In the end, Svenja Huth probably couldn’t have asked for much more from her first full match at a European Championships. On a balmy London summer evening, in front of a sell-out crowd, she captained her country to a cathartic 4-0 victory over an old foe. All that was missing was a goal of her own.
“It’s not all that bad, there are still plenty of games left at the tournament,” a stoic Huth told DW after the match. “There’s still time for that.”
If it hadn’t been for Jule Brand getting caught out offside, she’d have had one. When the ball dropped at her feet at the back post in the 74th minute, Huth thumped it home with relish. After thirty seconds of exultant celebrations, her face appeared on the big screen, the camera capturing her crestfallen expression as she mouthed an inquiring “Abseits? (Offside?)”
“We didn’t even hear the whistle, because it was in the corner in front of the German fans and we were celebrating together,” Huth added. “It is what it is, it was offside.”
Tonight was her first full 90 minutes, but Huth has won this competition before. She caught the tailend of Germany’s reign as sovereigns of European football, taking home a European Championship winner’s medal in 2013 as an unused substitute.
Germany take revenge
In the Netherlands four years later, she picked up an early injury in the first fixture, and her tournament was over before the halftime whistle. Weakened by her absence, her teammates made it as far as the quarterfinal before being dumped out by Denmark. Tonight in Brentford, as Germany took revenge for that result and reasserted themselves on the biggest stage, she led the charge.
She bared her teeth from the off. True, Germany were forced to weather a storm of Danish pressure in the first five minutes, but weather it they did, and it was Huth who led them out the other side.
She undermined Denmark’s defenses with a series of tunnel-boring runs down the right wing, and peppered their penalty box with cross after searching cross. Their opponents couldn’t keep pace when Germany shifted gear and a defensive error eventually led to Lina Magull’s emphatic opener, before second half set-piece finishes from Lea Schüller and Lena Lattwein made the scoreline reflect the play.
Another mainstay in the German team for the last decade, Alexander Popp, scored off the bench to add a gloss on her Euros debut. For Popp too, tonight’s game was a Euros breakthrough; her first ever appearance at the tournament. She was one of five substitutions made by Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg after half time, as Denmark drowned in the second half deluge.
Wait also over for Popp
Popp too just missed the golden Euros run and injuries have kept her away since, despite making her debut in 2010. At 31, both Popp and Huth know time is running out to make amends.
When it comes to Euros honors, there are few at the 2022 tournament who have a past as illustrious as Germany’s coach. But there are equally few to whom history seems to matter less than it does to Voss-Tecklenburg herself.
“That’s the past, we’re interested in the future,” she told reporters ahead of this game when asked about the four winners’ medals she collected as a player. “We know that, thank God, international football has changed, to the point that there are now many more teams. It’s exactly what we as pioneers have always been working towards. It’s cool that this tournament doesn’t have one single favorite.”
There might be several contenders this time around, but none have so far started as strongly as Germany. Judging by Huth’s hunger against Denmark, she and her teammates haven’t merely come to England to make up the numbers. The rampant manner of their victory will have made other teams sit up and take notice.
Edited by: Matt Pearson