Alexandra Popp sank to the ground and was overcome by her emotions. Against Denmark, she headed in the German soccer team’s first European Championship game shortly before the end to make it 4-0 and provided the emotional climax. Perhaps at that moment the many injuries in her career went through her head and that she can only take part in this European Championship because it was postponed by a year.
Maybe she was also thinking about the corona infection a few weeks ago, which is why she almost missed this tournament too. “At the time I thought it couldn’t be that it failed afterwards because of Corona and not because of an injury,” said Popp.
But once again the 31-year-old attacker fought back and her goal against the Danes was the culmination of a furious performance by the entire German team. “I can not believe it. I’m super happy to have gotten this season and then to have scored another goal,” said the goal scorer. After her header after a remarkable cross from Sydney Lohmann, she fell to her knees and was immediately embraced by her teammates, beaming with joy. The goal means a lot not only to Popp, but to the whole team.
Actually, this story is just one of many that delivered the game against Denmark. Another is that of the substitutes. National coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg had announced in advance that she had “power and quality” on the bench, but it was still impressive that the players who had been substituted on would fit in so seamlessly.
The German team was considered a grab bag before the European Championship. Only one test match was deliberately played in order to have enough time to train together and find each other. Voss-Tecklenburg has obviously chosen the right path, at least that’s what the performance on Friday evening in Brentford suggested. “You have to beat us first and if we play like we did today, nobody will succeed,” said the national coach.
Germany were highly focused, looking determined and mounting an aggressive attacking pressing that few might have expected. Least of all Lars Söndergaard’s team, who seemed overwhelmed and didn’t find an answer for the whole season.
After a comparatively quiet start, full-back Felicitas Rauch created the Germans’ first big chance with her crossbar hit. From this point on, Germany only ran and won a few balls far in the opposing half. After Rauch hit the bar again a short time later and Schüller hit the post (albeit from an offside position), the players looked almost angry that they hadn’t scored a goal yet. Symbolically, the opening goal was scored by the strong Lina Magull after a successful pressing moment.
The German team played in a way that is extremely run-intensive and requires the utmost discipline from everyone. The fitness level of the Voss-Tecklenburg players was also right, and the many training sessions have obviously paid off. In addition to the aggressive pressing, the Germans radiated enthusiasm and creativity and, with Lena Oberdorf and Magull, showed an extremely present body language and great will to win, which they sometimes lacked in the past.
In addition, Germany has a balanced squad that allows for changes without sacrificing quality. This made it clear that the 3-0 came from substitute Lena Lattwein and also the fourth goal from Popp after assisting Lohmann, also both substitutes. But Jule Brand and Linda Dallmann also boosted the German game and made it possible to keep pressing for almost the entire season.
The Danes couldn’t find a solution for over 90 minutes and sometimes seemed a bit inflexible in their 3-4-3 system. This tactical approach often left them outnumbered in central midfield, allowing Germany to get behind the back line of defense and take dangerous crosses, particularly via Svenja Huth and Giulia Gwinn on the right. The German defensive line was also solid, hit good diagonal balls and only got into trouble from opposing corners.
It’s hard not to get euphoric after such a performance. Denmark certainly weren’t easy opponents, but Spain still face another challenge in the second group game on Tuesday. Despite the absence of world footballer Alexia Putellas, the Spaniards scored four goals against Finland (4-1) and should aim for more possession than Denmark. But with such a team effort and mental strength, the German players can appear confident. They are definitely not outsiders against the Spaniards after the performance against Denmark.