The u21 European Championship has finally reached its conclusion. After a grueling 5 matches in 15 days for the two finalists, the Germans were ultimately crowned as the champions in Krakow, Poland.
Both teams were able to send out their full strength starting lineups with the exception of Davie Selke, who was injured during Germany’s semifinal win over England. Real Madrid players Jesus Vallejo, Marcos Llorente, and Marco Asensio featured for the Spanish side again, who came into the match as heavy favorites.
The opening 5 minutes of the match rehashed what many had seen of this Spanish team thus far in the tournament, Asensio’s tricks, Spain sitting back, and Deulofeu killing 90% of Spain’s attacks (this is somehow not hyperbole).
That’s when Germany really started to put their stamp on the match. Multiple dangerous crosses were played in as Spain struggled to clear the ball, (this would prove to be a common theme of the match). Germany continued the pressure, as they dispossessed Bellerin (another common theme of the match), but Llorente was there to save the day and stop what could have been a very dangerous attack.
Minutes later, Spain had their first huge chance, when a beautiful Ceballos cross found Bellerin’s head for a shot that went just wide. Despite this chance, Spain had yet to really grow into the game, and seriously struggled to deal with Germany’s press.
Over the span of just the next few minutes, Gnabry was given 2 big chances to score. The first came off a beautiful touch from a cross, however, his shot was hit into the side netting from a tough angle. His second chance, which was an even bigger one, emerged when Spain incorrectly dealt with yet another set-piece. The ball fell to Bayern’s newest signing, but just like the first chance, he could not convert.
Weird sight, this. Spain getting absolutely dominated on possession. Germany taking full advantage of our misshaped midfield form.— Xav Salazar (@XavsFutbol) June 30, 2017
For most of the first half, Spain were content to sit back and wait to steal the ball. They finally did it on a Deulofeu interception, but the captain took too long on the ball and essentially killed the chance by kicking it back out to Saul. Soon after, Spain stole yet another pass with their high press. A Sandro back-heel fell perfectly to Saul, but his shot was blocked and Spain had to continue to search for the opener.
The next German spell of pressure proved fruitful, as Bellerin was forced into 2 horrible giveaways in the span of just 10 seconds. This allowed Germany to get into the box, luckily for Spain, Gnabry miscontrolled the ball and the chance was lost. But the pressure continued, and in the 40th minute they finally broke through. A freak looping header from Weiser beat Kepa Arrizabalaga, and Germany took the lead into halftime.
Germany is beating Spain at the U21 Finals so far. What a flick of a header! pic.twitter.com/zV5hOfN7Fu— José Villacreses (@j_villacreses) June 30, 2017
Spain made their intentions clear the moment the official blew the whistle to start the second half. They played on the front foot from the very beginning, and began to dominate possession. Gaya came on in the 50th minute as an attacking sub for Jonny, and made an instant impact, but failed to produce anything of real substance. German midfielder, Haberer was lucky not to be sent off for a horrible challenge on Llorente that was not only high, but also had the studs of his cleats pointed up into Marcos’ calf.
Spain continued to dominate the ball, before finally creating a substantial chance after Saul won an aerial duel. He took a few touches and forced the goalkeeper into a huge save to keep the Germans in front.
Pouring numbers forward so dangerously meant Spain were living on the edge at all times. A heroic block by Saul, a header from a corner hit just wide, and a huge scramble after poor defending from Jorge Meré somehow ended without another goal for the leaders.
Frustration began setting in for Spain, and so Inaki Williams came on for Sandro with 20 minutes to play, hoping to change the complexion of the match. Shortly after, an incredible run from Ceballos led to a shot from distance that was less than an inch from the left post.
Spain kept piling on the pressure, putting themselves in dangerous areas, but lacked the teeth in front of goal to equalize. Germany were trying to hold on at this point, and began to shamelessly waste time.
In a last-ditch effort to go for the win, the Spanish manager subbed off Marcos Llorente for Borja Mayoral. This substitution did the opposite of help Spain, as it killed their build-up play and control over the middle of the park. Because of this, Germany were hardly threatened from there on out and went on to win the competition.
Clearly less access points in midfield to advance ball up the pitch; less fluidity and resorting to long balls.— O.Dembélé fanboy (@OmVArvind) June 30, 2017
Final Thoughts and Observations
This was a perfect storm for Germany. A great game plan for them, coupled with a poor performance and poor tactics from Spain. There was not a single Spanish player that covered themselves in glory tonight, however, Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente were the team’s two best performers. It made zero sense for a team of Spain’s caliber to be playing so defensively. It was blatantly obvious Spain had not done their homework and their opponents made them pay. A deserved win for Germany, as they totally outplayed Spain tonight.
It has become a common theme of this tournament for me to include an observation discussing how poorly Gerard Deulofeu played. I will no longer pull any punches. He and Sandro were unquestionably the worst players on the pitch by a country mile. Deulofeu was where promising attacks went to die, and had no business starting in any match in this tournament. He started for this squad because he is the most senior player; most likely because he doesn’t possess the quality to break into the Spanish National team for any actual playing time. Spain’s entire forward line is hampered by Deulofeu’s insertion, and it is truly disheartening that he played as many minutes as he did this tournament. Madridistas should be rejoicing that Deulofeu is on his way back to Barca.
Congratulations to Dani Ceballos, who has been named the player of the tournament! Despite all of the glorification for Saul, Ceballos was the engine in midfield that made everything tick. Germany recognized this, and he probably drew more fouls than Deulofeu killed attacks, a truly astonishing feat. His list of suitors has grown exponentially, and I am praying that Real Madrid make this move as soon as possible. While he has no place in the immediate future, such a bright young talent at 15 million is an absolute steal (apologies for saying this exact sentence in every review).
I have thoroughly enjoyed covering this tournament for you all, and hope you have enjoyed every review. International tournaments do well to pass the time in the summer, but never create the same thrill of Real Madrid matches. Only 2 more months of transfer rumors, and 1 more month without club football!
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