Germany struck twice in three second-half minutes to claim the points in Group B, but they endured a stern test from a valiant Finland side whose UEFA European Under-21 Championship ambitions are over.
Confidence abounded in the Germany camp in the lead-up to this encounter, but even the most self-assured of players would have struggled to keep that intact as Finland dominated the first half. Coach Horst Hrubesch made early changes, bringing on Patrick Ebert and Änis Ben-Hatira, though it was Mesut Özil who swung the game in Germany's favour as he teed up goals for Benedikt Höwedes and Ashkan Dejegah. There was no way back for Finland, so strong until then, and Markku Kanerva's side will go into their final game against Spain with only pride at stake. For Germany, a point from their meeting with England will earn them a semi-final place.
Out of the blocks
Finland had made a bright start against England and it was more of the same on their return to Halmstad with Kasper Hämäläinen, pushed into a more central role, providing another dimension to the Finnish attack. The 22-year-old's father Heikki was national 400m athletics champion in 1979 and it was a blistering turn of pace from the youngster that provided the game's first real opening as he forced a corner from a fairly innocuous wide position. Neither Jonas Portin nor Berat Sadik could get enough purchase on Hämäläinen's first set-piece; not something Jukka Raitala could be accused of when the resulting corner dropped into his path, Manuel Neuer beating the left-back's fierce long-range effort clear.
It brought only temporary respite. Hrubesch admitted he had "not even considered a draw" before the game, but he may have taken it at half-time with his charges unable to find any rhythm. Not that they were without chances, especially on the counterattack. But what little possession they had was invariably wasted. Showing no signs of the back injury that had made him doubtful for this game, Özil was often the guilty party – though Gonzalo Castro was hardly exempt – no more so than just before the half-hour. Jerome Boateng blocked Tim Sparv's shot and suddenly Germany had a four-on-two deep inside the Finland half; somehow Özil picked out one of the two.
It was not until eight minutes after the restart that Finland No1 Anssi Jaakkola was finally tested when Marcel Schmelzer – playing in place of the injured Sebastian Boenisch – tried his luck from distance. The goalkeeper could do nothing about the next two efforts on his goal, however. Just before the hour a Portin foul on the right gave Özil the opportunity to make amends for his earlier wastefulness and he gleefully took it, swinging in a fine free-kick for Höwedes to head in powerfully. And then, with Finland reeling, the killer blow. Sami Khedira broke with pace, sliding the ball through to Özil who made no mistake with a numerical advantage this time, freeing Dejegah for a simple tap-in. Substitute Teemu Pukki, Perparim Hetemaj and Raitala all tried to drag Finland back into the game thereafter but the damage was done.