Germany have suffered their first defeat under the management of Hansi Flick, losing 1-0 to Hungary in the Nations League.
The visitors arrived in Leipzig as surprise table toppers, one point and one place above their opponents. They knew that, should Italy fail to beat England in the evening’s other Group A3 fixture, a win against Die Mannschaft would be enough to see them through to next summer’s finals.
Hungary showed they meant business right from the start with Dominik Szoboszlai and Daniel Gazdag putting Germany’s defence under pressure. They took an early lead from a corner with 17 minutes on the clock, Adam Szalai meeting Szoboszlai’s clipped delivery at the near post and, in a fantastic show of skill, flicking it up and over Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the far corner.
While Germany had the majority of possession, they did very little with it. Hungary continued to look the more threatening side, almost doubling their lead when Gazdag nipped in and forced a reflex save from Ter Stegen at close range.
Come half-time, with England and Italy drawing 0-0 at San Siro, the visitors only needed things to stay as they were to ensure top spot in the group. It had taken Germany 39 minutes to even get an effort on target, Thomas Muller heading straight at Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi after being picked out at the back post by David Raum.
Flick made a tactical switch at half-time, bringing on Thilo Kehrer for Gnabry and swapping a back four for a back three – matching their opponents – in the process. Germany looked much-improved, with Jonas Hofmann teeing up Muller to lash into the back of the net only for the flag to go up for offside.
Timo Werner went close moments later, drawing a save from Gulacsi after being played through by Muller, before Joshua Kimmich forced the keeper to push a long-range effort round the post with his fingertips. After another good ball from Raum, Leroy Sane ballooned a header wide.
Germany fought hard for an equaliser, Kimmich seeing a fierce shot blocked before firing wide late on, but they couldn’t find a way through Hungary’s massed defence. With Italy eventually triumphing 1-0 against England, however, Marco Rossi’s side now face a straight fight with the Azzurri for top spot in their final group game.
Germany falter at crucial moment. After 13 games unbeaten since Flick took over from Joachim Low in the aftermath of Germany’s lacklustre Euro 2020 campaign, Die Mannschaft had re-established themselves as contenders heading towards the World Cup. While their Nations League showing had been far from perfect, with three draws and a win before this, they still looked far better than they had in the twilight of Low’s tenure.
This performance felt like a significant regression, especially in the first half when they looked both vulnerable in defence and toothless in attack. With one more game – against England on Monday – before they travel to Qatar, they have little time to put things right.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Dominik Szoboszlai (Hungary). While Adam Szalai will take most of the plaudits for his outrageous backheel flick, Szoboszlai, who provided the assist, was the difference for Hungary.
Playing on home turf despite turning out for the away team, the RB Leipzig man pulled Germany out of shape time and again in the first half. He was targeted by objects thrown onto the pitch while trying to take a corner at one stage but, even if the hostile reception came as a surprise at his home stadium, he didn’t let it rattle him.
Germany: Ter Stegen 7, Hofmann 5, Sule 6, Rudiger 6, Raum 6, Kimmich 7, Gundogan 5, Gnabry 5, Muller 6, Sane 5, Werner 5
Subs: Kehrer 6, Musiala 6, Havertz 5, Nmecha 5
Hungary: Gulacsi 8, Fiola 7, Lang 7, Orban 7, Attila Szalai 7, Kerkez 7, Nagy 6, Schafer 6, Gazdag 7, Adam Szalai 8, Szoboszlai 9
Subs: Kleinheisler 5, Adam 5, Styles 6, Nego 6
17’ GOAL! What a start for Hungary. The visitors win a corner after Adam Szalai sees a shot deflected. Szoboszlai scoops his delivery to the veteran forward at the near post and he produces a sublime backheel flick to loft the ball over the helpless Ter Stegen.
25’ GOOD CHANCE! Hungary play a quick free kick and Germany’s defenders are caught flat-footed. Gazdag almost turns home from close range, but Ter Stegen makes a reflex save.
39’ BETTER FROM GERMANY. Raum gets a looping cross to the far post and finds Muller, but his header is straight at Gulacsi.
52’ NO GOAL! Hofmann knocks a long ball down for Muller, who lashes into the back of the net. Unfortunately for Germany, Hofmann was well offside and the flag goes up.
56’ ANOTHER CHANCE FOR GERMANY! A series of short, sharp passes ends with Muller playing through Werner. He gets a shot away, but Gulacsi makes a bobbling save.
59’ SO CLOSE! Kimmich has a go from distance and forces Gulacsi into a fingertip save. The ensuing corner is cleared.
68’ DECENT CHANCE! Sule marauds forwards and picks out Raum on the left. He whips the ball to Sane in the box, but the Bayern Munich forward loops a header into the stands.
87’ BIG CHANCE! Lukas Nmecha works an opening for Kimmich, who drags wide of the far post. That was the moment for Germany, surely.