From Muller to Musiala – German football’s changing of the guard underpins Euro title hopes

Germany vs Scotland, Euro 2024
Germany vs Scotland, Euro 2024 (PC: Euro/X)

RevSportz Comment

It was one of the more noteworthy moments in a match that otherwise lacked any sort of drama. With 74 minutes on the clock and Germany 4-0 up against Scotland, Julian Nagelsmann sent on the 34-year-old Thomas Muller to replace the 21-year-old Jamal Musiala. The message was not lost on those who have watched Germany for years. Muller was once the arrowhead of the best German team of the 21st century, scoring five World Cup goals in South Africa in 2010, and another five when his team lifted the trophy in 2014.

His failure to find the net in either the 2018 World Cup or the 2022 edition – Germany suffered group-stage exits in both – was emblematic of a team on decline, one that badly needed an infusion of new energy. Musiala played in Qatar and shone in patches, but on Friday night at the Allianz Arena in Munich, he looked like the complete attacking threat. The finish for the second goal, gathering a pass from Kai Havertz, switching his feet and then thundering a shot past Angus Gunn was sublime.

That the setting was Munich also mattered. Like his club side, FC Bayern, Musiala had endured a difficult Bundesliga season. Injuries affected him badly at the beginning and end of the campaign, and there was another hamstring problem in November as well. On the surface, 10 goals in 24 league games wasn’t a poor return, but not one of those strikes came against a top-six side.

As Bayer Leverkusen romped through a dominant unbeaten season, the young name on everyone’s lips was Florian Wirtz. Musiala didn’t play a Bundesliga game after April 13. The rest appears to have rejuvenated him. On this evidence, he will be one of the stars of the tournament, doing for Germany something similar to what Kylian Mbappe does for France and what England expect from Phil Foden.

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Scott McTominay vs Germany, Euro 2024
Scott McTominay vs Germany, Euro 2024 (PC: Euro/X)

Scotland were an embarrassment, not even managing a shot on target in 90 minutes. While this Scottish squad bears no comparison to the great ones of the 1970s and ’80s – and they, too, mostly flopped at major tournaments – victories over Spain and Norway in qualifying had shown that Steve Clarke’s side had something about them.

But a year is a long time in football, and between September 2023 and June 2024, Scotland went seven matches without a win. That diabolical sequence included a 4-1 thrashing away to France, and a 4-0 thumping by the Dutch in Amsterdam. There is individual quality there, but as a unit, Scotland could barely string five passes together against Germany. They conceded 73 per cent possession and were fortunate that Germany eased off a bit in the second half.

Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay, John McGinn, Kieran Tierney and other stalwarts with plenty of experience at the top end of the English Premier League (EPL) need to lead by example against Switzerland on June 19. Otherwise, the cameras will keep panning to the grim faces of the Tartan Army in the stands. Scottish football had to wait two decades to become relevant again, but Musiala and Germany gave them a telling reminder of just what separates a potentially great side from the merely good.

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