Germany U21s have suffered a setback in the European Championship qualifiers after losing 4-1 against Belgium in Leuven. It’s the second time that the side have lost the clash between the group favourites – Germany lost the home fixture in Freiburg last November 3-2.
The result means that Stefan Kuntz’s side can no longer win the group – and qualify directly for the EUROs - without relying on other results to go their way. Belgium lead Group 9 with ten points, followed by German with nine points. Bosnia and Herzegovina could also still progress, as the five best second-place sides across the groups will qualify for the EUROs.
The game became much harder for Germany after Amos Pieper’s red card in the 18th minute. Nonetheless, Lukas Nmecha scored a penalty in the 31st minute to cancel out Mike Trésor Ndayishimiye’s opening goal for Belgium (19’). In the second half, however, Belgium made sure that their numerical superiority was reflected in the scoreline. Charles De Ketelaere scored in the 50th minute before Ndayishimiye scored his second of the game, this time from the spot, to make it 3-1. Loïs Openda sealed the victory with Belgium’s fourth of the game in the 76th minute.
Pieper’s red card a crucial moment?
Germany U21s’ head coach Stefan Kuntz made one change to the side that comfortably defeated Moldova 4-1 on Thursday for this ‘key game’. Defender Maxim Leitsch was introduced to the starting eleven in place of Robin Hack, so Nico Schlotterbeck moved from his central position to left-back.
The German defence had difficulties coping with the Belgians‘ pace. The extremely nimble Openda, who scored two goals in the first game, had to be brought down by Pieper in the 18th minute. The Bielefeld player was the last man so Germany went down to ten men – and just seconds later they fell behind on the scoresheet as Ndayishimiye scored from the subsequent direct free kick (19’).
Penalty raises hopes
Germany had to dust themselves down quickly and were reward for their attacking play with a penalty after half an hour; Daouda Peeters was punished for holding onto Schlotterbeck from a corner. Nmecha slotted the spot kick into the bottom left corner and through the Belgian keeper Mile Svilar’s fingers (31’).
Germany sat back after the goal and allowed Belgium to apply pressure, but their concentration levels remained high. Nevertheless, there were two close calls at the end of the half. Goalkeeper Lennart Grill got to the ball just before the lurking Francis Amuzu at the near post (41’), before Hannes Delcroix headed the following corner narrowly over the bar (42’).
One setback too many
Kuntz strengthened the defence for the second half and introduced Josha Vagnoman and Luca Kilian in place of Ridle Baku and Salih Özcan. It all went to plan for the first six minutes until Charles De Ketelaere found space for a shot 20 metres out and drove the ball into the corner (50’). The visitors didn’t have luck on their side nine minutes later when Italian referee Michael Fabbri awarded Belgium a penalty for a foul just outside of the box. Ndayishimiye made no mistake and converted the spot kick for his second of the game (59’).
After another setback, the U21s seemed to accept their fate and gave the Belgians too much space to play. The hosts looked more like scoring than their German opponents, and went close through Köln player Sebastiaan Bornauw’s header in the 70th minute. Openda then ended any hope of a comeback in the 76th minute. Stuttgart’s Orel Mangala came close to scoring Belgium’s fifth when he hit the post in the last minute.