When mascot Albert brought the black, red and gold ball with the Germany ticket onto the stage of the Elbphilharmonie, Julian Nagelsmann was already smiling.
With the European Championship group opponents Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland assigned shortly afterwards, the strenuous journey to Hamburg by car across wintry Germany was forgotten for the national coach.
The national soccer team was very lucky in the draw for the home tournament next summer. Despite all the current mood of crisis: against these opponents, reaching the knockout round must be a must for the DFB stars. But be careful: As early as the round of 16, the hosts are threatened with a duel against Spain, Italy or England again in the group constellation drawn.
Nagelsmann: “No death group”
“We are not in a situation where we underestimate any association. Everyone qualified,” said Rudi Völler quite diplomatically. “But of course our goal is to advance one round,” emphasized the DFB sports director. Nagelsmann didn't put it any differently. “This is not a group of death, but there are no really bad opponents,” said the national coach.
“This is an interesting group in which we obviously want to assert ourselves,” added Nagelsmann. The 36-year-old left vague possible drastic measures for the test matches in March, with which he wanted to get the DFB team back on the road to success. The draw is “not the right framework” for announcing these ideas.
Atmosphere cracker at the start against Scotland
Nagelsmann starts off with a great atmosphere at the European Championships. The European Championship opens with the game against Scotland on June 14th in Munich. Thousands of fans of the Bravehearts, known for being peaceful, happy to sing and loud, will transform the Bavarian capital into a party zone together with the black, red and gold home fans.
Tournament director Philipp Lahm could hardly have wished for a better opening game in his hometown. “It will be an opening game, but a nice game because we expect an emotional game,” said Nagelsmann about the duel with the Scots, who have never made it to the knockout phase of a major tournament.
Nagelsmann's tournament journey continues with the duel on June 19th in Stuttgart against Hungary, possibly the most uncomfortable group opponent. Just over a year ago, 1954 World Cup final opponent Hansi Flick spoiled his place in the Final Four of the Nations League with a 1-0 defeat in Leipzig. At the European Championships 2021, Leipzig's Willi Orban's team almost became a stumbling block in Munich with a 2-2 draw in the last group game. Switzerland must under no circumstances turn out to be such at the group showdown on June 23rd in Frankfurt/Main.
Italy, Spain and Croatia in one group
Part of Hamburg's luck: the Netherlands and Italy were spared as early opponents for the DFB team. However, defending champion Italy is in the ultra-difficult Group B with Spain and Croatia and would therefore be the opponent in the round of 16 if both teams end up in second place in their group.
If Germany wins the group, England or Denmark from Group C would be possible opponents - not easy tasks either and, in England's case, a déjà vu to the 2021 European Championship, when the Three Lions were at Wembley in the round of 16 (0-2). But one thing is clear: Nagelsmann wants to go to the final on July 14th in the Berlin Olympic Stadium, despite all the negative mood after the test defeats against Turkey (2:3) and Austria (0:2).
Difficult draws for Austria
Völler's wish for a quick revenge against Austria was not fulfilled. Their German coach Ralf Rangnick couldn't look as relaxed as Nagelsmann either. With runners-up France, the Netherlands and the playoff winner A, possibly Poland with Robert Lewandowski, Austria got into a very difficult group.
The German tournament preparations are now taking more shape. As Völler confirmed, the game will be against France in Lyon in March and against the Netherlands, probably in Frankfurt. These will then be real EM touchstones. The two opponents for the final tests at the beginning of June during the European Championship training camp are now being sought. If possible, they should be blueprints for the group opponents. There are strong opponents to be found against whom captain Ilkay Gündogan and his colleagues have to demonstrate the toughness they have recently missed in the tournament.
Snowfall in Munich is causing problems for Nagelsmann
Nagelsmann had major problems getting there because of the heavy snowfall. All flights at Munich airport were canceled. So the 36-year-old got into the car in the morning and made it to Hamburg on time. "Julian really wanted to be here. He's a young guy and got in the car," said Völler. Nagelsmann, who had a slight cold, was supposed to return to Munich that night, but then as a passenger with the opportunity to sleep.
Völler and association president Bernd Neuendorf had already arrived in Hamburg before Saturday as important representatives of the European Championship hosts. During the one-hour gala, star tenor Jonas Kaufmann and star violinist David Garrett performed in the concert hall.
The ceremony was disturbed by a strange sounding undertone in the accompanying music. Guests in the concert hall and also UEFA official Giorgio Marchetti, the draw manager, initially heard a noise like a baby crying, then later it sounded like a woman's moaning. UEFA also confirmed these impressions, but was initially unable to provide an explanation. The sounds could also be heard on TV and in the UEFA stream.