Germany ride luck vs. Denmark but eventually it will run out

DORTMUND, Germany — Julian Nagelsmann is riding his luck as Germany head coach. It’s taken him to the quarterfinals of Euro 2024, but sooner or later, he will need more than good fortune to take the host nation much further in the competition.

It needed a ferocious thunderstorm — play was suspended for 22 minutes in the first half because of lightning and incessant rain in Dortmund — and two VAR decisions in Germany’s favour to knock Denmark out of their stride in a round-of-16 tie that Nagelsmann’s team ultimately won 2-0 thanks to a Kai Havertz penalty and a Jamal Musiala solo goal. Had the Danes enjoyed some of Nagelsmann’s luck and had one, or even both, of the VAR decisions gone their way, Germany could have been sent packing from their own party and the recriminations would already be underway.

“We were favourites, that makes it difficult, and we had so many adversities to overcome,” Nagelsmann said after the match. “They did that and it makes me proud. The players are getting rid of their old memory stick and remembering how good they are.

“We told the team that there were still phases where we were not working at 100%. We must remain more patient and wait for our good moments.”

Nagelsmann, the former RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich manager, is under contract as Germany coach until the end of the 2026 World Cup. He might just settle on his best team by then.

For this game, he made the shock decision to drop Florian Wirtz from the team in favour of Leroy Sané and also resisted calls to hand Niclas Füllkrug, Germany’s goal-scoring super-sub, a first start in the tournament.

“Against Switzerland, we didn’t sprint and offer enough depth,” Nagelsmann told German broadcasters before the game when asked about Wirtz’s demotion to the bench. “Leroy is a player who embodies both. [Wirtz] also always has good runs, but he wants to have the ball at his feet more and then create things with two touches.

“Leroy offers a lot of depth because of his speed. He can bring what we were missing a little against Switzerland. We are deciding between two world-class players, so the decision can only be a good one.”

Füllkrug, meanwhile, was always unlikely to start because Nagelsmann typically opts for Havertz. This was another game in which the Arsenal forward missed a hatful of chances either side of scoring from the penalty spot.

Sané? He offered the pace that Nagelsmann wanted but tended to run down blind alleys and failed to take advantage of his natural attributes. “It was his first game for a long time, but he got better in the second half,” Nagelsmann said.

The end result, in which Havertz scored, will allow Nagelsmann to justify his selection, but the coach is now facing some big decisions going into Friday’s quarterfinal against either Spain or Georgia in Stuttgart.

Barring the biggest upset at a Euros since Iceland eliminated England at Euro 2016, Spain are likely to overcome Georgia to face the Germans, and that would be a stern test of Nagelsmann and his squad. Germany can win that game, they can win the whole tournament, but Nagelsmann needs to find a way to kick-start his team, and it is difficult to imagine him doing that without Wirtz in the lineup.

Denmark were able to enjoy periods of midfield dominance, and Christian Eriksen was given the time and space to pick holes in Germany’s defence. If he had better players around him, the Manchester United midfielder could have inflicted real damage for his team.

Spain possess the options that Denmark do not, so they will take advantage if they end up facing Germany, but the Danes could also have won this game but for the interruption of the storm and the interference of VAR.

Joachim Andersen thought he had given Denmark the lead when he scored in a goalmouth scramble on 48 minutes, but VAR ruled the goal out after a fractional offside was spotted. Thomas Delaney, the Denmark midfielder, made the mistake of allowing the edge of his toe to stray offside by millimetres, so he was ruled offside.

Technically correct, yes, but there was no advantage gained and it was a goal that would never have been challenged, never mind ruled out, without VAR. While Denmark rued the decision, Germany took advantage, and within two minutes they had VAR to thank again when officials Stuart Attwell and David Coote urged referee Michael Oliver to review a handball by Andersen following a David Raum cross.

Again, no advantage was gained by Denmark by the apparent infringement. It was Andersen’s fingernail that scraped the ball, but it registered on the Snickometer that has been introduced to catch handballs. Andersen was deemed to have his arm in an unnatural position — check it out and you’ll wonder where he was expected to have it — and Oliver agreed with his colleagues in the VAR room and pointed to the penalty spot.

“Throughout the game we worked our way into it and then suddenly it is my little toe offside and then the handball,” Delaney said. “It goes fast in modern football with VAR.”

Havertz, who had previously done little beyond miss good chances, scored the penalty, and from that point on, Germany never looked back. Musiala added a second on 68 minutes to make the game safe, and the final 20 minutes were routine for the hosts, who then started to cut loose to paint a misleading impression of the game.

Sometimes teams and coaches get lucky. Denmark had no luck, but Germany benefited from the big decisions going their way. Because of that, Nagelsmann’s selection and his inability to settle on his best team became a debate that can be saved for another day.

Make no mistake, though, that debate will come sooner or later.

First appeared on

Leave a Comment