EM 2024: The Neuville moment of the German national team

EM 2024: The Neuville moment of the German national team

European Championship national team

The Neuville moment

Status: 3:16 p.m. | Reading time: 5 minutes

The German fans celebrated the group victory so beautifully

Hundreds of drivers brought the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin to a complete standstill after the final whistle. WELT reporter Alina Quast was with the fans during and after the game in the state capital.

Niclas Füllkrug’s late goal against Switzerland rescues the spirits around the national team. The goal is reminiscent of Oliver Neuville’s legendary moment at the 2006 World Cup – and could have a similar effect.

His biggest fan is still quite small – and has come up with a special recipe for success. Niclas Füllkrug’s daughter Emilia is betting on a cuddly lucky pig that is supposed to bring her dad fortune at the European Football Championship in Germany.

The four-year-old’s plan is working so far: Füllkrug is the player of the hour. And in the 1:1 (0:1) draw in the third and final group match against Switzerland, he provided one of the biggest moments of the European Championship so far. The moment that can carry a team far. That changed so much on this emotional and exciting Sunday evening in the stadium in Frankfurt and that could have very positive effects on the coming days and weeks.

“That could have been a turning point,” said Füllkrug, beaming. His 13th goal in 19 international matches – not just “a very important moment” for him, but one “for the country, for us, for the team, for the players.” His header goal in injury time reminded many of the “World Cup summer fairytale” of 2006. “That was a small explosion,” said the 31-year-old crowd favorite about the enormous volume of cheering in the stadium after his goal. It was the emotional crowning of the preliminary round for his team, which they finished as group winners thanks to the last-minute point.

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18 years ago, it was the second group match in Dortmund when striker Oliver Neuville, as a substitute in the penalty area, slid wildly into a cross from David Odonkor, who had also been substituted on, and pushed the ball over the goal line with his foot to make it 1-0 against Poland. Back then, too, injury time was already running – and a storm of cheers went through the arena. “They both came off the bench and did the one decisive thing,” said Füllkrug, comparing the scene with the 2006 World Cup.

Füllkrug saves the mood

The match against Switzerland was the German team’s weakest in the group phase. Many thought that the team was further along in its development and better overall. For a long time, they lacked efficiency and ideas, solutions against the compact and clever opponent. Until Füllkrug had his moment. “Füllkrug gives the Nati an ice-cold shower in injury time,” wrote the Swiss “Blick”. The “New York Times” wrote: “Füllkrug is the savior, but the host looks vulnerable.”

June 14, 2006: Oliver Neuville scores the winning goal against Poland in injury time. A moment for eternity

Quelle: picture-alliance/dpa/Srdjan Suki

It was a double joker goal, so to speak. Substitute David Raum from RB Leipzig crossed the ball from the left with a lot of power and cut onto Füllkrug’s head. For the 26-year-old full-back, it was a goal with a message in his first tournament appearance: “I said to Fülle during the warm-up: If we both come in today, you’ll know when I get the ball. The cross was blocked twice, the third came through – and Fülle put it in superbly.”

This was worth it for her team in three ways.

As group winners, they now avoid other group winners in the round of 16. Raum and Füllkrug have given themselves and their colleagues the first bonus at the European Championships – for winning the group, each of the 26 German players will receive 50,000 euros from the DFB. This amount can increase for Füllkrug, Raum and Co. over the course of the tournament up to the record bonus of 400,000 euros. Each player would receive this if they win the title. Instead of playing in Berlin as group runners-up, the team will now play in Dortmund in the round of 16. A legendary stadium that the players love and which is a “home stadium” for Füllkrug as a striker for Borussia Dortmund. “I’m really looking forward to a round of 16 in Dortmund because that can be a huge home advantage,” said Füllkrug. “That’s worth a lot for us as the home nation.” The opponents will then be the second-placed team in Group C, which includes England, Denmark, Slovenia or Serbia.

Füllkrug’s goal saved the spirits around the team. A defeat would have been a setback, the “flow” would have been gone or at least impaired. Instead, millions of people cheered on fan miles, private European Championship parties, in gardens and living rooms. An average of 25.566 million people watched the game on ARD.

Is Nagelsmann reorganising the starting eleven?

With his fourth substitute goal at a major tournament, Füllkrug is now the DFB record holder in this statistic. He had already scored twice at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where Germany suffered an embarrassing elimination in the preliminary round under then national coach Hansi Flick. “Four goals are four goals. That’s nice, I’m happy about it,” said the attacker.

So he would have deserved a place in the starting eleven. So far, Julian Nagelsmann has not changed his formation once in this tournament, and Flick’s successor is relying on Kai Havertz from Arsenal FC as the central striker, who was unlucky against Switzerland. Füllkrug is probably too valuable as a joker. When he comes on, he scores: last March against the Netherlands (2:1), in the opening game of the European Championship against Scotland (5:1) and now against Switzerland. “It is both joy and sorrow for him,” said Nagelsmann after the tie.

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The 36-year-old coach, who will be without his yellow-carded central defender Jonathan Tah in the round of 16 and will have to worry about the injured defensive leader Antonio Rüdiger, also said of the prospects for the starting eleven in attack: “He has it, and Kai has it too.” He has not yet publicly committed to the first game of the knockout round in Dortmund. Like Havertz, Füllkrug has “a week to give it his all. Then we’ll see who we have.”

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He gave the team the day off on Monday, and there is no training on Tuesday either. However, the players must remain in their European Championship quarters in Herzogenaurach. Their wives and girlfriends were allowed to return to the facility on Monday night.

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