Germany got their second ever victory in the UEFA Nations League with a 3-1 win over Ukraine, who, coincidentally, were the victims of the Germans’ first ever victory in the competition as well. Here’s who stood out.
Jersey Swap: Oleksandr Zinchenko
Ukraine didn’t create anything too potent bar their only goal, but they nonetheless created a handful of chances, and dictating their play was Zinchenko. The Man City midfielder was not his team’s standout performer, but he was quite active in the heart of the game, and he pulled the strings for Ukraine’s midfield press against Germany, which led to their best chances of the game. Huh, maybe that does mean standout performer. Even apart from Zinchenko, though, Ukraine’s entire team ran a lot all game, and despite being COVID-stricken for the second month in a row, put in a performance they could be proud of.
Der Kaiser: Niklas Süle
Now after the first half, I would have given this award to Robin Koch, who also had a not-bad game in defense. But in the second half, Süle was easily Germany’s most diligent defender, covering almost every Ukrainian attack that came his way and making up for the shoddy positioning that sometimes came from his fellow defenders (cough Rüdiger cough). Of course, Süle wasn’t at his absolute best today, but considering he just came out of quarantine, he can be proud of the way he played tonight. Hopefully he can replicate and improve on this performance for his club after the international break as well.
Der Fußballgott: Ilkay Gündogan
This one is a weird one, because Germany only had two midfielders on the pitch for quite some time, and one was our Meister of the Match, so it was either pick Gündogan or promote Manuel Neuer to midfielder. But thankfully, Gündogan had a very good second half, kick-starting a lot of Germany’s attacks, particularly the through ball to Matthias Ginter that resulted in Timo Werner’s second goal. He also tracked back quite a bit later in the game when Germany were closing up shop, so I don’t think he had a bad game at all. Did we miss the likes of Joshua Kimmich and Toni Kroos? Yes, but that’s no reason to sniff at Gündogan’s performance today. He did well. Period.
Der Bombers: Leroy Sane & Timo Werner
Germany’s attack was on fire today. After a slow start to the game, the pace of the front three got the better of Ukraine’s defense multiple times. Sane opened the scoring for the Germans with yet another Robben-esque cut-in-left-footer to bring them back on level terms, and Werner put his side ahead with a close range header before converting a Ginter cross in the second half to effectively put the game to bed. It just goes to show how potent Germany’s attackers can be, especially on the counter. The remaining member of the front three, Serge Gnabry, also had a decent outing, but his finishing was a bit off today. Thankfully, his attacking colleagues more than made up for it and eventually got Germany a deserved win.
Meister of the Match: Leon Goretzka
Bayern’s Incredible Hulk picked up from where he left off after a fine showing against Borussia Dortmund last week, putting in another stellar performance in midfield. A through ball to find Bayern teammate Sane ended up being his first assist of the night, and he added another to that tally later on with a jaw dropping piece of ball-control-and-cross for Werner to head home from point blank range. Not only did Goretzka get two assists, however, but he was also the spearhead of Germany’s attack and defense. He was in charge of pressing and winning the ball back in midfield, and he was also very active in the final third, but never too complacent about deserting his position in the center of the park. With Kimmich and Kroos both not present, it was up to Goretzka to stamp his authority in the heart of Germany’s engine, and he did so admirably. Keep it up, Leon!
One-sentence ratings for the rest
Neuer: Didn’t have much to save but footwork was on point. 6/10
Ginter: Got an assist and was a not-too-shabby wing back. 7/10
Koch: As aforementioned, played pretty well and ventured up surprisingly far into midfield. 6/10
Rüdiger: Positioning was off once again, needs serious improvement. 4/10
Max: Made some good runs down the left side and was a constant threat. 7/10
Gnabry: Good game except for his finishing. 6/10
Brandt: Got into a few good spaces. 6/10
Waldschmidt: Cameo. 5/10
Coach: Didn’t get that much wrong today, but could stabilize his defense a lot more. 6/10
Whole Team: Best performance of 2020, which I guess isn’t saying too much, but still. 7/10
Süle 8/10, Gündogan 7/10, Sane & Werner 8/10, Goretzka 9/10