Three fine goals in eight remorseless first-half minutes - followed by more at regular intervals - set up the merciless deconstruction of the 138th best team in the world and sent Germany to the Euros in fine fettle. No defence will fancy facing a forward-line of Kai Havertz, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller, and Group F – also featuring Hungary, Portugal and France – should be a highlight of the opening stage.
From the off, Germany set about Latvia, pinning them back inside their own half, and on 20 minutes, Robin Gosens opened his international account with a fine finish. Two more, one by Ilkay Gundogan and one by Muller, followed soon after, and just when Latvia thought they were getting to the break without further damage, two more goals – and two more lovely finishes – made it 5-0 in the final six minutes of the half.
The second half started slowly then livened up, even Timo Werner managing to score before Aleksejs Saveļjevs scythed home a glorious consolation. As a matter of principle, Germany went straight back down the other end and restored their lead to six, Leroy Sane getting on the scoresheet, and Latvia will have felt relieved that the margin of victory was not further extended. As for Germany, they are not among the favourites but will nevertheless be a threat, the speed and incision of their attacking play as potent as that of anyone.
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TALKING POINT - Germany impress
Latvia are miserable, it’s true, but Germany were nevertheless impressive in taking them apart, their performance full of requisite imagination, conviction and cruelty.
When Jogi Low restored Mata Hummels and Thomas Muller to his squad, it was easy to look at the move critically, an outgoing manager hoping for one last hurrah from players who’ve seen better days. But a more sensible analysis would be to see a practical manager picking the best players available to him – the best possible players who also know how to win.
In going out of the last World Cup at the group stages, Germany looked slow and weak - not a sentence anyone ever expected to type – but that is not the case now because in Robin Gosens, Joshua Kimmich, Kai Havertz and Serge Gnabry, they have the zip, zest and youthfulness that will cause problems for far better teams than Latvia. It would still be a surprise if they were to lift the Henri Delaunay, but on a good day they are good enough to beat any team.
Germany vs. Latvia
Image credit: Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH - Kai Havertz (Germany)
Looked decent in closed spaces and played a role in three of the five goals in the first-half rampage.
Germany: Neuer 6, Hummels 8, Ginter 6, Rudiger 6, Kimmich 7, Gundogan 7, Kroos 6, Gosens 8, Gnabry 8, Muller 7, Havertz 8. Subs: Gunter 6, Werner 7, Sane 7, Can 6, Sule 6, Musiala 6.
Latvia: Ozols 6, Fjodorovs 5, Cernomordijs 6, Oss 5, Jurkovskis 5, Emsis 5, Karklins 5, Ikaunieks 5, Zjuzins 5, Ciganiks 5, Uldriks 5. Subs: Maksimenko 5, Tarasovs 6, Savelejevs 7, Krollis 7, Jaunzems 6, Varslavans 6.
20’ - GOAL! Germany 1-0 Latvia (Gosens): This is exactly the 3-4-3. Gosens nips inside and flicks to Havertz outside him; Havertz skins his man, hits the line, looks along the middle, and then with lovely disguise cuts back a return which Gosens drills high into the roof at the near post for his first Germany goal. He enjoys it every bit as much as you'd hope.
21’ - GOAL! Germany 2-0 Latvia (Gundogan): Havertz turns up on the right this time and though Gundogan is blocked off after receiving his pass, a kindly bounce deposits it directly into his stride, and he wipes across the ball with his left foot and watches it scythe high into the far top corner.
27’ - GOAL! Germany 3-0 Latvia (Muller): This is far too easy, and almost cruel. Gosens again moves inside, this time finding Gnabry and continuing his run, so that when the return pass goes in behind, he's there to catch up with it before the line, clipping back for Muller to arrive and punch home.
39’ - GOAL! Germany 4-0 Latvia (Ozols o.g.): Hummels drills a long diag out to Muller, who moves on to Havertz. He cuts into the box, sways by Oss on the outside - that's very nicely done, in very little space, but the defender should do more - then drives across the box, the ball catching Ozols' heel and ricocheting into the far side-netting.
45’ - GOAL! Germany 5-0 Latvia (Gnabry): Hummels power-flicks a tremendous long pass over Muller's head and in behind, to meet the run of Gnabry. He has a look, allows the ball to bounce, and lashes a thump high into the far top corner. That's 16 in 21 for him at international level.
50’ - GOAL! Germany 6-0 Latvia (Werner): AND THERE IT IS! Sane wins the ball high up the pitch and somehow manages to twizzle his body so that he can poke a pass into the box for Kimmich, who has a look crosses low, and there's the predator supreme, using the line of the ball to caress home a gentle finish that was harder that it looked.
75’ - GOAL! Germany 6-1 Latvia (Saveljevs): Krollis holds up a long throw, knocking back to Saveljevs... who hammers across the ball, sending a brilliant finish screeching past Neuer!
76’ - GOAL! Germany 7-1 Latvia (Sane): Yeah, bad idea. Anther fine pass from Hummels releases Werner down the left and he squares into the box, allowing Muller to square one more for Sane, who passes a smart finish inside the near post.
- Serge Gnabry has now scored 16 times in 21 international appearances.
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