Defending champion Germany is in the final yet again in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship where they will play Spain. A few hours ago, Germany beat Romania 4-2 after a great second half. Germany was down 1-2 in the first, but an early penalty goal by Luca Waldschmidt initiated the impressive come-back.
Arguably, it is now more important than ever for Germany to continue its youth development program. England and France are currently experiencing a so-called “golden generation.” English talents, such as Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson, were among the foreign break-out stars in the German Bundesliga. France has talented players in all of the top five leagues in Europe, including the Bundesliga. Add the Netherlands’ rise in international football, and Germany has a real challenge to retain their spot as the best country in Europe.
It is, therefore, refreshing, to see young Bundesliga talents perform so well internationally for Die Nationalmannschaft. On paper, Germany has a weaker team compared to nations such as Italy, Spain, France, and England. It is therefore extremely impressive they have managed to reach the final, and head-coach Stefan Kuntz should get massive credit for the feat.
In this article, I will mention five German players (in no particular order) who have impressed in the tournament. Except for Benjamin Henrichs and Lukas Nmecha, who plays for Monaco and Preston North End, all players in the current U-21 squads play in the German league system. The beauty of this tournament is the temptation to predict future stars. Although none of the players are established Bundesliga stars as of yet, these five may very well become one in the future.
1. Luca Waldschmidt
The star of the tournament so far: 7 goals in 4 games from the young man who, when not on international duty, plays for Christian Streich’s SC Freiburg. Waldschmidt had a good first season for Freiburg, scoring 9 Bundesliga goals. He repaid Stefan Kuntz’s faith in starting him all four games as the sole striker by scoring 7 goals, three against Serbia and two today against Romania. Luca has been unstoppable this tournament, scoring from all angles of the pitch. His goal against Austria must go down as one of the goals of the tournament, if not the season:
2. Marco Richter
Marco Richter was one of the few bright spots this season for FC Augsburg, scoring 4 goals and assisting 6. In the group stage of the tournament, Richter scored three goals, scoring the first two against Denmark and the third against Serbia. Richter is a versatile winger whose playing style recalls that of Marco Reus. His goals against Denmark showcased his ability to dribble out of tight areas with his pace and phenomenal ball control. Just like Reus, Richter is also able to play in the center of the attacking midfield. Even though he did not play against Romania, the former Bayern Munich academy player has a very bright future ahead of him.
3. Mahmoud Dahoud
Things have not gone as planned for the Syrian-born Dahoud since he left Borussia Mönchengladbach for Borussia Dortmund. This season Dahoud played only 14 Bundesliga games this season but after his performances in this tournament, he may very well play a larger role for Die Schwarzgelben next season. Dahoud’s vision, touch, and incredible composure on the ball have been vital for this German side. His partnership with Maximilian Eggestein and Florian Neuhaus on the midfield has been superb, as he has been the more creative outlet out of the three. Following a tough season, Dahoud has shown BVB that he is still one of Germany’s biggest midfield talents.
4. Alexander Nübel
I know what you are thinking. Why include a goalkeeper that has not had a clean sheet in any of the four games? Well, out of the five goals Germany has let in, four have been from the penalty spot. The only one not from the penalty spot was an unsavable header from the talented Romanian striker George Puscas. Today, Nübel showed with a couple of fantastic acrobatic saves why he is regarded as Germany’s next goalkeeping talent. He denied Puscas a hat-trick with what has to be the save of the tournament.
5. Benjamin Henrichs
I could have gone for Levin Öztunali, who has been great all tournament or for Nadiem Amiri who was the man of the match against Romania. But I choose AS Monaco’s left-back Benjamin Henrichs mainly because I was surprised by how good he actually is. The way he uses his feet and his overall technical ability are incredibly surprising for a left-back. Always looking to help on the left flank, Henrichs is a good crosser of the ball who contributed highly to Germany’s start-up play. He was suspended for today’s game against Romania, and although his replacement, Maximilian Mittelstädt did well, I think Kuntz will pick Henrichs to play in the final.