Joachim Loew has attempted to dampen German fans’ Euro 2020 euphoria after a thrilling 4-2 win over Portugal boosted his side’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Germany bounced back from losing their opening Group F game to world champions France with an emphatic victory over the holders on Saturday as Kai Havertz and Robin Gosens shone.
The result in Munich blew the group wide open, but Germany need to beat Hungary, who managed a surprise 1-1 draw with France, to be sure of reaching the last 16.
“The next game will perhaps be even more dogged, because Hungary stand deeper and defend with eight or nine men,” warned Loew.
On Saturday night, the streets of Munich’s city centre were full of jubilant fans celebrating the victory after arguably Germany’s best performance since the 2014 World Cup that they won in Brazil.
But Loew, in his last tournament in charge, tried to temper expectations.
“Nothing of significance has happened, we have only won a game, but now come further challenges which will be just as testing,” he said.
– World Cup lesson –
Loew’s warning is based on bitter recent experience.
At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Germany bounced back after a shock 1-0 defeat to Mexico in their opening game with a last-gasp 2-1 win over Sweden, only to then finish bottom of the group after being stunned by South Korea.
Nevertheless, at the Allianz Arena there were encouraging signs all over the field for the coach, not least from left-back Gosens who came of age with an outstanding display.
The 26-year-old Atalanta player headed in Germany’s fourth goal to add to his two assists, while his spectacular early volley also hit the back of the net, but was ruled out by VAR because Serge Gnabry was offside.
Despite dominating the early exchanges in front of nearly 13,000 fans in a crowd limited by Covid-19 restrictions, Germany were caught out by a counter-attacking move which led to Cristiano Ronaldo giving Portugal the lead.
It was the first time Ronaldo has scored against Germany and extended his record of 12 goals scored at five European Championship finals.
However, the hosts roared back with four unanswered goals as Havertz and Gosens scored after sustained German pressure forced own goals by Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerreiro.
Against France the Germans tightened their defence but failed to create chances. Faced with Portugal, they cut loose and attacked the space Ronaldo’s side generously allowed them.
“It was a very strong performance for us against the technically sound and counter attack-minded Portuguese,” said Loew.
“We showed a lot of morale especially after falling behind, did not lose the thread and kept calm.
“We overwhelmed Portugal’s defence a few times.”
– ‘A little euphoria’ –
Germany have injury concerns for Wednesday as Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels and Gosens all limped off in the second half.
“Hummels’ knee ligament has flared up again, with Robin it was the adductor, Ilkay Gundogan took a blow to the calf,” said Loew.
“We didn’t want to take any risks, but I don’t think it’s anything dramatic and if all goes well, it should be okay.”
Loew explained it had been part of the plan to play with “a completely different power on attack” compared to the France game by “creating more danger on the wings”.
However, the Germans know they cannot expect the same space to attack against the Hungarians in Munich on Wednesday.
“Hungary will be a tough opponent, one we should not underestimate. They are very strong defensively and will be tough to crack,” warned Havertz, who responded after a poor display against France with a goal and assist.
Despite Loew’s efforts to play down the win, the mood in the German camp has lifted dramatically.
“It’s fun to play in this atmosphere, the cauldron is bubbling,” said Thomas Mueller. “We have three points and things in our own hands.
“We mustn’t overdo it and become arrogant, but we can believe in our own quality and allow ourselves to feel a little euphoria.”