Never underestimate the Germans. Their coach, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, had wondered whether they might catch a few opponents off guard this summer after a couple of modest showings at major tournaments, as wild a notion as that might seem given they have won the European Championship eight times. On this evidence, who could possibly believe they will not win a ninth?
A fancied Denmark were overwhelmed in an urgent, fluent performance that would have merited an even wider margin of victory. Germany settled for a first-half goal from the excellent Lina Magull before strikes later on from Lea Schüller and two substitutes, Lena Lattwein and Alexandra Popp; it means their meeting with Spain here on Tuesday will probably settle the winners of Group B and ensures Denmark, for whom Pernille Harder had little chance to shine in a subdued attack, cannot afford to fall short when they face Finland.
Brentford had, through the country’s heavy influence on its men’s club, already become known as a little corner of Denmark in west London. Lars Søndergaard and his players must have been delighted when it emerged they would play their two toughest group games here: their fans were a large, vocal presence on a sundrenched evening and, although the atmosphere could hardly be termed intimidating, the weight of enthusiasm was overwhelmingly in their favour.
Within 20 minutes of the start it had been dulled emphatically. Magull’s goal was surprising only in that it took so long to come: Germany had torn out of the blocks, ravaged Denmark down the flanks and hit the woodwork twice before their near-incessant pressure finally paid off. One side had looked hungry and sharp, the other rushed and wide open, and the breakthrough encapsulated both states.
It came after Denmark had overcomplicated a move out from the back. Signe Bruun, their striker, had dropped deep into her own half and sold the centre-back Stine Pedersen short with a backwards pass. Pedersen had few options but to try and clear, with Magull arriving at speed; the Germany forward charged her attempt down and was able to run through, belting an unstoppable finish past Lene Christensen from a slight angle on the right.
Two minutes previously Magull had forced a spectacular save from Christensen with an awkward, improvised effort from the right-winger Svenja Huth’s cross. Huth was almost unplayable in those early stages, roasting an exposed Katrine Veje repeatedly; one such occurrence resulted in a near-miss from Klara Bühl in the fifth minute and that set the tone.
It was the Germany left-back Felicitas Rauch, though, who rang the loudest alarm bells. Remarkably she hit the bar on two occasions in the first 13 minutes, clattering the frame from 20 yards after Sara Däbritz had kept her feet smartly before repeating the trick at a slightly further distance when fed by Bühl. Both shots were hit sweetly and either would have staked an early claim for the tournament’s best goal.
Denmark steadied after going behind and Bruun, occupying the space in which she is more accustomed to doing damage, turned in the ‘D’ before half-volleying and requiring a spectacular parry from Merle Frohms. But that was the sum of their danger before half-time: Germany continued to force the pace, while hardly as rampant, and Christensen blocked from Lea Schüller with the final action of a half in which Denmark could have been buried.
Eleven minutes after the restart, they were effectively. Søndergaard had just made a triple substitution, with Nadia Nadim among those arriving, in an attempt to liven up a performance that continued to deliver little. Almost immediately the generally impressive Christensen made a sprawling low save from Magull but, from the following corner, she blotted her copybook badly. Magull’s floated set-piece from the left was well delivered but not especially threatening; Christensen came out to collect but got mired in a crowd of bodies and Schüller, rising to meet it, could nod into a vacant goal with the keeper stranded.
That appeared to remove the occasion’s sting and Voss-Tecklenburg could shore things up with three changes of her own. Rikke Sevecke headed high over the bar for Denmark after a corner, her reaction from her suggesting she ought to have halved the deficit; the Danes were shooting towards a gorgeous pink sunset but it seemed a metaphor for the waning of their prospects.
Those turned pitch black when Lattwein, found unmarked by Lena Oberdorf’s towering header, lashed in. Popp completed the route with an emphatic headed finish; Kathrine Møller Kühl’s dismissal compounded Denmark’s misery and Germany may take some stopping from here.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism