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Rizzo: belief key for Germany

Germany's boundless belief inspired a last-gasp victory against the Netherlands which gives the 2014 champions renewed confidence, according to scorer Gianluca Rizzo.

Gianluca Rizzo is swamped after scoring Germany's 89th-minute winner against the Netherlands
Gianluca Rizzo is swamped after scoring Germany's 89th-minute winner against the Netherlands ©Sportsfile

Germany head into their final Group B fixture against Russia on Monday aware that a win will take them into the semi-finals and keep Marcus Sorg's side on course for a successful defence of the title they won in Hungary last year.

With just a minute to go of their game with Netherlands on Friday, the scenario was completely different. A draw would have left Germany needing a win and a favourable result in the group's other matchday three game but then substitute Gianluca Rizzo pounced for the only goal of the game; how quickly things can change. "It's a super feeling," the match winner told UEFA.com. "We deserved this as a team. We had so many chances and that's why we're incredibly happy that we won."

The VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach forward was sent on by Sorg with 25 minutes to go, and a mission to fulfil. "The coach told me to play my game, hold the ball up and believe that I could decide this game," said Rizzo, who  delivered, with that belief.

This is not new territory for Germany. They were in an almost identical situation just over three months ago. Despite having 28 shots on goal – 14 on target – they were still being held to a 2-2 draw by the Republic of Ireland in the elite round in Sandhausen with qualification already in doubt after a draw against Slovakia.

Another substitute, Jonas Föhrenbach, converted the 29th shot with the final touch of the game and Germany's prospects transformed. A 6-0 win over the Czech Republic followed and a place in Greece was secured, but it was that last-gasp victory in Sandhausen which had sent a surge of adrenaline through the squad, inspiring them to that emphatic final act, and its memory lives on.

"Of course, winning in the last minute was what really brought the team together in qualifying and to do that again now is just going to make us even more of a tight-knit group," Rizzo added. "Now we're confident we'll get a good result [against Russia].

"We had enough chances and could have got the goal earlier than we did, but our belief that we can score never disappears. If the goal comes in the last minute, like in qualifying, then it's twice as satisfying."

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It sparked jubilant scenes in Katerini. "We're all really delighted and I'm sure we can enjoy this night," said Rizzo as an ecstatic Timo Werner jumped on his back while passing through the mixed zone. "But then we've got to put our foot down again ahead of our last game.

"We prepare as we normally would – we'll analyse our opponents and we'll analyse our own performance today – and I'm pretty confident we can take our place in the semi-finals." Confident now their belief has been rewarded, again.