Musiala shines again as Germany qualify for round of 16; Croatia on the brink

Musiala and Gundogan for Germany
Musiala and Gundogan for Germany (PC: X)

RevSportz Comment

After nearly a decade of big-tournament no-shows, German football is on the march again. The experienced Ilkay Gundogan and Jamal Musiala, one of the prominent faces of a new generation, were to the fore as they eased to a 2-0 win over Hungary, that guaranteed a place in the round of 16. If they can avoid defeat against Switzerland in their final group game, they will top the group as well.

Hungary, who came to this tournament with such high hopes, are unlikely to make further progress after another desperately disappointing showing. The defending for both goals was marshmallow-soft. Gundogan simply showed greater desire to retrieve a ball in the area in the 22nd minute before laying it off for Musiala to slam home.

The second, in the 67th minute, originated from a lovely ball from Toni Kroos to Musiala at the top of the box. He spread it wide to Maximillian Mittelstadt, whose low, driven cross was expertly guided home by Gundogan.

Dominik Szoboszlai, Hungary’s captain and best player, had stung Manuel Neuer’s fingertips with a brilliant free-kick soon after Musiala’s goal, and was then denied by a superb Jonathan Tah block as he ran into the box to volley home. But 30 per cent possession and only four shots on target don’t lie, as they were outclassed for a second game in succession.

Things look bleak for Croatia, after a team clearly on the wrong side of the hill, puffed to a 2-2 draw against a tenacious and skilful Albanian side. Albania were good value for their 11th minute lead, with Qasim Laci heading home a near-perfect right-wing cross from Jasir Asani. Croatia were so off the pace they didn’t manage a single shot on target in the first half, but two goals in the space of a couple of minutes looked to have turned things around.

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Modric for Croatia
Modric for Croatia (PC: X)

Andrej Kramaric stroked home in the 74th minute to restore parity before Klaus Gjasula watched helplessly as some penalty area pinball saw the ball deflect into the net off his body. But he would have redemption in the fifth minute of time added on, sweeping in as Mario Mitaj’s cut back was deflected into his path. With just one point from two games, Croatia could be on their way out. Nothing less than victory against Italy will do if they are to progress.

Stories of distraught Scottish fans downing over 100,000 litres of beer in Bordeaux in 1998 are part of football lore. In Cologne, in what is just their second major tournament after those relative glory years, there was more celebration than tears as Scotland rebounded from a 5-1 opening-night shellacking against Germany to earn a merited 1-1 draw against Switzerland.

Scott McTominay’s early goal, off a wicked deflection, gave them the lead, and though they were pegged back by a wonder strike from Xherdan Shaqiri, lashing the ball home first time, they created enough to suggest they could be awkward opponents for Hungary on the final day of group games.

The Swiss were technically much more slick, but without reaching the levels they hit while beating Hungary 3-1. They were lucky too that a late Scottish sortie bounced clear off the post instead of going in. The Tartan Army march on, while the Swiss are all but assured of a place in the round of 16.

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