Germany left to reflect on 'shameful exit'

Emre Can said that his "big talk" had proved premature after Germany's semi-final thrashing by Portugal meant a mixed U21 EURO campaign ended on a "shameful" note.

The Germany players look dejected during the defeat by Portugal
The Germany players look dejected during the defeat by Portugal ©Getty Images

"We could play 100 matches and we would never deliver a performance like this one again." In a nutshell, this quote from Emre Can sums up all that went wrong for Germany in their stunning 5-0 semi-final defeat against Portugal at the U21 EURO.

The heaviest-ever defeat for Germany at U21 level – qualifying included – was as surprising as it was brutal for Horst Hrubesch's team. They had endured the occasional shaky spell in each of their group games – particularly the first half against Serbia – but the sight of them being utterly overrun and outclassed at the Ander Stadium still came as a bolt from the blue.

Liverpool midfielder Can, speaking to UEFA.com, sounded a little bit shell-shocked as he tried to make sense of what had just happened. He described it as "a dark day for all of Germany" and spoke of "endless disappointment" but as for apportioning the blame, he looked no further than himself. "I talked a lot this tournament, big talk even," he admitted. "I wanted to win the title. I don't know why, but for some reason, I didn't show my best out there. If I am honest, it is just shameful."

Highlights: Portugal 5-0 Germany
Highlights: Portugal 5-0 Germany

Having secured the minimum goal of qualification for the Olympic Games for the first time since 1988, it may be that Germany subconsciously dropped their guard too much in the first half. Hrubesch admitted that they had "lost our one-on-ones from the off" and with Portugal putting three goals past Marc-André ter Stegen before the break, they were already past the point of no return.

Rui Jorge's outfit had quicker feet and had the Germans chasing constantly with neat combinations, though it was the lack of aggressiveness – summed up by the sight of a dominant William Carvalho in the middle of the pitch – which Can singled out as his side's most crucial shortcoming.

"From the first minute onward we failed to find our rhythm," the 21-year-old said. "Our mentality also wasn't there – we just had everything missing tonight, but excuses and apologies are no help now." In Can's case, not even the prospect of potentially putting things right at the 2017 finals, which would be his third U21 tournament, was any consolation.

For a team who were many people's pre-tournament favourites, it seems fair to say they suffered from a lack of consistency at these finals. There were players who exceeded expectations, like full-back Christian Günter and midfielder Joshua Kimmich, but others who did not make the expected impact like Max Meyer.

As they exited the tournament on a frustrating low, it was left to their coach to try to lift their spirits. In the wider context, this was only Germany's second semi-final appearance at U21 level since 1982 (the first in 2009 when Hrubesch led them to the title) and they do have that Olympic trip secured.

"We still had a great time in the past two years," said Hrubesch. "These youngsters will benefit from this experience. We allowed ourselves one blackout during this whole period and unfortunately that blackout was today. But on the whole, the positives outweigh the negatives."

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