Under-19s win European Championship
9 August ~ For the second time this summer, an international tournament ended with Germany holding aloft the trophy. Just as the World Cup triumph in Brazil was the culmination of more than a decade of planning, victory in the European Under-19 Championship suggested the future may be just as bright as the present.
A side coached by Marcus Sorg – tipped to succeed Hansi Flick as Joachim Löw's assistant with the senior side as Flick has taken the vacant sporting director's role overseeing all youth teams – swept all before them in Hungary, although their record in the tournament is patchier than might be expected.
Germany had not even qualified for the eight-team finals since winning the trophy for the first time in 2008, when a team including Lars and Sven Bender and Ron-Robert Zieler triumphed in the Czech Republic.
Their subsequent Under-17 record has been impressive, however, winning the European title in 2009 and reaching the final in 2011 and 2012. It was the latter group of players who formed the bedrock of Sorg's side, the coach including ten players who had lost the Under-17 final on penalties to Holland.
Germany actually began the tournament with three players missing from their 18-man squad as Julian Brandt, Levin Öztunali (both Bayer Leverkusen) and Joshua Kimmich (RB Leipzig) were all required by their clubs. Furthermore, Schalke pair Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka plus Stuttgart's Timo Werner were among several players not selected due to club commitments; nevertheless, no fewer than eight of Sorg's squad had appeared in the 2013-14 Bundesliga.
That strength in depth was alluded to throughout the tournament. On the eve of the final against Portugal, opposing coach Hélio Sousa reflected: "This Germany generation is one of the best of the last few years: they have so many players to choose from, they could have put together two or three teams who were equally strong. They are maybe more mature players, their players have been playing at a higher level – some of them in the Bundesliga, games that give them more maturity than our players."
That proved to be the case as Germany won four of their five games in Hungary, only drawing against holders Serbia. Otherwise Bulgaria (3-0) and Ukraine (2-0) were brushed aside in the group stage, before Austria were dismantled 4-0 in the semis and Portugal beaten 1-0 in the decider. Werder Bremen striker Davie Selke took the headlines with six goals yet it was in midfield where Germany particularly excelled with Öztunali – grandson of West Germany international Uwe Seeler – and Kimmich especially impressive.
In truth, just as in Brazil, Germany's success was down to an impressive squad effort rather than eye-catching individuals. Sorg said before the final: "We're Germany: we're always favourites." If they can keep producing promising young players in this volume, that doesn't look like changing any time soon. Andrew Haslam