Portugal 2 - 4 Germany : Gosens inspires resurgent Germany to thrilling 4-2 victory over Portugal

   Somebody had better heat up the old cliche about never writing off the Germans. This was a sensational response to their many doubters, who bore witness to exactly what had been demanded:

a performance of furious intensity, channeled aggression and boundless invention that puts their name back in the conversation from nowhere. If Germany can match this standard over the coming three weeks, Joachim Löw could yet sign off by winning Euro 2020.

What a turnaround that would be given the brickbats flung his way during an entropic three years since their early World Cup exit. On Tuesday they gave France too much respect and the sense was that Hansi Flick’s first job, when he takes over next month, will be to place a rocket under such a listing football power’s self-esteem. But they were unrecognisable here in overwhelming Portugal and turning back the clock to those days when, faced with opponents who might be considered peers, they would simply crank up the volume.

This was the tournament’s best game so far and it contained the outstanding individual performance, too. Robin Gosens has neither been gilded by Germany’s successes under Löw nor scarred by many of the failures; this was only the Atalanta player’s ninth cap and Portugal simply could not handle him. For his 62 minutes on the pitch, the left flank may as well have been Gosens’ personal fiefdom. He tore through space at will and, while Portugal’s abject inability to protect a flaky Nélson Semedo did not harm his cause, that was only half the job. Gosens ate up the ground but every final ball was sincerely meant: he created two goals, scored another and could have seen both columns boosted at least twice over.

Robin Gosens heads home Germany’s fourth

Robin Gosens heads home Germany’s fourth. 

“We were dynamic, energetic, created a lot of opportunities and had great pace in our game,” said Löw, who had shut his ears to the critics in naming an unchanged lineup and retaining a back three. What happened next gave truth to the adage that players, not systems, make the difference. Gosens and Joshua Kimmich, the wing-backs, were effectively positioned as wide forwards from the start; Kimmich, who some had touted for a shift to central midfield, was only a shade behind his colleague’s level and finished with two assists.

Within five minutes Gosens had seen a goal disallowed for offside against a sliding Serge Gnabry and, at the time, it was hard to tell which aspect of that incident had set the tone. Germany squeezed Portugal to the point of buckling for 15 minutes but could not break through. Then Cristiano Ronaldo finished a sublime counterattack, begun after he had cleared Toni Kroos’s corner and expedited by marvellous work from Bernardo Silva and Diogo Jota. He had never scored against Germany before and at that point the narrative was heading only in one direction.

What happened next delighted Löw. “After going behind we showed a great team spirit,” he said. They took some time to gather themselves but then roared back, forcing an own-goal from Rúben Dias when Gosens volleyed across in search of the onrushing Kai Havertz. Bizarrely, they were in front through a near carbon copy four minutes later when Kimmich pulled back from the byline and Raphaël Guerreiro bulleted into his own net. The knockers had called Germany shot-shy: they had broken Portugal down without needing to take any.

Gosens and Gnabry, another sparky performer, could have added to the lead before half-time. Six minutes after the restart Gosens slipped while centring after a slick move led by Thomas Müller, but his accuracy did not suffer and Havertz converted on the run. Three became four when Kimmich offered a cross from the right and Gosens, hanging in the air before attacking it with thrilling determination, took matters beyond the point of no return.

Löw gave Gosens a breather immediately and, when Jota finished after a piece of superhuman ball retrieval from Ronaldo, the fear was he had moved too soon. The substitute Renato Sanches smacked a post and the stadium, hitherto buoyant, sat in a curious silence. “We never had any doubts,” Löw said of his players’ feat, although that sentiment was clearly not matched in the stands. But they survived without further alarm; Group F, and perhaps the entire competition, has been blown wide open.

“I’m responsible for this,” said Fernando Santos, who might wonder why his Portugal side constantly failed to put pressure on the ball. “I have to talk to the players and understand why we didn’t do what we had to.” By contrast, Löw and Germany saw faith in their plan richly rewarded.




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