Halfway through Germany's concluding UEFA European Under-17 Championship Group A game with Romania, the 2009 winners were heading out of the tournament – but that was all about to change.
Only still in contention thanks to a late equaliser against the Czech Republic, Germany still trailed that nation and Romania at kick-off on Monday. At half-time both Germany's game and the Czech Republic's against the Netherlands were goalless, but within two minutes of the interval Samed Yesil struck for Steffen Freund's side in Smederevo. Keeper Odisseas Vlachodimos then stood firm to ensure a 1-0 win which proved sufficient to set up a semi-final with Denmark on Thursday.
"This match and this win were really important for us," Vlachodimos told UEFA.com. "It is fantastic that we are in the semi-finals now, because the other match was a draw. After going 1-0 up I was a little bit surprised that the so far only defensive Romania team also could play quiet good attacking football."
VfB Stuttgart keeper Vlachodimos knew the stakes were high before the game. "Of course I had some butterflies in my tummy before the match, but to be honest I have it before every match," he said. "But of course we also had in mind that the tournament could be over today. So we are all the more happy now."
That did not seem that way at the break, though the players never lost belief. "At half-time we all hugged each other and motivated ourselves, because we knew that we had to score," Vlachodimos said. "As it turned out it worked very well."
Vlachodimos, who turned 17 the week before the tournament, kept four clean sheets and only conceded twice in six qualifiers, but this was his first shut-out in Serbia. "As a goalkeeper I am especially happy about the fact that we did not concede," he said. "We did not let in a goal in the whole elite round but during the first two matches here we already let in three. In this important match today we finally managed to keep a clean sheet again; I am really happy about this."
Denmark will not be an easy team to deny on Thursday after their three Group A wins and six goals. Vlachodimos declared: "I do not know the Denmark team very well yet but what I know is that all of us want to win the next match. Although we were a little bit lucky in reaching the semi-finals I think we have a good chance against Denmark."
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