Magull and Schüller lead Germany to emphatic opening win over Denmark
This was some way to set a marker. Germany’s coach, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, had wondered whether they might catch opponents off guard this summer after a couple of modest showings at major tournaments, as wild a notion as that might seem given they have already won eight European Championships. Their rivals can now consider themselves duly warned: this was an urgent, insistent, top-quality performance that demolished a fancied Denmark side that merited an even higher margin of victory. Given the calibre of their display and the opposition it overwhelmed, Germany must surely be regarded as the early favourites.
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Even though two of their goals, through the substitutes Lena Lattwein and Alexandra Popp, arrived in the closing stages this was no artificial scoreline. From the opening whistle Germany had torn the Danes apart down the flanks and it was a minor miracle that they had only scored once by half-time. They were more clinical thereafter and what a tormenting night this was for Denmark, who rarely managed to involve Pernille Harder in a spluttering attack and threatened sporadically at best. Kathrine Møller Kühl’s dismissal in added time made matters even worse.
“We played an outstanding game,” Voss-Tecklenburg said. “We were incredibly dominant and aggressive, it was a great team effort from everyone involved.”
At the outset this occasion had held a celebratory air for Denmark, who were boisterously supported at what has become an enclave of their country in west London. The Brentford men’s club has a heavy Danish influence and its manager, Thomas Frank, could be seen mingling among his compatriots before the game. Anyone considering that an advantage was disabused of the idea, though, as Germany raced out of the blocks.
The right winger Svenja Huth had Katrine Veje, the woefully exposed left centre-back in Denmark’s back three, on toast and created a chance for Klara Bühl within five minutes. It was the marauding left-back Felicitas Rauch, though, who rang the loudest alarm bells. Remarkably she hit the bar twice in the first 13 minutes, clattering the frame from 20 yards after Sara Däbritz had kept her feet smartly before repeating the trick at a slightly further distance when fed by Bühl. Then Lina Magull forced a flying save from Lene Christensen with an improvised effort from Huth’s cross and the opener came to appear a matter of time.
It arrived in the 21st minute after Denmark had overcomplicated a move out from the back. Signe Bruun, their striker, had dropped deep into her own half and sold Stine Pedersen short with a backwards pass. Pedersen had few options but to try and clear, with Magull arriving at speed; the Germany forward charged her attempt down and was able to run through, belting an unstoppable finish past Christensen from a slight angle on the right.
The Bayern Munich schemer Magull, playing in the No 10 position, was outstanding in her 69 minutes on the pitch and deserved to be named player of the match. Behind her the midfield pivot of Däbritz and Lena Oberdorf allowed little through, the only significant exception being a turn and shot by Bruun that Merle Frohms parried acrobatically just before the half-hour.
“We were at it right away and created plenty of scoring chances that we didn’t really take advantage of in the first half,” noted Voss-Tecklenburg, but Germany soon put that right. It was galling for Denmark that their coach, Lars Søndergaard, had just made a triple substitution when the lead was doubled 11 minutes after the interval. Nadia Nadim was among those introduced but had not touched the ball when the generally reliable Christensen made a sprawling low save from Magull.
From the resulting corner, the keeper blotted her copybook badly. Magull’s floated set-piece from the left was well delivered but not especially menacing; Christensen came out to collect but became mired in a crowd of bodies and the forward Lea Schüller, another excellent performer from Bayern Munich, could nod into a vacant goal with the keeper stranded.
“We didn’t play with courage,” Søndergaard admitted. His players attacked in vain towards a gorgeous pink sunset as the minutes ticked down but their prospects soon turned pitch black. Lattwein, found unmarked by Oberdorf’s towering header, lashed inside the near post and then Popp completed the rout emphatically from a Sydney Lohmann delivery. Popp has only just returned from a year-long injury layoff; events have shifted in her favour and perhaps that goes for Germany too.
“We played ourselves into a frenzy,” said Schüller, not inaccurately, of an exceptional night’s work. Their fellow contenders might just work themselves into one as they seek ways to stop them.