It was a tale of two halves in Amsterdam as Die Nationalmannschaft only just escaped with a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands. A dominant first half saw the 2014 World Cup winners take a commanding 2-0 lead, but the Oranje blitzed the German National Team in the first 20 minutes of the second half drawing level and looking for the winner. Despite some confusion among the back three and some questionable tactical decisions from Jogi Löw, the Germans were able to weather the storm. Löw’s substitutions proved to be the difference in the game, as Ilkay Gündogan and Marco Reus combined to create the chance that Nico Schulz slotted home.
The importance of this early result cannot be understated as Die Mannschaft rebounds from an abysmal 2018 and relegation in the Nations League. Is Germany back?
Let’s take a look at who stood out.
Jersey Swap: Memphis Depay
Ronald Koeman’s brilliant half-time adjustments saw a Netherlands side attack from the wings and employ a more fluid front three, spearheaded by Memphis Depay. The former Manchester United winger has been in scorching form, scoring 3 goals in his last two games. Speculation over a Summer move for the Olympique Lyonnais forward continues to grow. He gave the German back three fits early in the second half, as he set up the first goal and bagged one for himself just minutes later. The Dutchman served as the heart of Koeman’s attack with 4 key passes and 2 dribbles to his name.
Although Sule did not cover himself in glory on the Dutch equalizer, the Bayern Munich central defender was absolutely everywhere in the first half, in addition to making key challenges and interceptions late in the second half to keep the score level.
He really made up for Ginter and Rüdiger’s defensive liabilities, while also allowing Rüdiger to move forward in possession and hit those long passes to Serge Gnabry that were so effective throughout the match. Süle racked up 10 (!) clearances, 4 interceptions, 1 tackle, 3 blocked shots, and won 3 aerial battles. The 23-year-old arguably outclassed both Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs De Ligt on the night.
Three minutes was all the Borussia Dortmund man needed to make an impact on the match. After coming on for Serge Gnabry in the 88th minute, Ilkay Gündogan found the German winger in a dangerous position. Reus made the Dutch defense pay as he patiently carried the ball to the touch line before cutting it back to a wide-open Nico Schulz. It’s great to see the 29-year-old healthy and contributing for the Nationalmannschaft. He truly is a special talent.
Tip of the Cap: Leroy Sané
Leroy Sané continued his run of form throughout the match, kicking off the scoring and getting in behind the vaunted Dutch back line at will all night. The Manchester City winger was deployed a free-roaming striker role and he greatly benefited from Gnabry’s pulling the strings in behind him. He took on defenders at will with 3 dribbles and his relentless running, pace, and eye for holes in the defense will be vital to Germany heading into Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.
Golf Clap: Manuel Neuer
MANUEL NEUER IS BACK! Ok, maybe that is a little premature, but the legendary German ‘keeper seemed much like his old self tonight, making acrobatic reaction saves, coming out with confidence to quell dangerous moments, and distributing from the back with 6 accurate long balls as he is wont to do. His save on Babel when the game was still level at 0-0 was truly world-class, while his point-blank save on a header in the 27th minute and a kick save in the 61st, although it was ruled offside, seem to indicate the Bayern goalkeeper is returning to form.
It is important to note that Neuer was never really awarded the time needed to come back into his own after two injury-riddled campaigns. He has lacked confidence and decisiveness throughout the season, but this match could be a very important step on the way back to his best. Marc-André ter Stegen will just have to wait for now.
Standing Ovation: Serge Gnabry
After getting bullied off the ball in the 27th minute by Virgil Van Dijk, Serge Gnabry grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and made the imperious Dutch center back pairing look powerless throughout the match. In addition to his worldy of a goal to put the Germans up 2, the Bayern forward ran riot against the Dutch.
Although Gnabry was a constant threat to run in behind the defense, receiving multiple long balls from Antonio Rüdiger in dangerous positions, the most impressive aspect of his performance tonight was his incisive passing and vision. He put Sané through on multiple occasions from a deeper play-making role. His development in the last year has been meteoric. He is quickly becoming a key player for club and country.
Meister of the Match: Nico Schulz
In what has been a problem position for Jogi Löw’s side, Nico Schulz made a case for being the left-back for Die Mannschaft for years to come. The Hoffenheim left-back tore up and down the flank, putting in pinpoint crosses and contributing to a more compact team defense. His defensive shift will likely go unnoticed, but it was an energetic display that produced 4 tackle, 3 interceptions and 4 clearances. Schulz clearly did not take his defensive duties lightly as he was faultless on both of Holland’s two goals.
Offensively, Schulz created a goal and scored the winner. Germany’s number 14 whipped in a multitude of dangerous crosses and was a threat on the overlap all match. Two key passes don’t even begin to shed light on just how important Schulz was going forward. Bayern Munich may be all set at the left fullback position, but it would not be surprising to see the 25-year-old German make a big money move this summer if his form for club and country continues.