What a difference an early goal makes.
Serge Gnabry’s cross-goal scorcher of a strike after just six minutes set the tone for Germany in Stuttgart. With six changes to the starting eleven and facing an opposition that wasn’t prepared to sit deep for the entire game, Hansi Flick’s charges looked fantastic and fluid as they eased their way to a win that sees them move top of Group J.
So good was Germany’s performance that any number of individuals could have been the focus. Gnabry for his composure, Marco Reus’ movement, the driving force of Leon Goretzka in midfield or the elusive Leroy Sané. Most noticeable of all though, was how much fun Germany looked like they were having.
“The atmosphere was exceptional tonight,” Goretzka told RTL afterwards, adding that the support of 18,000 strong in Stuttgart was “like a balm for the soul.”
They were enjoying pressing hard, tracking back, and moving in and around Armenia’s yellow shirts like they were training ground mannequins. When Florian Wirtz sprang off the bench to dance into the box just after the hour mark, Germany’s players were lining up to get on the scoresheet.
This was a sample of the slick, ruthless performance that Flick made the standard at Bayern Munich, and the goal just before the break was the most beautiful constructed goal on a night of many good goals.
After Reus had scored his first Germany goal in nearly two years, Germany’s one-touch passing and movement peaked. Joshua Kimmich delivered one of his classic chipped passes into the box for Leon Goretzka to head down just ahead of Werner and the Chelsea striker gratefully tucked away from close range.
“We were better in front of goal tonight and we scored early which opened the game up for us. Today was a good win and we’ll take the euphoria with us,” Gnabry told RTL afterwards.
This was a night when everything went Germany’s way, a night when bad corners ended in 30-yard goals for players who have never scored for Germany before (Jonas Hofmann), a night when Germany fans disregarded the quality of the opposition andthe performance three days before and just let euphoria take over.
Flick let Wirtz and Jamal Musiala do just that for the final 30 minutes, astutely giving Sané the standing ovation he deserved and perhaps also needed. Karim Adeyemi and David Raum came on to make their debuts, and even though Germany had already shifted down a gear Adeyemi found time to score on debut after he and Wirtz combined like they were playing video game football.
“We have enormous quality in the team and we saw that today but it’s important we deliver when it counts and I’m pleased we did that today,” Flick said afterwards.
Perhaps it was fitting that on a night when Germany and their fans honored former legendary Germany striker Gerd Müller, the goals flowed for Flick’s side. More will be expected on Wednesday in Iceland. The difference now is that the world knows what Hansi Flick’s Germany side is truly capable of.
Re-live Germany’s big win against Armenia in our live blog: