Leon Goretzka and his German team-mates celebrate his late equaliser
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Germany v Hungary 2021 match summary
There is that scene in Steven Spielberg’s classic movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones opens the Well of Souls to find a pit full of vipers, cobras and asps.
“Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?” says our rueful hero, and that is probably how Gareth Southgate and his England players might have felt on Wednesday night upon learning, after a night of extraordinary twists and turns, they will have to overcome their long-time tournament nemesis, Germany, if they are to end 55 years of hurt.
For a while on a rain-soaked night in Munich, it looked like Germany would not only not be England’s opponents at Wembley next Tuesday but out of the tournament altogether. Hungary were magnificent and, having eventually surrendered the lead they had fought so hard to keep, recovered to restore their advantage within 91 seconds of Germany equalising.
But Leon Goretzka’s goal six minutes from time ensured Germany avoided the ignominy of exiting back to back tournaments at the group stage for the first time in their history after their World Cup debacle in 2018 to set up a mouthwatering contest at Wembley against the country they just love to torment on the big stage.
Tournaments invariably throw up a few surprises and Hungary’s refusal to readily accept the role of Group F’s whipping boys that so many were quick to assign them spoke volumes both for their fight and Marco Rossi’s system. They had shut out Portugal for 83 minutes and led the world champions France for 65 minutes and, once they rode an early storm of German pressure in the Munich rain to take the lead with a goal everyone would be salivating over for days if Spain had scored it, they frustrated their illustrious opponents with their diligence and organisation.
Whether they could do so for another 45 minutes against such a vast attacking arsenal was the big question but they gave themselves the perfect foundation in that opening period. Rossi is Italian born and this Hungary side are well drilled in the arts of catenaccio but their approach was about more than defending deep in numbers and squeezing the space in which Germany could manoeuvre.
Hungary were determined to spring the counter-attack when the opportunity arose and there was no more vivid illustration of that than Adam Szalai’s goal. That it was fashioned by a player who plies his trade at Freiburg and finished by a man who leads the line for Mainz will only have added to German dismay. Matthias Ginter’s pass was cut out by Szalai and that was the cue for Hungary to begin their beautifully constructed assault.
Laszlo Kleinheisler picked up possession and fed the artful Roland Sallai, who swept the ball out to Loic Nego on Hungary’s right before receiving the ball back. Germany were on the backfoot but it still required an audacious pass of unerring accuracy from Sallai to penetrate Joachim Low’s back line before Toni Kroos could smother him and a perfectly timed run between centre-backs from Szalai to elude Ginter and Mats Hummels. Having done that, Szalai then had the composure to stoop and head low past Manuel Neuer’s left hand.
Adam Szalai nods Hungary into an unexpected lead against Germany
When Joshua Kimmich latched on to a lovely ball in behind Attila Fiola to force a good save from Peter Gulacsi inside five minutes, you wondered if Germany’s wing-backs were again going to wreak havoc, as they had done in the 4-2 thumping of Portugal.
But the biggest compliment you could pay Hungary was that they stymied Germany down the flanks and backed themselves to deal with any threat through the middle, cutting off those inside channels quite superbly, no small feat given how adept Joachim Low’s team can be at disrupting an opposition’s shape and dragging players out of position.
Still, Germany had their moments, and perhaps if Hummels’ header from a corner by Kimmich had found the net and not the crossbar – or Ginter not shot straight at Gulacsi in the next phase of play – shortly after Hungary went ahead, perhaps things would have got trickier a whole lot sooner for Rossi’s men. Or Germany might have kicked on and discovered some inspiration.
As it stood, Germany were made to look quite ordinary and in need of a piece of good fortune. On 66 minutes, they got it. Gulasci had been excellent up until that point but when Toni Kroos whipped in a free-kick, the Hungary goalkeeper rushed out to meet the ball and missed it, allowing Hummels to head towards goal where Kai Havertz nodded in.
It was incredibly harsh on a Hungary side who had been largely flawless to the point but they are not the sort to wallow in self-pity and, just 90 seconds later, they were back in front amid scarcely believable scenes. Hungary got the ball forward quickly from kick-off and Germany did not deal with it. The ball was prodded through to Szalai, who stabbed it in behind for Andras Schafer to chase ahead of Leroy Sane. Neuer raced out but Schafer got to the ball first, heading it past the Germany goalkeeper with little concern for taking a whack in the process.
Suddenly, from the depths of despair, Hungary’s dream was alive again. Germany, though, seldom know they are beaten and when it mattered most they found a way through Hungary’s obstinate rearguard thanks largely to Low’s substitutions. Jamal Musiala wriggled his way in behind Hungary’s right side and pulled the ball back to Timo Werner to find Leon Goretzka who lashed a shot home with the help of the slightest deflection.
Agony for Hungary. Sheer relief for Germans. And, no doubt, a sense of familiar foreboding from England.
Germany (3-4-2-1): Neuer (Bayern Munich) 6; Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach) 5, Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) 7, Rudiger (Chelsea) 6; Kimmich (Bayern Munich) 6, Gundogan (Manchester City) 5, Kroos (Real Madrid) 7, Gosens (Atalanta) 5; Sane (Bayern Munich) 5, Havertz (Chelsea) 7; Gnabry (Bayern Munich) 5.
Hungary (5-3-2): Gulacsi (RB Leipzig) 6; Nego (Fehervar) 7, Botka (Ferencvaros) 8, Orban (RB Leipzig) 8, At Szalai (Fenerbahce) 8, Fiola (Fehervar) 7; Kleinheisler (Osijek) 7, Nagy (Bristol City) 7, Schafer (DAC) 8; Sallai (Freiburg) 8, Ad Szalai (Mainz) 8.