack led by Leandro Trossard down the left was finished off in the centre by De Bryune to make it 3-1 (78’). A triple change followed. Josha Vagnoman was handed a debut as he joined the action alongside Kevin Schade and Mergim Berisha, with Wolf, Füllkrug and Werner withdrawn (80’).
Despite the scoreline, Germany didn’t give up in the closing stages. Gnabry produced a sublime solo run through the Belgium defence that deserved a goal, only for his shot to clip the outside of the post (85’). The Bayern forward wasn’t left goalless for much longer though, converting from close range after Schade had raced to the byline and pulled the ball back into the middle (87’). Time ran out on a late rally, however, as Flick’s men suffered a 3-2 home defeat against the side ranked fourth in the world.###more###