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    HomeSportsThe best game of the season gives hope for the European Championship

    The best game of the season gives hope for the European Championship


    Bayer Leverkusen and VfB Stuttgart engaged in a spectacular exchange of blows in the cup semi-finals that thrilled football in Germany. National coach Nagelsmann should have looked closely for several reasons.

    Just in time for kick-off, it smelled a bit like New Year's Eve in the Bayarena in Leverkusen. The beacons of the Leverkusen fans were glowing. It somehow fit. In the following 90 minutes, football fireworks unfolded. Or as VfB coach Sebastian Hoeneß said after the game: “Then it was a spectacle.” Even Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso, who is not known as a volcano of emotions, cheered wildly and exuberantly with the team. The Spaniard said at the press conference that we just had to get out after this wild game.

    It could be heard left and right in the stadium: they had never seen such a strong opponent in the arena in Leverkusen this season. Dortmund was already there, Bayern just next Saturday. And somehow it's refreshing for the league, for German football, when the duel of the year isn't between Bayern and Dortmund. Who would have thought before the season that Leverkusen and Stuttgart would play the must-see game of the season?

    A cup spectacle that thrills the fans


    Leverkusen: Kovar – Tapsoba, Tah, Hincapie – Frimpong (90. Stanisic), Xhaka, Andrich, Grimaldo – Hofmann (64. Adli), Wirtz (90. Hlozek) – Schick (64. Iglesias). – Coach: Alonso

    Stuttgart: Nübel – Ito, Anton, Rouault – Vagnoman, Karazor, Stiller, Mittelstädt (70. Stergiou) – Millot (62. Leweling), Führich (79. Dahoud) – Undav. – Coach: Hoeneß

    Referee: Daniel Schlager (Hügelsheim)

    Gates: 0:1 Anton (11th), 1:1 Andrich (50th), 1:2 Führich (58th), 2:2 Adli (66th), 3:2 Tah (90th)

    Yellow cards: Andrich, Frimpong – Mittelstädt

    Viewers: 30,210 (sold out)

    A spectacle, a fireworks display. In short: A game that national coach Julian Nagelsmann couldn't miss. He must have marked the game between the two strongest teams at the moment in his calendar. Also out of self-interest. And two who had an extreme impact on this game provided one of the scenes of the evening. Long after the final whistle, central defenders Jonathan Tah and Waldemar Anton ran into each other in the catacombs of the stadium. A quick chat, a hug, expressions of respect.

    A short, perhaps only at first glance absurd thought experiment: Is the German central defender duo for the upcoming home European Championships? Why not? Of course, it's an unlikely scenario that both will be in the starting line-up – both of them are too inexperienced internationally (especially Anton). But the two captains of their teams again provided arguments for a nomination that evening. It was unusual enough that both defense chiefs scored important goals. Kind regards to Julian Nagelsmann. Fittingly, there was long-distance praise from national team rival Mats Hummels via X – “This is such a good football game”.

    Despite the fact that Jonathan Tah wasn't 100 percent satisfied with his own performance afterwards, he delivered a game with exclamation points. In the very physical duels against top striker Deniz Undav, who recently scored four times in two games, he usually emerged as the winner.

    Application letter for Julian Nagelsmann

    The 1.95 meter long Tah was happy about a “very emotional, tough game”. The strong Leverkusen players won this time thanks to their “will, fighting spirit and winning mentality”. Lived by Tah. The 21-time international once again provided the Werkself with a late winner after Florian Wirtz delivered an “outstanding ball” to him following a corner. Tah had snuck free, raised his arm and then simply dozed off. “I really wanted to have the ball. My thought was: I'll put it in. No matter how.” He went in, Bayer won 3-2 and remained unbeaten for the 30th (!) time in a row (!). A series for eternity. The triple of championship, cup and Europa League is still within reach. The series ultimately covers the entire current season.

    Shortly after Tah and Anton had hugged each other, a visibly annoyed Deniz Undav walked towards the cabin, cursing clearly audible swear words under his breath. The striker didn't have his best evening because of Tah, but he still created a few chances that, with a little more luck, went into the goal. His past Bundesliga games and his liveliness alone will justify his first nomination in March. It is considered almost certain.

    A call from the national coach for Waldemar Anton would probably no longer be a surprise. Anton, who recently lost his defense partner Dan-Axel Zagadou due to a knee injury, headed the Swabians into the lead in a remarkable way and after good physical deception in football style, later defending and straddling many of Leverkusen's many passes into the interfaces. The calls for a nomination have been getting louder for some time.

    Florian Wirtz sets off a continuous alarm

    “He leads the duels for his teammates. He leads Anthony Rouault and Hiroki Ito. He ran a lot of balls and always got a leg in between them, winning sprint duels. As so often this season, it was an outstanding performance from him,” praised Sports director Fabian Wohlgemuth.

    Will we see Anton at the European Championships? Will we see Anton at the European Championships?

    Will we see Anton at the European Championships?

    (Photo: IMAGO/Sportfoto Rudel)

    Is Anton ready for the DFB team? He didn't want to contradict that, said Wohlgemuth. “In the end it's the national coach who decides.” One could definitely say that he played a large number of games with a certain degree of consistency. The fact that the VfB defense still had to concede three goals was less due to Stuttgart's misconduct than to the hosts' ability.

    Above all, Florian Wirtz, who prepared two goals, repeatedly created a goal threat in Stuttgart's half field. As soon as the 20-year-old got the ball on his foot and it just stuck, the alarm was raised. Only one goal was missing from Florian Wirtz's perfect evening. The fact remains: With his technique and talent, Wirtz is, alongside Jamal Musiala, the biggest promise in German football and actually a must for the German starting eleven.

    Führich could become the new Odonkor

    Wirtz teammate Robert Andrich had a strange evening. Early in the first half he received a yellow card after a violent challenge against Atakan Karazor and was probably a bit lucky when he didn't see a yellow-red card in the 36th minute when he knocked over Enzo Millot. A situation that VfB coach Sebastian Hoeneß also addressed in the PK, without specifically mentioning Andrich's name. But the defensive midfielder stayed in the game and brought Bayer back into the game with a dream shot.

    Führich (l.) should be the Odonkor 18 years after the real Odonkor, demand the authors Nordmann and Schneider. Führich (l.) should be the Odonkor 18 years after the real Odonkor, demand the authors Nordmann and Schneider.

    Führich (l.) should be the Odonkor 18 years after the real Odonkor, demand the authors Nordmann and Schneider.

    (Photo: IMAGO/pepphoto)

    Shortly afterwards he looked less good. After a sloppy pass from cup keeper Matej Kovar, he lost the ball in his own penalty area, which resulted in the score being 1:2. “The victory today can give another boost,” said Andrich. “We can be very happy with the mentality.” The mentality monsters under the Bayer Cross.

    Chris Führich also collected arguments for another appeal in the spring against France and the Netherlands. The Stuttgart winger caused the Bayer defense a few times on the left and after the aforementioned Andrich/Kovar mistake, shot ice-coldly and unstoppably to give VfB the lead again. Führich should also have a good chance for the European Championships and could become a kind of David Odonkor (see 2006) of 2024. So a player who brings power, speed and dribbling strength from the bench. Someone who, like Undav, embodies the street football gaming that fans and experts always want.

    Oh, how beautiful that was

    But his goal wasn't enough to take the lead. The Bundesliga leaders couldn't be brought down mentally that evening. Came back twice and then scored the decisive goal again in the final phase, from which VfB couldn't get back up.

    Semifinals. The first title since 1993 firmly in sight. Next stop: top game against Bayern. The first part of the week of truth is over and provides the insight: This Leverkusen team and their coach Xabi Alonso don't need to hide from any team.

    “Oh, how beautiful that is,” sang the Nordkurve along with the entire Bayarena after the final whistle. And all football fans, perhaps with the exception of the VfB supporters, could only agree. After this evening, even the VfB fans should admit: oh, what a beautiful football game.

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