Not France, not England, not Spain but Germany has won the U21 European Championship hosted by Slovenia and Hungary. Germany defeated Portugal on Sunday night 1-0 thanks to a goal by Lukas Nmecha in the 49th minute.
Nmecha, Niklas Dorsch, and Ridle Baku were the match winners for Germany against a very talented Portugal side. But while Baku is playing for top Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, Nmecha and Dorsch spent all season in Belgium with RSC Anderlecht and KAA Gent, respectively.
Sure the two have been key players for their respective sides this season. Nmecha, who is at Anderlecht on loan from Manchester City, has scored 21 goals in 41 games across all competitions. Dorsch, in turn, was a key player for his side Gent in central midfield.
Throughout the European Championships, both showed that they might have been a bit undervalued throughout their still-young career. Nmecha, in fact, could be that typical number 9 that Germany’s senior team is currently lacking.
In fact, there is a general sense that this German generation might be undervalued. In terms of market value, France ($573.43m) and England ($360.25m) are significantly ranked ahead of this group of German U21 players, who, with an overall Transfermarkt squad value of just $168.63m, entered the tournament as the fifth most valuable team.
But unlike France, knocked out by the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, and England, eliminated during the group stage, Germany, coached by Stefan Kuntz, managed to upset the applecart. The German U21 boss will be given significant credit for forming a tightly knit group that first eliminated Denmark on penalties in the quarterfinals and then breezed past the Netherlands in the semifinal.
The final against a Portugal side, which, just like Germany, was perhaps a bit undervalued, was perhaps the most convincing performance. While Portugal’s Vitinha had the biggest chance of the first interval, the forward danced through Germany’s defense but could not tug the ball across the line; the German’s, with the exception of that moment, always seemed in control.
Germany had three major chances to Portugal’s one in the first 45 minutes. The breakthrough came in the 49th minute when Baku found Nmecha in the box and the striker scoring a typical number 9 goal.
From that moment onwards, Germany started to sit deep, handing over control over the ball to the Portuguese, who struggled to come up with a clear game plan to break the Germans down. The Nationalmannschaft, in turn, had several chances to put the game away.
Salzburg forward Karim Adeyemi, in particular, was a dangerman in the second half. Quick and with bags full of talent, the forward broke away on several occasions, but Portugal keeper Diogo Costa kept his side in the game. Luckily for Adeyemi, Germany would not rue his missed opportunities as Portugal could not find a way past Germany’s well-organized defense, either paving the way to the title.
For Germany, this was now the second title over the last three tournaments in which they have reached the final every time. Not a bad record for a country that has been bemoaning a lack of talent. But perhaps the players are there, and just like their market values, the talent is somewhat undervalued at the moment.
Manuel Veth is the editor-in-chief of the Futbolgrad Network and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth