Germany may still be highly fancied to lift the U21 EURO trophy, but there is much room for improvement according to UEFA.com team reporter Philip Röber, in Prague.
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In his line of approach laid down before the finals, coach Horst Hrubesch frequently used the phrases "step by step" and "every match is a final for us". None of that changes after Germany's stuttering start in the 1-1 draw against Serbia, of course, but ahead of their encounter with Denmark, there are four key points which require detailed attention.
1) Defensive stability
The structural weaknesses in their rearguard were laid bare by Serbia on several occasions. Germany did not only struggle to adjust to the aggressive style of their opponents, which would have helped to stymie Serbia's dangerous attacking transition game after losing possession, but one also could not overlook a significant difference in pace. "We found ourselves chasing way too often in the first half," defender Matthias Ginter admitted.
The below-par start to the tournament may diminish their status as favourites to a certain degree, but the potential of the team remains undeniable. "Our squad is packed with Bundesliga players who have already experienced a lot. We need to use that to our advantage if we want to be successful here," highlighted Marc-André ter Stegen, himself a UEFA Champions League winner last season. Against Serbia — especially in the first half – the body language and determination did not suggest they were confident of implementing these qualities.
The coach and his team faced up to the criticism after the match, knowing full well that it was mostly directed at the first-half performance. They remained calm, despite the nagging questions stemming from the high pre-tournament expectation levels, and pointed to the latter stages of the match when they managed to step up their game despite being a man down. Their last friendly was over two-and-a-half months ago, so for Germany this was as much about defining where they stand as it was about clinching three points.
4) Attacking promise
One can easily picture how gripping Germany's attacking game could be if they manage to hone their technical harmony in the next few days. For now, this is more an expectation than it is reality, but after Leonardo Bittencourt's introduction their link-up play became more fluent. Given the outstanding qualities in this department, the biggest challenge for Hrubesch seems patently obvious: fielding the personnel in a way that they will mesh together right from kick-off.