Germany Escape To Reach Round Of 16 As Hungary Heroes Fall Just Short

Leon Goretzka's late goal saved his side from an embarrassing early exit
22:00, 23 Jun 2021

A late Leon Goretzka strike saved Germany from another group stage elimination and set up a Euro 2020 last-16 clash with England at Wembley.

Joachim Low’s men twice came from behind against a superb Hungary outfit to prevent a second successive group exit at a major tournament. Kai Havertz had cancelled out Adam Szalai’s early strike before Andras Schafer put the underdogs ahead again. Goretzka then fired home with five minutes left on the clock to send the Munich crowd wild, as a repeat of the 2010 World Cup last 16 clash against the Three Lions awaits.

Hungary may have had the better of the opening 45 minutes, but it was favourites Germany who registered the first real chance of the game when Joshua Kimmich came close to bagging his first international goal since 2017, only for Peter Gulacsi to produce a fine fingertip save. It took just 10 minutes for the opener to come, but it was the travelling Hungarians who took a surprise lead when Szalai met a pinpoint Roland Sallai cross to head home his 24th – and surely most important – international goal.

As it stood, Hungary were through and Germany, for the first time in their history, were heading home at the group stage for the second successive tournament following their early demise in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Die Mannschaft were in no mood to make history for all the wrong reasons, and pushed on looking for a quick equaliser and within 10 minutes, Mats Hummels had hit the crossbar with a header and Matthias Ginter fired his close-range effort straight at Gulacsi when he ought to have found the back of the net.

Marco Rossi’s men withstood that particular barrage of German pressure in the monsoon-like conditions and settled back into the game, much to the frustration of their opponents.

With tackles flying in and the Hungary fans making all the noise in Munich, a fascinating first half drew to a close.


Before a ball was kicked after the interval, Hungary had already beaten the odds by being in with a real chance of qualifying from a so-called ‘Group of Death’ that the script suggested they were in purely to make up the numbers. European powerhouses Germany, reigning European champions Portugal, and world champions France were supposed to register routine wins against Rossi’s troops, with the three of them battling it out for supremacy in Group F.

A moment of madness saw Gulacsi flap at a cross with Hummels looping a header towards goal. Man of the moment Kai Havertz couldn’t miss from inside the six-yard box as Low’s men were gifted a lifeline.

Hungarian hearts were broken for all of 50 seconds as, straight from kick-off, a rush of blood to the head saw Neuer needlessly rush off his line only for Andras Schafer to beat him to it and restore his nation’s lead. Pandemonium ensued in the stands, with captain Szalai issuing a rallying cry to his teammates ahead of a monumental 20 minutes of football.

Germany, needing one goal to see them through to the last 16, huffed and puffed with Toni Kroos sending his vicious effort the wrong side of the post with 10 minutes left to play. With time ticking away, the three-time winners did finally grab that elusive goal, with Goretzka’s right-footed strike silencing the Hungary fans behind the goal. It was Goretzka’s 14th international strike, but none have been quite as important as that one.

Elimination from this most difficult of groups was cruel on a brilliantly brave Hungary outfit, but they can hold their heads high knowing that they did so much more than just make up the numbers.

As for Germany, they left it as late as possible and have crept through to the knockouts by the skin of their teeth.

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