Switzerland 1 Germany 1: Fullkrug is the saviour but hosts look vulnerable

This was the night Germany’s party almost fell flat.

The Euro 2024 hosts had looked imperious at this tournament, winning both of their opening games, but Switzerland seemed certain to bring that momentum to a halt in Frankfurt as they led 1-0.

But Niclas Fullkrug’s stoppage-time equaliser ensured a point for Julian Nagelsmann’s side and means they progress to the last 16 as group winners.

Fullkrug shows German strength in depth

One of Germany’s issues under Julian Nagelsmann has been seen whenever they have faced a low block. Without natural width to stretch the pitch, they have sometimes found themselves playing too often into the teeth of a defence and being able to do so with enough intricacy to penetrate and create chances.

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The Swiss goal posed an interesting question: against an opponent stocked full of veteran, high-quality defenders and one of the best screening midfields in this tournament, what could they produce — and what could Nagelsmann change?

He changed a lot. The introduction of, in order, Nico Schlotterbeck, David Raum, Maximilian Beier, Fullkrug and Leroy Sane fundamentally altered the team’s shape but without ever producing the one clear-cut chance they needed or, more alarmingly, without altering their patterns of play.

Niclas Fullkrug was a second-half substitute (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The search for rhythm might be psychological. One of the complications is that this Germany is not a battle-hardened team. When they have periods in games like the one they suffered this evening, they do not yet possess the emotional resilience as a group to accept and play through it. Instead, it erodes at their confidence and, ultimately, degrades the quality of their football. They become frantic, panicked, and are reminded of the bad experiences they have had over the past six years.

This was not another one. The Fullkrug header that rescued a point and won them the group was hugely important. Nevertheless, tonight was still a reminder of how fragile Germany can be.

Seb Stafford-Bloor

This is a very open tournament

Major tournaments are getting more open. Germany were moments away from becoming the first team since the Netherlands at Euro 2008 to score seven in their first two group-stage games but then lose their third match.

“The smaller nations, the lesser teams if you will, have made progress and we can cause problems for the big nations,” said Slovakia head coach Francesco Calzona after their win over Belgium on matchday one — statistically the biggest upset in Euros history based on difference in FIFA rankings.

Switzerland are certainly not a smaller nation. This is the sixth major tournament in a row where they have qualified from the groups and they were within two stoppage-time minutes from topping a Euros group for the first time.

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It is following a trend from the 2022 World Cup, where no team recorded a perfect group stage (winning all three games) for the first time since 1994 and only five teams went without defeat. At this Euros, only Spain and Portugal can win all three group games. There have been fast starts and grandstand finishes.

Even with five of the groups still to play their final games, there have been more goals in the first 15 minutes of group games at Euro 2024 than Euro 2020 (10 versus eight) and twice as many goals beyond the 90th minute (seven versus three).

Liam Tharme

How Swiss made hosts look vulnerable

“We want to show our qualities and give Germany a tough time,” said Switzerland head coach Murat Yakin pre-match. They did more than that.

It is easy to forget how disappointing Switzerland were in qualifying, conceding late goals and drawing too many games. Yakin’s response was to move to a 3-4-3. Switzerland benefited in that Scotland and Hungary play a similar system, so could build their plan from what worked/did not work in Germany’s first two games, but were still facing Nagelsmann’s first-choice XI.

It is a squad packed with individual quality — Nagelsmann said at a level superior to Scotland or Hungary — and experience. The core five of goalkeeper Yann Sommer, Ricardo Rodriguez (left centre-back), Manuel Akanji (central centre-back), Fabian Schar (right centre-back) and captain Granit Xhaka (central midfield) have 480 caps combined.

Granit Xhaka was key for Switzerland (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

They have individual profiles suited to defending Germany’s central midfielders and No 10s, notably Xhaka being aggressive to playmaker Toni Kroos and Akanji’s touch-tight defending on Kai Havertz when he received channel balls.

Switzerland might have needed VAR to intervene to deny Robert Andrich a first international goal, but they were compact, forcing shots from distance.

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In build-up, the hybrid role that Yakin has given to Michel Aebischer, defending as a left wing-back but moving into midfield as a No 8 in attack, continues to cause problems.

Liam Tharme

Ndoye shines brightest

What a time for Dan Ndoye to score his first international goal.

Just before the half-hour mark, the 23-year-old raced to beat Jonathan Tah to Remo Freuler’s inviting centre and power a first-time effort into the top corner. It was the standout moment in his career to date and one he had been threatening.

Dan Ndoye capped a good performance with a goal (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Ndoye has impressed as the one ever-present of the Swiss attack so far, offering pace on the counter and industry out of possession.

Both of those traits were again on display in Frankfurt. After completing all three of his dribbles against Scotland, his carrying was key in helping Yakin’s side transition quickly up the pitch. One quick release from goalkeeper Sommer saw him beat Maximilian Mittelstadt in the early stages and Germany struggled to get a grip on his movement thereafter.

Ndoye also played an important role off the ball, closing down Antonio Rudiger when Germany built from the back and pinching inside to shadow Andrich when the hosts navigated the first wave of pressure. With fellow wide-man Fabian Rieder doing the same on the opposite side, Yakin’s side succeeded in their aim of congesting the middle of the pitch.

It was telling that Ndoye was substituted just after the hour and handed a well-earned breather. He will be pivotal to Switzerland’s hopes in the knockout stages.

Patrick Boyland

Tah’s night to forget

Not a comfortable evening for Tah. His substitution on 60 minutes reflected his yellow card, which will now keep him out of the round of 16, but also that he struggled against the Swiss attacking three, who seemed to play with too much speed, craft and movement for the German defence to cope.

He was caught out by Ndoye for Switzerland’s goal and struggled to make line-breaking passes. It was worrying for Germany, who expect far bigger challenges ahead.

But there was mitigation. Tah spent all season playing in a back three for Bayer Leverkusen, within a very different system that possessed extra securities that he now must do without. That lack of familiarity is just something he and Germany have to cope with given how quickly this team was assembled. Equally, neither Mittlestadt nor Joshua Kimmich are considered defensive full-backs, so that is another layer of protection missing.

What happens next? Perhaps a bit of a redemption story, because Schlotterbeck has had a torrid time playing for his country in recent years and it was only Borussia Dortmund’s surge to the Champions League final that earned him a place in this squad.

Tah was booked for this tackle, ruling him out of the last 16 (Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images)

But he does play in a back four for his club and might yet prove a better fit. His left foot could also add some value to Germany’s defensive exits, which looked as uncertain this evening as they have during Euro 2024.

Seb Stafford-Bloor

What happens next?

Germany finishing top of their group means they face the team who comes second in Group C – England, Denmark, Slovenia or Serbia – on June 29.

Switzerland, meanwhile, play the team that finishes second in Group B – almost certainly one of Italy, Albania or Croatia – also on June 29.



What was the reaction?

Germany’s Julian Nagelsmann was satisfied with how his team had salvaged a draw but acknowledged their display was far from perfect.

“In the end it’s a well-deserved point,” he said. “Of course, on the counter, you take risks and can concede. We did well to come back. We deserved to equalise and did well, tactically.

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“It’s important to have players who can score decisive goals coming on as substitutes. We analyse the opponents in order to pick the starting line-up, then you can bring in different players from the bench.”

Swiss manager Murat Yakin was proud of his side’s efforts. “Firstly I need to pay a big compliment to the team. It was a tactical game, you could see how much we ran and how much we fought. We could annoy the opponent with our counters,” he said.

“I’m really happy with the style and manner in which we played. I feel sorry for the team, but the performance was immense and we can live with the draw.”

“Italy, or Croatia, it’s nice to think about preparing to play them. Firstly we’ll enjoy the moment and then take the time to prepare for our opponent.”

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(Top photo: Lars Baron/Getty Images)

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