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The players of Georgia celebrate in front of their fans after defeating Portugal and qualifying for the Knock-Out Stages of EURO 2024 at Arena AufSchalke on June 26, 2024 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


Germany race into Euro knockout stage at old rivals’ expense

Hosts Germany have become the first team assured of a place in the knockout stage of UEFA Euro 2024 after a mere six days of the month-long competition. A comfortable 2-0 win over old rivals Hungary in Stuttgart confirmed that national coach Julian Nagelsmann has accomplished his first target.

Hungary, with no points, risk an early flight home even if they beat Scotland in their final Group A match.


Their rivalry with Germany now boasts 38 matches stretching back to a 3-3 draw in 1909.  No such sharing the spoils this time as Hungary proved their own worst enemies after a bright start. Willi Orban slipped under pressure from Ilkay Gundogan, flying feet could not clear the danger and on-song Jamal Musial did the rest with 22 minutes gone.

Hungary refused, admirably, to be cowed. A Dominik Szoboslai free kick drew a fine save from Manuel Neuer and Hungary’s captain had a drive deflected for a corner by Jonathan Tay. Rolland Sallai even headed into the net but was denied by an offside flag.


Nagelsmann began to ring the changes off his substitutes’ bench early in the second half to force the result and was rewarded in the 69th minute when Gundogan, Germany’s captain and man of the match, converted Max Mittelstadt’s perfectly-judged cross from the left.

Germany have a 100pc record, though being by no means perfect. Their defending can be ragged and their passing inexact; goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was fortunate to escape after dropping a late cross at the feet of Martin Adam. But they go forward with ever-increasing skill and belief and have valuable options to bring off the bench.

The rivalry with Hungary? Not only 2-0 on the day but now 14-12 over 115 years, with 12 draws.


The other Group A tie saw Scotland rescue their hopes of reaching the last 16 with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland. Scotland made a dream start when Scott McTominay’s on-target 13th-minute shot was turned in by Swiss defender Fabian Schar. Switzerland not only responded with a spectacular equaliser from Xherdan Shaqiri but had two goals narrowly disallowed for offside.

Switzerland are second behind group leaders Germany on four points while Scotland are third with one and must beat Hungary in Stuttgart to advance.


In Group B Albania and Croatia will both be playing for their Euro lives in the final round of matches after a topsy-turvy 2-2 draw in Hamburg. Klaus Gjasula, the veteran Darmstadt midfielder who has played all his career in Germany, proved both hero and villain for Albania.

Albania, as in their previous tie against Italy, took an early lead after 11 minutes with a header from Qazim Laci. Croatia dominated the next hour before eventually equalising through Ante Kramaric. This was when Gjasula became the tie’s influencer. First he scored an own goal which sent Croatia into a 2-1 lead then he made amends by equalising in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Both countries now have a single point after their opening two matches and must win on Monday to reach the knockout stage. Tough tasks for both: Croatia play Italy in Leipzig while, simultaneously, Albania face Spain in Dusseldorf. Gjasula remains positive. He said: “We know the game with Spain is very difficult but in football everything is possible.”

Credit: AIPS Media 

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