The Germany U21s made an impressive start to their UEFA European U21 Championship campaign on Monday night, seeing off Denmark with a 3-1 win in Udine. A brace from FC Augsburg’s Marco Richter was followed by a cool finish from Freiburg forward Luca Waldschmidt to earn the defending champions all three points in their opening group game. Robert Skov provided the sole Danish reply from the penalty spot.
Next up for Stefan Kuntz’s side are Serbia on Thursday (21:00 CEST), with the Serbs under pressure following their 2-0 loss to Austria. Only the group winners are guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals and therefore a place at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“It was amazing for me on a personal level,” Marco Richter said after the game. “Even being in the starting XI was great, but then to score two goals and set one up is an incredible feeling. As a team, we couldn’t have made a better start than that.” Captain Jonathan Tah added: “It’s not easy getting started in a tournament like this, but we put in a good performance against a tricky opponent. There are a few things that we need to work on and we will go away and do that,” said the Leverkusen defender. Head coach Stefan Kuntz was also pleased with his side’s performance: “I’m delighted that the boys have managed to kick off the tournament so well, even if there were things that didn’t go exactly to plan. It was a deserved victory.”
Kuntz set up his team well to tackle their first hurdle on the way to a third European title, with a high press putting Denmark under pressure in front of the 7,131 spectators in Udine. Jonathan Tah & Co. were dominant at the back, but their attacking teammates weren’t quite as in tune in the first half.
Chances were few and far between, with often the final pass falling short. Some neat interplay around the Denmark penalty area finally produced a decent shooting opportunity around the half-hour mark and Marco Richter applied the finish from Maximilian Eggestein’s lay-off to hand Germany the lead with his first goal for the U21s.
At the other end, Borussia Dortmund star Jacob Bruun Larsen and future 1. FC Union Berlin player Marcus Ingvartsen were being kept quiet by the Germany backline of Klostermann, Tah, Baumgartl and Henrichs. It wasn’t until the 47th minute that Denmark found a way through, only for Skov to be expertly denied by Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nübel.
As the Scandinavians searched for a way back into the game, Germany looked for chances to pounce and Richter’s raw pace allowed him to net his second. Rasmus Kristensen didn’t see the Augsburg man coming and played a weak pass back to his goalkeeper that Richter latched onto, before tucking the ball past Daniel Iversen. Another counterattack made it 3-0 less than quarter of an hour later. This time Richter turned provider, sending Luca Waldschmidt in behind the defence where he kept his cool to dink the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper.
Denmark got one goal back in the 73rd minute when Timo Baumgartl was penalised for handball, allowing Skov to convert a spot-kick, but there was to be no late fightback.###more###