In a week that saw the senior squad reach the Confederations Cup Final with a young squad, Germany continued to show their strength in depth with victory in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Final over a talented Spain team.
Efficient German pass and press earns deserved reward
Despite favourites Spain typically dominating possession in the early proceedings, it was Germany who went closest to breaking the deadlock inside ten minutes. Hertha Berlin's Mitchell Weiser almost embarrassed Spain goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga with a long-range strike that forced the Athletic Bilbao shot-stopper to scramble back and turn the effort wide. Just moments later, Max Meyer clipped the post with a well-judged header from distance after a flat cross from the left.
Speculative efforts from range seemed to be the enforced tactic from Germany Head Coach Stefan Kuntz and his captain Maximilian Arnold swerved a strike just wide from all of 30 yards. Yet Spain went close to punishing their opponents for not hitting the target when Hector Bellerin nodded inches off-target from Dani Ceballos' cross.
Germany were not to be put off attacking and continued to press forward as Bellerin's former Arsenal teammate Serge Gnabry started to gain sighters of Kepa's goal. The Werder Bremen midfielder smashed an effort at the side-netting after venturing into the box before miscuing a later effort straight at the Spain goalkeeper.
The game was beginning to forge a rhythm of German passing and Spain containing before looking to break on the counter-attack. Gerard Deulofeu looked to be the main outlet but the tournament top scorers were struggling to create any chances of note.
Perhaps even more concerning was Spain's lack of ability to keep the ball at the back and after conceding possession numerous times in their own half, the pre-match favourites were duly punished. Germany right-back Jeremy Toljan found space out wide before picking out Weiser who duly clipped the ball over Kepa and into the corner with an expertly guided header. The midfielder's first under-21 goal ensured his nation held the advantage at the break.
Germany hold firm against bewildered Spain
A laboured start to the second half began with a flurry of German cautions as they looked to break up the inevitable Spanish response. Yet it took 58 minutes and a long ball for Spain to test Julian Pollersbeck for the first time. The hoisted ball found Saul Niguez who cushioned the ball on his chest before unleashing a strike that was parried wide.
Germany responded by pushing forward and they formulated a handful of chances that went close to doubling their advantage. Meyer was thwarted by a last-ditch Jose Luis Gaya block before Gnabry was prevented by the outstretched leg of Kepa from a tight angle. Marc-Oliver Kempf then nodded just wide from the resulting corner.
Spain were on the ropes midway through the second period and another courageous block was the only difference between Weiser grabbing his second. Albert Celades' side were in desperate need of a spark and they nearly got it through midfielder Ceballos. The Real Betis man skipped forward before firing an effort inches wide.
That moment finally seemed to ignite Spain as they raised the tempo and Deulofeu struck a deflected effort just past the post. Yet Germany responded by pressing and winning the ball back in advanced areas before slowing the game down with nous and experienced tactical play beyond their years. Hope turned to frustration and desperation as Spain began to see the trophy slip from their grasp.
A barrage of late long balls did nothing to sever the tight German defence and they held firm to regain the trophy they won back in 2009 with the class of Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng, Benedikt Howedes, Mats Hummels, Manuel Neuer and Sami Khedira. Has another cohort for domination on the senior global stage been forged?