Nico Schulz Winner Puts Germany Past Netherlands in 2020 Euro Qualifier

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMarch 24, 2019

AMSTERDAM, NETERLANDS - MARCH 24: Leroy Sane of Germany celebrates after scoring his team's first goal with team mates during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group C qualifying match between Netherlands and Germany at Johan Cruijff ArenA on March 24, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

Germany began their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign by beating the Netherlands 3-2 on Sunday to move level on points with the Dutch in Group C.

Manchester City marvel Leroy Sane put the visiting side ahead after 15 minutes at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam, and Bayern Munich forward Serge Gnabry doubled their lead with a thundered solo finish.

The Netherlands were revived in the second half and scored through Matthijs de Ligt and Memphis Depay to equalise, but Hoffenheim's Nico Schulz was on hand to rescue Die Mannschaft with a 90th-minute winner.

Northern Ireland scored late to beat Belarus 2-1 on Sunday and maintain their 100 per cent start, now leading Group C by three points.


Germany's Youth Prove They Have Maturity to Pose a Euro 2020 Threat

Sunday was a night to celebrate youth as the less seasoned stars took centre stage and wrestled the spotlight as their own at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Joachim Low reacted to Wednesday's disappointing 1-1 draw against Serbia by naming an XI just as young in Amsterdam, where 29-year-old Toni Kroos and Antonio Rudiger, 26, were the only starting outfielders over 25.

Sane was the first 23-year-old to get on the scoresheet and finished well following some fine work from match-winner Schulz, 25, down the left side. The City star was notably omitted from Germany's squad for their nightmare 2018 FIFA World Cup, but WhoScored.com testified to his incredible international form since:

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

Leroy Sane has now scored in three of his last four appearances for Germany having failed to find the net in his first 15 for the national side. Follow the action live -- https://t.co/NENfV4ffIT #NEDGER https://t.co/sDF0XttKMY

The former Schalke man has become a leading force at the Etihad Stadium despite his young years, and Low appears to have softened his stance on the player, who has the makings of a future Germany talisman.

Gnabry joined age-sake Sane on the score sheet after 34 minutes, cutting in from the right and riding pressure from Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk to unleash a hellish shot into Jasper Cillessen's top-right corner.

Bayern's winger has improved drastically over the past year and is another who could become a firm fixture in this Germany team: 

Archie Rhind-Tutt @archiert1

I’m not sure if Serge Gnabry, the guy described in 2015 as being “weighty” by Tony Pulis and unable to get into the West Brom team, bears any resemblance to this Serge Gnabry, key performer for Bayern and scorer just now of a wonder goal for Germany.

Jan Aage Fjortoft @JanAageFjortoft

Gnabry! 5 goals in 6 games for Germany https://t.co/X3d1nVHruN

It hardly seems a coincidence Low's emphasis on Germany's younger prospects has come less than a month after veterans Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels were axed from the national team.

Despite the initial hurt of that decision, there is clear promise in the team—although that stems largely from their attack. Low tested a new formation with three central defenders flanked by wing-backs Schulz and Thilo Kehrer, 22, the latter of whom was exposed for Depay's equaliser at 2-2.

Youth may be the answer between the posts for Germany in time, too. Manuel Neuer, 32, didn't put many feet wrong at the Johan Cruyff Arena, but 26-year-old Marc-Andre ter Stegen is largely considered the future of Germany's No. 1 jersey and will receive more chances in the buildup to Euro 2020.

The squad is already talented; it just so happens to be young. Ilkay Gundogan is one of only five outfielders in Germany's entire roster who is over 25. He stressed after Wednesday's draw against Serbia the disappointment to hear his own fans booing, via Omnisport:

Omnisport @OmnisportNews

"As a player you don't like it, but it's the fans' opinion." 🇩🇪 Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus react to Germany fans booing Joachim Low's side after a 1-1 draw with Serbia. https://t.co/LNqeRagseB

The first half in Amsterdam gave German fans something to be a lot more excited about. Granted, a leakier second half reminded not all is settled for Low, but the outline of a team capable of returning to the pinnacle of international football was there against Ronald Koeman's Netherlands—a great side in their own right.

Niklas Sule, 23, Matthias Ginter, 25, and Rudiger pose great quality as a defensive corps but lack the familiarity and calm required to win major international titles. That comfort is developed over time, however, and Die Mannschaft look to be quietly constructing a side capable of a resurgence in 2020.


What's Next?

Neither team will be summoned back into action until June when the Netherlands will face England in the inaugural UEFA Nations League finals, while Germany travel to Belarus in their second Group C fixture.