The DFB team is thrilled again: only eight seconds and then hope was back

The German national soccer team is celebrating a strong start to the European Championship year – and is finally bringing back some hope for itself and the soccer people for a successful tournament in June. Returnee Toni Kroos inspires the coach, and the world champion plays as if he had never been away.

What actually happened at the Groupama Stadium in Lyon?

Things couldn’t have been much worse for the German national soccer team: in the fight for a bit of euphoria for the home European Championship in June and, above all, in the fight for a functioning plan for the tournament that shouldn’t end in disaster again the DFB team in France. The vice world champions, probably the best team on the continent. In Lyon it was no longer about pink jerseys, it was no longer about the association’s change of supplier, which had been hyped up as a culture war, it was about football. About the end of the will-o’-the-wisps through experiments and wild ideas. And it was about courage.

“If you demand courage as a coach, you also have to be courageous in your decisions as a coach,” said national coach Julian Nagelsmann in the run-up to the game. He himself had fulfilled his part, put newcomer Maximilian Mittelstädt in the starting line-up and sent a highly creative team around the “magicians” (Nagelsmann) Jamal Musiala, Ilkay Gündogan and Florian Wirtz, as well as the in-form Kai Havertz onto the field.

Nagelsmann had changed his team in seven positions compared to the 0-2 disaster against Austria, with which they said goodbye in disgrace to a depressing 2023 international season. “I want us to show a certain joy of life. I’m far from increasing the pressure. We want to bring joy of life to the pitch,” he demanded of his team. And then on the other side there was a world star like Kylian Mbappé. And a team against whom the plan doesn’t even have to be bad to go down. Even if national coach Didier Deschamps sent a 1b version of his dream team onto the field.

And then it says, ““Marseillaise” has barely faded away, 1-0 for Germany. Courage, joy of life, goal after eight seconds! And even though the French then kept the game going quickly with their high-speed machinery around Mbappé on the one hand and Ousmane Dembélé on the other Carrying the German half, the German team, a structure that had been so shaky for so long, showed itself to be impressively resilient. With luck, skill and joy of life, they defended against the French attempts. And after taking the lead, they earned this important victory, especially in the second half. The association, the team and the football people can look forward to more than a small spark of hope. The demands have become low: just please don’t have another disaster.

Click here for the match report!

What was good?

It only took eight seconds to show: Something is different here than in the 2023 international year. A new beginning, a break with the past. Eight seconds that included everything that national coach Nagelsmann had verbally prepared over the past few weeks. The kick-off, the first ball to Toni Kroos, he plays the long ball to Florian Wirtz, who hits it from a distance. A mood of optimism. And that’s exactly what continued – at least in the first 20 minutes of each half: everything that Nagelsmann had announced was visible. Kroos actually took on the role of boss, with Robert Andrich working alongside him.

And the DFB team fulfilled their most important task, at least offensively, and let the two magicians Wirtz and Musiala express their lightness. The 2-0 scoreline showed what that means. The path from Musiala, the pass from Wirtz: That actually gives hope – even if it is only the first approaches and the French are still a bit away from European Championship form.

What else was good?

With all the magical approaches on the offensive, one person was almost forgotten: Joshua Kimmich. He hasn’t had an easy few months at FC Bayern. Coach Thomas Tuchel first counted him out publicly and then forced him to the right-back position like an official. But: Kimmich did a really good job – and reminded us once again that he was once one of the best right-backs in world football. His former colleague in defensive midfield, the non-nominated Leon Goretzka, recently praised him as outstanding.

In the game against France, Kimmich made it clear why: the absurdly fast and strong dribbling Kylian Mbappé rarely had a chance against him. And: Kimmich also took part in the game offensively, even putting Musiala in the spotlight in the first half. In this form, in this position, football Germany should quickly reconcile with the leader, who has always been seen as particularly critical.

Where was there still room for improvement?

Without question, a lot of things were good. That’s why the approximately 950 German fans who had traveled along in their block, which was covered with a net under the roof, sang in the 75th minute: “Oh, how beautiful is that?” But not everything is beautiful yet. Although the DFB team has a clean sheet for the first time since March 2023 (2-0 against Peru), the defense still seemed shaky at times. Up until now, it had been the DFB team’s big problem; they conceded five goals against Turkey and Austria alone in November.

And the French, who didn’t line up with the best players and really didn’t deliver their best performance, stressed the national team’s defensive line in several ways. In the first half, Ter Stegen, who held Mbappe with one hand in an almost Neuer-like manner, prevented the goal from being conceded. And while Kimmich defended confidently, debutant Maximilian Mittelstädt had a few problems with Frenchman Ousmane Dembélé, who simply let him out. But that should be taken into account in the assessment: After an exciting season at VfB Stuttgart, it was Mittelstädt’s first game in a DFB uniform.

Who is the winner of the evening?

German football? Julian Nagelsmann? Toni Kroos? Everyone can be happy, yes. But a big winner of the pleasant game wasn’t even on the pitch. European Championship organization boss Philipp Lahm must have been extremely pleased that the German team might, perhaps, bring a bit of euphoria to their tournament. And not just the fear that after the World Cup in Russia in 2018, the disappointing European Championships in 2021 and the disaster in Qatar, you will embarrass yourself again in front of the world.

Lahm has big plans for his tournament: advance ticket sales were a gigantic success, of course, but the European Championship should also convey messages beyond football. It’s about sustainability, of course. But the tournament should “stir up more cohesion again – in Germany, but also in Europe,” said the 2024 world champion. The sad truth is: cohesion and beautiful pictures and good news only come with success. If the DFB team does not deliver a sporting success story from June onwards, the 2024 European Championship will not represent the message that is hoped for.


Julian Nagelsmann (national coach): “Big compliment to the team. The first 25 minutes were very, very good. We improved again in the second half. I’m also very, very happy with the way we put in. That was a top game . Toni Kroos was unbelievable. He set the pace, worked incredibly hard. He gives the other players so much security.”

Rudi Völler (DFB sports director): “It was unbelievable fun after just a few seconds. It was one of the best things we’ve played in recent years. This win was deserved. We were confident in the second half. That was really good. Toni’s return Kroos was important, he did an incredible job from the start.”

Toni Kroos: “We can be very satisfied. We have taken a good and important step forward. It was a chance to get a good feeling towards the European Championships. A lot has been changed. The question was whether these changes would bear fruit so quickly. We had a good week of training and were able to take that into the game.”

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