Germany, the reigning world champions, are off and running at EURO 2016 with a 2-0 victory — with many thanks to the two starting center backs — over Ukraine in each side’s Group C opener in the northern city of Lille, France, on Sunday.
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It was a stereotypical German performance in the end — little to offer in terms of flair, but extremely methodical and downright suffocating in all areas — and a game that always seemed to be tilted in their favor from opening to final whistles.
Germany scored the game’s opening goal through Shkodran Mustafi’s header in the 19th minute, thumping home Toni Kroos’s tantalizing free kick toward the far post. It was the Valencia center back’s first international goal — only in the starting 11 after Mats Hummels picked up an injury in the build-up to EURO 2016 — which capped off a dominant opening 20 minutes for Joachim Low’s side.
The Germans had a golden opportunity to double their lead on the half-hour mark, as Kroos again created a brilliant opportunity, this time for Sami Khedira, but the Juventus midfielder saw his left-footed, one-on-one chance saved by Andriy Pyatov.
Ukraine’s best chance for an equalizer came and went in the 37th minute, when floated the ball to the far post, where Yevhen Konoplyanka struck on the half-volley, deflected off the leg of Jerome Boateng and goal-bound. The Bayern Munich center back, tumbling backwards into his own goal, seemed to have bundled the ball over the line but booted it clear at the last possible moment. EURO 2016’s goal-line technology system confirmed the whole of the ball had not crossed the whole of the line.
Bastian Schweinsteiger provided the late, late insurance goal, hammering home Mesut Ozil’s cross to the back post in the third minute of second-half stoppage time.
With the victory, Germany sit atop Group C via a superior goal differential (+2) to that of Poland (+1). The joint-leaders are set to face off next in Paris on Thursday, while Ukraine will take on Northern Ireland in Lyon earlier in the day.