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Germany kickstart Euro 2024 in style and pile on the pain for 10-man Scotland



Germany kickstart Euro 2024 in style and pile on the pain for 10-man Scotland

Let’s rock! Germany’s players were clearly paying close and diligent attention to Julian Nagelsmann’s signoff at his pre-tournament press conference.

At the Munich Football Arena the hosts kicked off Euro 2024 with a kind of pomp-metal power surge, a first-half display that brought three goals, a red card for Ryan Porteous and evidence of how well Nagelsmann has rebalanced this talented German team.

The night ended in a 5-1 defeat for a persevering Scotland, but it was pretty much packed away in those 10 first-half minutes, with goals from Florian Wirtz and the impressive Jamal Musiala, plus a series of lovely supple passing moves fed through the ageing rhythm section Toni Kroos.

Scotland did at least win the pre- match, occupying Munich for the last two days, wallpapering the Aldstadt with wool-mix plaid. They almost had the last laugh too, pulling one back via an own goal from Antonio Rüdiger. But Emre Can added a fifth in stoppage time. At the end the home players took time to commune with the crowd, take in the ripples of the flag and parp of the horns. It was a near-perfect opening night.

The Munich Football Arena is a giant lighted doughnut dumped down on the wooded fringes of Munich. Hours before kick-off its ­concourses were blocked with heaving human flesh for a game that seems to have acted as a kind of bat-signal for the global Scottish diaspora.

Germany has been a little cool ahead of these Euros. As ever this kind of occasion trails its own fog of mild confusion over flags and emblems and optics. Exactly how German do we want to be here? And is that OK? In the event this turned out to be a gloriously full-throated occasion.

Before kick-off the pitch was concealed beneath miraculous white Uefa vinyl flooring, while joyful gnome-like figures of no discernible nationality gambolled and pranced to give a sense of inoffensive pageantry. The anthems were intense. This felt real, authentic, one of those occasions where memories of early tournament goals, the first eruption of the crowd, are minted and never quite forgotten.

Steve Clarke left Billy Gilmour on the bench, bringing in Callum McGregor. Germany were as expected. Nagelsmann only recently switched to the 4-2-3-1 that has seen this team begin to thrum up through the gears. And they were in with 55 seconds gone, Angus Gunn blocking Wirtz’s close-range shot. He was ­offside. But it felt like a moment. Wirtz’s direct, creative energy is key to how Germany hope to play.

Florian Wirtz profile

Clarke has done an excellent job of organising this Scotland team, radiating both gloom and quiet optimism in just the right measures. But he will be frustrated by the way his players let Kroos have his own portable pocket of space here.

It was Kroos who made the pass that made the opener on 10 minutes. This was a lovely Germany move and a really poor defensive moment for Scotland, who offered no resistance, lulled by the flight of the ball as Kroos pinged his second howling dipping diagonal out to Joshua Kimmich on the right.

Kimmich was free to lay an easy pass across the empty channel of green at the edge of the Scottish area. Wirtz had time to essay a lovely running first-time shot that Gunn got a hand to, but could not keep out. It felt like a training ground goal, with cones for defenders, lovely geometry, the ball travelling in a perfect zigzag into the Scottish net.

At that point Kroos was running the game at a leisurely pace, like a man in a hammock idly completing a word search.

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It was 2-0 on 19 minutes, made by another quick-slow passing move. Kroos slipped the ball to Ilkay Gündogan, who whipped around then threaded the perfect pass to Wirtz. He laid it back to Musiala, who chopped past McGregor and didn’t just shoot, but smashed the ball into the top corner, free to choose exactly how to decorate the moment, and drawing a delayed boom of celebration, the sense of a crowd completely inside the game, reading the goal before it happened.

It got harder for Scotland. Germany had a penalty moments later, awarded by Clément Turpin, then disallowed by VAR. But they got a real one on 43 minutes, this time for a two-footed ankle-lunge by Porteous on Gündogan, for which he was correctly shown a red card. Kai Havertz took the kick, sending Gunn the wrong way. A man down, 3-0 down, Scotland trudged to the break in a kind of daze.

Ryan Porteous fouls Germany’s Ilkay Gündogan resulting in a red card and a penalty. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Robert Andrich was off at half-time and Ché Adams replaced by Grant Hanley. The question at that point seemed to be: how cruel did Germany want to be?

The Euros demand a show, an absence of dead air. Musiala went through his scales on the left. Wirtz came off to a huge ovation, part of it reserved for his replacement as Germany went full Füllkrug.

On 68 minutes Niclas Füllkrug made it 4-0, taking a loose touch from Hanley and spanking the ball with thrilling power into the top corner. Scotland’s players tracked gamely to the end. Switzerland are five days away. They will require a full mental and physical reset before then.

This was a reminder of Germany’s talent, of Nagelsmann’s status as the most state-of-the-art coach here. And a reminder too for Scotland of the brutality of tournament football, to go with its many glories.

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