Gündogan and Musiala torment Hungary as Germany race into last 16

<span>Germany's Ilkay Gündogan celebrates after scoring his side's second goal against Hungary.</span><span>Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP</span>
Germany's Ilkay Gündogan celebrates after scoring his side's second goal against Hungary.Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP

Which of Germany’s old stagers will be next to steal the scene? Toni Kroos had teased Scotland to pieces on the opening day but this time the floor was left to his captain, who delivered a resounding statement. Four months from now Ilkay Gündogan will turn 34 but this was another of those evenings where, as with his imminently retiring colleague, the idea that the show will one day end feels simply unfair.

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Gündogan intervened decisively midway through each half, creating the opener for Jamal Musiala and sweeping in a second goal that finally deflated a largely impressive Hungary. Had Marco Rossi’s players converted one presentable chance among several, notably through Barnabas Varga on the hour, they would have quietened a buoyant crowd. Instead they were the latest to find that the hosts have begun this summer with the dead-eyed edge of old. Germany were clinical and their momentum is gathering.

If the veterans are trading star billing, Musiala is a dazzling constant. “The way he’s going right now, he can be one of the best,” Gündogan said afterwards and it was justified praise. He turned in another irrepressible performance and what a special moment it was when, in his home city, he met the captain’s pass and hammered high into the net. Musiala tormented Hungary out wide but his acuity in occupying pockets of space more centrally was fundamental to the moments that won this game.

Exhibit A came in the 22nd minute of a game Germany had started slowly, finding that Hungary were as good as their word in promising a more aggressive display than in a poor defeat against Switzerland. Some of the hosts’ connections around the box had started to show promise, and Peter Gulascsi had saved from Kai Havertz after ineffectual defending from Willi Orban, but it took Musiala’s initiative to calm their early jitters.

Musiala had collected the ball in a tight space on the edge of the box, with four opponents looking to minimise his options, and slipped it through to an on-rushing Gündogan. There was a sizeable element of fortune after that, the pass bouncing off his thigh as he sought to tame it and seemingly allowing Orban to take control.

The centre-back, no more convincing than he had been earlier on, stumbled as he tried to shepherd the ball towards the byline. The complaint was that Gündogan had shoved him, but Orban had seemed to lean into his opponent and surely should have been stronger. Several of Hungary’s players certainly erred in stopping with hands held aloft while the midfielder took control of matters and, from the left side of the six‑yard box, teed up an alert Musiala for a second thudding finish in as many games.

Hungary had come close after only 16 seconds, Manuel Neuer diving at the feet of Roland Sallai, and gave the 38-year-old more to do. They did not appear perturbed at going behind and were denied soon afterwards when Neuer brilliantly repelled a Dominik Szoboszlai free-kick and blocked the rebound from Varga. If the excellence of golden oldies is to be a theme, Neuer was another who warmed to it.

Related: Scotland keep knockout hopes alive after battling draw with Switzerland

By the three-quarter mark Germany had not put Hungary, who had recorded a win and two draws in their previous three meetings, out of view. Then Kroos sped up a prolonged passing move with a first-time clip to Musiala, imbued with instructions to maintain that raised tempo. Eyes in the back of his head, Musiala found the left‑back Maximilian Mittelstädt in space and the resulting cutback was swept in by Gündogan.

He barely put a foot wrong throughout and Julian Nagelsmann pointed out that, off the ball, he had kept Germany on the straight and narrow when they were listing. “He worked amazingly,” Nagelsmann said. “He tried to steer the match, he used some of the stoppages and tried to double check things with me. I have big trust in him because I know what is within him.”

Perhaps the post-match enthusiasm would have been more restrained if Varga, unmarked from a perfect Sallai cross, had equalised rather than looping his header over. There was little influence Gundogan could exert on that sequence. Sallai had a goal correctly disallowed before the interval and, towards the end, a late goalline clearance from Joshua Kimmich ensured the bank of almost 20,000 fans behind Neuer’s goal were left with nothing bar an improved showing to savour. Hungary, fancied as potential dark horses, are on the brink of elimination.

For Germany the latter stages were celebratory and Nagelsmann could play to the gallery by enhancing the local flavour. Mittelstadt, who plays here for VfB Stuttgart, was joined on the pitch by clubmates Chris Fuhrich and the Brighton loanee Deniz Undav; the crowd loved those little touches, just as they had adored those of Gundogan and his cohort.