After a nervy opening game in which there were many stray passes and several poor attempts at goal, Germany justified their label as pre-tournament favourites by completing a resounding 3-0 victory against Denmark in their second group match of the 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. The Germans appeared more comfortable with a change in their attacking formation but they will also face a challenge to win the competition from a much-improved Czech Republic team and a Portugal outfit seemingly content to claim a point against Italy after an impressive display against England.
With Hoffenheim’s Kevin Volland deployed in more central striking role and both Amin Younis and Leonardo Bittencourt operating as wide attackers, Germany always appeared dangerous on the break in their match against Denmark and Volland was able to take advantage of an excellent defence-splitting pass from central midfield player Emre Can to open the scoring. Another goal was added from a free-kick by Volland before Matthias Ginter completed the victory with a third goal.
The performance of the German team was in stark contrast to the more languid efforts in drawing 1-1 with Serbia during their opening contest but they must now face a Czech Republic team also showing a distinct improvement from their 2-1 opening defeat against Denmark.
Displaying movement and an array of inventive attacking passes, the Czech team could have won their second game by a much greater margin than the 4-0 scoreline. Jan Kliment was guilty of spurning several opportunities despite claiming a hat-trick while Jiri Shalak proved his worth to the team with a commanding display in a central attacking midfield role.
Yet the Czech Republic team cannot afford to rest on their laurels as they could be exposed by a strong German team and elimination from the tournament is still a possibility for both teams. In the event of both Czech and Germany qualifying for the semi-finals, neither team will wish to claim second position in the group as it is likely that Portugal may be waiting as Group B winners.
The Portuguese team did not play with the fluidity displayed against England when drawing 0-0 with Italy on Sunday evening but there was the general impression that they were content with the draw and securing a fourth point. Although Portugal did produce several examples of their offensive skill with Bernardo Silva orchestrating many of their attacking moves, defensive mistakes were evident which could be exploited by a more cohesive attacking team.
Portugal are likely to be joined by either England or Italy in the semi-finals but it will take a brave person to bet against Germany eventually winning the tournament although the improving Czech team will hope to confound the experts by continuing their good form from the second match by beating the Germans on Tuesday evening.