Germany beat Ukraine in the opening match of their Euro 2016 campaign, closing out the contest with a bang, but the 2-0 victory left more questions than answers for the world champions.
Clad in their striking yellow uniforms, Ukraine flowed through and around Germany's backline too many times for Jogi Low not to feel his side have serious work to do before their next match against Poland. Ukraine's winger duo "Yarmoplyanka" threatened throughout, with Yevhen Konoplyanka particularly a threat cutting in from the left. Manuel Neuer was up to the task to deny Konoplyanka after just four minutes, and Jerome Boateng was forced into a ridiculous goal-line clearance to preserve the 1-0 scoreline after defender Shkodran Mustafi's 19th minute headed goal from Toni Kroos' free kick.
Andriy Yarmolenko tried his luck from distance more than once, but was unable to really trouble Manuel Neuer with his normally tortuous left foot.
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Neuer created his own trouble when his decision to rashly come off his line as Mustafi flicked on a long ball nearly ended in a Ukraine goal. The hyperactive goalkeeper made up for his mistake, shepherding the ball out of bounds, but the Bayern man showed why his decision-making and daring tendencies can sometimes leave more than a little to be desired.
Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos were at the heart of everything Germany did well, with Kroos particularly sublime. Germany's Xavi ironically plays for Real Madrid, and tonight he ran the show, completing 112 passes, the most in the competition so far.
Between Sami Khedira's darting runs, constantly interchanging with Germany's fluid attacking line, and Toni Kroos' incisive, metronomic passing, Germany was happy to carry Mesut Ozil for long stretches as he faded in out of the match. There is a reason players of his ilk are afforded that luxury though, and his perfectly weighted cross for substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger to calmly side-foot home was the perfect answer for those who criticize Ozil's contribution to the game. The man who created more clear-cut chances than anyone in Europe delivered Germany's clincher on a platter in injury time, and Schweinsteiger grabbing the goal will provide a nice boost for the world champions.
Despite the positives to Germany's performance tonight, they often looked disheveled defensively, and Mats Hummels' organizing influence was sorely missed alongside longtime partner Jerome Boateng. Mustafi did well to head Germany into the lead, but he clearly does not share the understanding the future Bayern man has with new club teammate Boateng. Retired captain Philipp Lahm's absence would be felt by any team in the world, and today's match truly showed it. Poland's Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik will have salivated to see the frequent gaps appearing in Germany's backline, and that will surely be top of Jogi Low's mind after making it through this first test.
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