Levin Oztunali’s first half goal was enough to take Germany through to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand on Thursday at the expense of Nigeria. A match report on fifa.com indicated that Germany were deserved winners against the Group E runners-up.
But while the Flying Eagles could not be faulted for effort, their inability to create meaningful scoring chances proved to be their undoing. Prior to the game, it was expected that Germany would attempt to build their attacks by retaining the ball, with Nigeria utilising the counter-attack.
This manifested itself during the opening 45 minutes. Yet, for all of the Europeans’ possession, the first real chance of the game came from a set piece. Marc Stendera’s corner kick from the right was looking for Stark, but Onyinye Ndidi’s attempted clearance spun narrowly wide of the near post.
The Flying Eagles were looking for opportunity to break and found one shortly after the quarter-hour when Taiwo Awoniyi broke down the right. He delivered a low cross into the box which Saviour Godwin almost reached. Germany took the lead in the 19th minute, when Stendera’s pressure on Kingsley Sokari led to him stealing the ball just outside the Flying Eagles’ box.
He found Levin Oztunali at the edge of the penalty box and the grandson of the legendary Uwe Seeler fired a powerful left-footed shot home. Germany could have — and probably should have — doubled their advantage later in the half, when a cross from their captain Kevin Akpoguma found Hany Mukhtar lurking. But the ball came off his shoulder and Joshua Enaholo was able to save comfortably.
The Group F winners finished the half strongly as Stendera forced Enaholo into two fine saves from close range. Stendera was at the heart of proceedings for Germany yet again when the second half commenced. He brought the ball from deep, found Julian Brandt who played the ball to Mukhtar. The Benfica forward elected to shoot rather than play the ball back to Stendera and he fired tamely wide.
Mukhtar had another good chance on the hour after some great skill from Oztunali down the right. But he was not able to get any real power behind his shot and Enaholo was out to save smartly. Germany withdrew goalscorer Stendera and Julian Brant midway through the second half and the changes seemed to have more of a positive effect on the Nigerian side.
Frank Wormuth’s side soon found themselves camped in their own half, with Success Isaac leading the charge forward, although Marvin Schwabe was not really forced into a save. The situation was however down to the fact that the Flying Eagles were not helped by some poor delivery from set-pieces.
Ultimately, the Germans hung on to book a quarter-final clash with Mali and stay back in Christchurch, while Nigeria’s Flying Eagles head home.