The Jerusalem Post
Germany on the back foot after France loss
Hummels own-goal gifts world champ Euro victory • Portugal’s record-breaking Ronaldo sinks Hungary
MUNICH (Reuters) – Germany already has its backs to the wall at Euro 2020 after its opening loss to world champion France late Tuesday night, but it is confident there will be no a repeat of the shock first-round exit at the last World Cup.
Defender Mats Hummels’s first-half own-goal gave France the 1-0 Group F win and leaves three-time champion Germany in need of points from its last two matches against holder Portugal on Saturday and Hungary next week, with both games in Munich again.
“This defeat is very painful, especially for me as my own-goal decided the game,” said Hummels, who was recalled to the squad for the tournament after having been dropped more than two years ago.
“We obviously know full well that there is room for improvement in our game. But you could see that we want to fight really hard in this tournament, that we want to excite [the fans] and be successful.”
The Germans certainly lacked fighting spirit in Russia three years ago when they were sensationally eliminated in the first round of the World Cup after losing their opening game to Mexico and managing just one win from three group games.
On Tuesday, they were up against arguably the most complete team in the world and worked hard until the end to try to turn the game around and avoid a first-ever defeat in a Euro opener.
While they again struggled to carve out clear scoring chances, they did deliver a solid second-half performance, earning some praise from German media.
The tournament format with three group matches means that one win could be enough to advance to the
knockout stage and midfielder Toni Kroos said there was no point dwelling on the defeat.
“We have to look ahead now,” he said. “Obviously when you lose the first game and you only have three then the pressure is always great.”
How coach Joachim Loew’s team handle this pressure against Portugal might decide Germany’s fate.
For midfielder Joshua Kimmich, Germany showed in the defeat to France that the side can compete with the best.
“What we did was we showed that we can certainly keep up with top teams at this level,” Kimmich said.
“France is one of the title contenders. In the next game we have to show that we also are one of the title contenders.”
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo struck a late double to help holders Portugal get off to a winning start with a 3-0 victory over Hungary in front of a 67,000 crowd as the forward became the all-time leading scorer at European Championship finals.
Hungary rode a wave of early pressure from Portugal in the Group F clash and had a goal ruled out for offside shortly before Portugal’s Raphael Guerreiro broke the deadlock at the other end with a deflected effort in the 84th minute.
Captain Ronaldo sealed the win by lashing home from the penalty spot in the 87th to move ahead of Michel Platini as the all-time top scorer at the finals on 10 goals, which he quickly turned into 11 by dribbling the ball into the net in added time.
“It was a very difficult game but we got three goals. It was vital to win and start the tournament with confidence and now we want to keep on winning,” said Ronaldo.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos added: “If we’d scored earlier it would have been easier for us. We missed a few chances then had some anxious moments but found our composure again and finished the game well.”
On Wednesday, a goal in first-half stoppage time by Aleksei Miranchuk got Russia’s Euro 2020 campaign back on track as it beat Finland 1-0 in Group B.
The Russians, who remain unbeaten against the Finns since their first meeting in 1912, made amends for their opening loss to Belgium as the group remains wide open.
The Finns, winners 1-0 over Denmark in their first game that was marked by Christian Eriksen’s heart attack on the pitch, almost made the perfect start when Joel Pohjanpalo’s third minute header beat the Russian ’keeper, but was ruled offside after a VAR review.
It was the hosts, fired up by the home crowd, who took control in the first half, with the Finns sitting back and soaking up the pressure.
The visitors waited for the occasional break and both Pohjanpalo and Teemu Pukki tested goalkeeper Matvei Safonov.
An injury to Mario Fernandes after a rough fall in the 26th minute did not shift Russia’s focus and his replacement Vyacheslav Karavaev almost tapped in a cutback at the far post minutes after coming on.
The Russians’ dominance finally paid off in stoppage time thanks to a piece of magic from Miranchuk, who took on two defenders on the right, changed direction and scooped the ball into the far corner with a superb left-footed effort with Russia’s first shot on target.
The Finns shot out of the blocks after the break with Pukki carving out two chances early on.
That, however, came with a risk as it opened up spaces for Russia, which was a threat on the break with Rifat Zhemaletdinov’s low shot veering just wide in the 67th and Daler Kuzyaev’s curled effort forcing a superb save from ’keeper Lukas Hradecky as Finland’s energy gradually faded.
Russia held on to earn three points, with Stanislav Cherchesov’s side up to second in the standings on three, ahead of Finland thanks to the headto-head result. Belgium, which beat Russia 3-0 in the sides’ opener, tops the group ahead of its game against Denmark on Thursday.
On TV: Euro 2020 group stage: Ukraine vs North Macedonia (live on Sport 1 at 4 p.m.); Denmark vs Belgium (live on Sport 1 at 7 p.m.); Netherland vs Austria (live on Channel 13 at 10 p.m.).