Germany U21s have qualification for EURO 2023 in Romania and Georgia in their own hands again. Antonio Di Salvo’s makeshift side defeated Latvia 4-0 in Aachen to return to the top of Group B with 18 points from seven games. Captain Jonathan Burkardt and Ansgar Knauff scored two goals in as many minutes in the first half, before Burkardt added a third just before the break. Malik Tillman rounded off the win in the second half.
The next game against Israel, who are second on 16 points, is on Tuesday (17:00 CET). Poland are third in the group with 14 points to their name.
Di Salvo named two debutants in his side in front of 7,718 fans in Aachen. SC Freiburg’s Noah Atubolu was new in goal and Hertha’s Marton Dardai played in defence. Burkardt captained Germany in a 4-3-3 formation.
It was noticeable early on that Germany weren’t quite used to this system. There were a number of sloppy passes and a lack of fluency. The first good chance for the reigning European champions came after 16 minutes. Jan Thielmann played it to Jamie Leweling, whose shot was saved by Frenks Orols in the Latvia goal. Seven minutes later, Thielmann couldn’t quite get on the end of a low ball in by Ansgar Knauff (23’).
Di Salvo’s team looked to press their opponents higher up the pitch and this soon paid off. Tom Krauß tackled a Latvia midfielder and the ball rolled through to Burkardt in behind. He slotted it past the goalkeeper to make it 1-0 (25’). A minute later, this goal was effectively repeated. This time, Burkardt benefitted from a mistake from a Latvia man and then passed it to Knauff. His low shot into the bottom corner beat Orols and it was 2-0 in the space of a few seconds (26’).
Knauff narrowly missed the chance to grab his second in the 39th minute, but there was still time for a third Germany goal in the first half. Captain Burkardt beautifully curled one into the far corner (43’) – his ninth goal in 18 appearances for the U21s.
After Latvia barely posed a threat in the first half, they had their first opportunity of the night soon into the second half. Roberts Veips forced Atubolu into a great save with a header from a free-kick (49’).
Atubolu would get another chance to impress on his debut, this time facing a penalty in the 66th minute. He made another brilliant stop to deny Lukass Vapne (66’), which would ultimately earn him a clean sheet too.
The win was rounded off by a low drive from Malik Tillman into the corner after coming on as a substitute (75’). That was the Bayern’s man’s third goal in as many caps.