The German U-21 national team fulfilled a dream in Ljubljana on Sunday evening that not even its notoriously optimistic coach Stefan Kuntz believed in a few months ago. But when it came down to it at the European Championship finals in Hungary and Slovenia, the best junior selection of the German Football Association (DFB), which has improved from game to game, as it always has since Stefan Kuntz has been its head coach, captured the hearts of German soccer fans who have not been spoiled by the senior national team under the sporting leadership of Joachim Löw for a long time.
Kuntz, however, delivered regularly with his vintage teams and their impressive mentality and unity: European champions in 2017, European Championship runners-up in 2019 and now first again thanks to Lukas Nmecha's golden goal (49th minute). Not even his great predecessor Horst Hrubesch, who led the U 21s to Germany's first European Championship title in 2009 with six future world champions, has managed such a run of three.In Ljubljana, the best team in the tournament, which did not have the best individual skills, celebrated a triumph of togetherness, exemplified up front by the chronically successful Kuntz. "This is so awesome, you wouldn't believe it," said the strong Niklas Dorsch on ProSieben. "What we've pulled off here is incredible."Stefan Kuntz did not want to change the tried and true. So he relied on exactly the same team that had defeated the Netherlands in the semifinals after a lightning start and two goals from Leverkusen shooting star Florian Wirtz. This time, however, the team was up against the team with the most goals in this European Championship (twelve goals) and a fearful opponent, as a German U21 team has never won against Portugal at a European Championship finals.
The Lusitanians defeated five-time European U-21 champions Italy and Spain on their way to the final. There, coach Rui Jorge's highly talented juniors were looking to give themselves and their country their first title in this vintage championship after three Portuguese defeats in the final.The 8,000 spectators saw an eventful, high-class duel in which Portugal dominated the opening phase and wasted the best chance shortly before the Georgian referee Kruashvili's half-time whistle when Vitinha was not quick enough to act alone in front of goalkeeper Dahmen on a counterattack and was ultimately pushed away.
After a quarter of an hour, the German team had found the recipe to effectively counter the Portuguese midfield pack: with forced deep attacks via the wings. The straightforward Wirtz was unlucky to see his deflected shot hit the crossbar (15th). Nmecha also came close to scoring, but the strong goalkeeper Diogo Costa reacted to his lob (21.) just as well as to captain Maier's long-range shot towards the goal triangle (29.).The first half was a promise of an eventful second half on both sides. The Germans were the first to deliver when Dorsch got Baku rolling on the right and the lively Nmecha took the assist with his left and finished with his right just before the goal. It was the fourth tournament goal of the European Championship top scorer. His most important? Portugal didn't give in and pressed for the equalizer against Pieper's excellently organized defense, which captain Queiros narrowly missed as goalkeeper Dahmen beat him to it (60th).The Germans, a bit more tired now, went for the liberating counterattack, which the substitute Adeyemi had twice on the foot after a fast tempo run (72nd and 80th). In the end, the one goal by Nmecha was enough for an evening for the German soccer history books.