Thomas Muller was Germany’s sparking hero with his late winner in the 2-1 win over Romania in Hamburg to further cement Die Mannschaft’s top spot in UEFA World Cup qualifying group J. After Romania’s Ianis Hagi silenced the crowd at Volksparkstadion with his 9th minute opener, Germany responded with two second half goals from Serge Gnabry and then Muller’s late winner in the 81st minute. While it was far from pretty, the win means that Hansi Flick’s side is now on the verge of clinching direct qualification to World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
Much to the bemusement of on-watching Bayern Munich supporters, Muller was omitted from Flick’s starting eleven for this occasion and Marco Reus started in between Gnabry and Leroy Sane, tucked just behind Timo Werner in Germany’s attack. Muller replaced Werner in the 67th minute and made the ultimate difference with his winner. Speaking after the match, the Raumdeuter was pleased with the way Die Mannschaft continued to fight and force the issue after going 1-0 down within the opening ten minutes of play (tz).
“I thought we played a very committed game and tried a lot. Going into the break with 0: 1 was not a happy feeling. You have to compliment the fans. When the 2: 1 fell, this literally exploded. You could feel the connection on the pitch,” Muller explained, showing plenty of thanks for the fans inside the Volksparstadion in Hamburg.
Muller’s winner came off of a corner kick from Joshua Kimmich in what was a sort of triple-Bayern connection. Leon Goretzka got a near post flick on to Kimmich’s corner that found it’s way to Muller unguarded at the far post. He had to awkwardly open his hips up to reach behind him to make the proper connection on the flick, but he made no mistakes from within the six yard box. At the time, Germany was really pressing for a winner, which does always leave them vulnerable to the counter-attack, which is something Muller remembered Flick sometimes got criticized for at Bayern. “I have the problem, even though that’s sometimes good, that I’m a bit freer on the move. I still remember Bayern times, there was alarm under Hansi Flick, because of the protection to the back. But then I pushed the ball in. It was cool,” he said.
On paper, Germany out shot Romania 22-9 and had 6 shots on target to their 1. At times, it looked as if it was just going to be one of those frustrating evenings where Germany couldn’t find the winner, but Muller praised the patience that they showed in their efforts to take full points. “We know that when we fall behind, not everything we did before was bad. It is nice when the result works out afterwards,” he said.