Highlights, report: Germany beat Portugal for third U21 EURO title

Lukas Nmecha’s goal gave Germany a 1-0 win in the final against Portugal in Ljubljana.

Germany have won their third UEFA European Under-21 Championship title after Lukas Nmecha’s goal gave them a 1-0 win against Portugal.

Nmecha scored four minutes into the second half to settle the final in Ljubljana, having been on the losing side against Spain two years ago. Portugal, facing a third final defeat, worked hard to level, but Germany held on to follow their triumphs of 2009 and 2017.

Match in brief

Portugal began by pressing high, but after a couple of chances by Tiago Tomás and Diogo Dalot, Germany were able to assert themselves. Mostly attacking via the flanks, they hit the crossbar from Florian Wirtz’s deflected shot, before Diogo Costa made fine saves to deny Nmecha and Arne Maier. Vitinha then gave them a brief scare before the interval, keeping the ball too long as he dribbled forward.

The goal came shortly after the restart – and from a moment of lapsed concentration in the Portugal defence. That allowed Ridle Baku the space to feed Nmecha, who slotted in coolly. And Germany worked hard to maintain their lead, ably dealing with any crosses and long balls sent towards danger.

Fábio Vieira, named Player of the Tournament, had the best chance for Portugal, only for Nico Schlotterbeck to block expertly. And it was a similar at the other end, as Diogo Costa twice spurned Karim Adeyemi on the counter. Stefan Kuntz’s men had done enough, however.

How Germany won the final

Every Germany player who spoke before the final highlighted the phenomenal team spirit they had created, their willingness to go the extra metre for each other, and it showed. Maier and Niklas Dorsch, in particular, kept a tight rein on the Portugal midfield, which had been the foundation of their run to the final.

But hard work only gets you so far, and though the names may not have been quite as big in the Germany squad as in previous tournaments, their talent is undeniable. Final match winner Nmecha, who finished as the tournament’s leading marksman with four, gave Kuntz’s side a cutting edge, while at the back they frustrated the tournament’s top scorers brilliantly.

Schlotterbeck was a commanding presence, one of number of white shirts that charged down promising attempts from their opponents. As for Player of the Match Baku, moved to right-back from his wing role due to Josha Vagnoman’s quarter-final injury, he showed pace and energy to play a crucial role at both ends, including the assist for Nmecha’s decisive strike. In short, this was a fabulous collective triumph.

Reaction

Lukas Nmecha, Germany forward: “I can’t really remember the goal. I was in a good position and Ridle [Baku] fed me the ball. I went past the keeper with the first touch and then only had to put the ball in the net. We are a team: everybody has his role. We were great today and it’s great to win here. We have a good team, with a lot of heart, hard work and talent.”

Finn Dahmen, Germany goalkeeper: “It’s amazing! Nobody really believed in us. We showed everybody what we can do and we’re proud. Today we ran like crazy and we’re proud of our performance. We got better from game to game throughout the tournament, and we had a really good feeling before the match.”

Diogo Queirós, Portugal defender: “We missed a lot of chances. We had a few chances to score and so did Germany in the second half. But Germany played well defensively: we tried but we couldn’t score. One positive is that we had a fantastic road to the final and we can be very proud. We have to keep working hard to win trophies in the future.”

Key stats

  • Germany have won their third title, behind only Italy and Spain on five.
  • Nmecha scored the winner against Portugal in a UEFA national-team final for the second time: in 2017, his strike for England won them U19 EURO before he switched to the country of his birth.
  • Germany played in their third straight final, all under Stefan Kuntz, equalling Italy and Cesare Maldini’s record from between 1992 and 1996.
  • Portugal have lost all three of their U21 final appearances after defeats in 1994 and 2015.
  • Player of the Tournament: Fábio Vieira(Portugal)
  • Top Scorer award: Lukas Nmecha (Germany) 4

Line-ups

Germany: Dahmen; Baku, Pieper, Schlotterbeck, Raum; Maier, Dorsch (Janelt 85); Wirtz (Adeyemi 68), Özcan (Stach 90+2), Berisha (Burkardt 67); Nmecha (Jakobs 85)

Portugal: Diogo Costa; Diogo Dalot, Diogo Queirós, Diogo Leite, Abdu Conté (Gonçalo Ramos 86); Florentino (Gedson Fernandes 83); Vitinha (Jota 59), Fábio Vieira, Daniel Bragança; Dany Mota (Rafael Leão 46), Tiago Tomás (Francisco Conceição 59)

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