Jamal Musiala comes home to stitch together disjointed Germany in Euro 2024 win over Hungary

Germany 2-0 Hungary: Musiala was once again the hosts’ star as they qualified for the knockout stages

Alex Pattle
Stuttgart Arena
Wednesday 19 June 2024 19:56 BST
Jamal Musiala celebrates after scoring Germany’s first goal
Jamal Musiala celebrates after scoring Germany’s first goal (PA)

On the platforms at Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof, signs hung above the German fans merrily bustling their way out of the train station, into the sunshine, and to the scene of their nation’s game with Hungary. “Heimstadt von Jamal Musiala”, read the signs overhead: “Hometown of Jamal Musiala.” Give him the keys to the city. If the 21-year-old was not a hometown hero before this Euro 2024 clash, he will be now.

If Germany needed any reminder that not every fixture would be as easy as Friday’s game against Scotland, that not every occasion would be as carefree as that tournament opener, then here was that reminder. It still came in the form of victory, thankfully for the hosts, but one that presented tests and required some luck. It also required one player to step up and serve as the sinew in a Germany team that appeared disjointed at times on Wednesday.

And that was evident at once. Within 15 seconds, Julian Nagelsmann’s players needed goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to bail them out, as the ball broke for Roland Sallai in the Germany box, and a shock opener seemed imminent. Neuer darted off his line and broadened his frame to produce a crucial stop, sparing the hosts the embarrassment endured by Italy last week, when Federico Dimarco gifted Albania a goal after 23 seconds with an errant throw-in.

Until later in the half, Germany’s miscalibrations were more apparent in their attacking play. Their eagerness to produce one-touch moves left players scurrying to maintain possession at times, and their lines were almost blurred – defence, midfielder and offence veering too close to one another. When Germany adjusted and began to attack with more space between their banks, their approaches were more inventive and eye-catching, but no more effective.

Jamal Musiala, left, fires Germany in front
Jamal Musiala, left, fires Germany in front (Reuters)

As half-time approached, however, there were concerns of the defensive variety, with Germany conceding a free-kick that led Dominik Szoboszlai to draw an acrobatic save from Neuer, moments before the Liverpool midfielder bore down on goal and lashed a half-volley. On that occasion, a late block was needed.

And in the seconds before half-time, the Hungarians finally found the net, though an offside call ruled out Sallai's close-range header after Neuer had parried another headed effort.

Perhaps the ultimate proof of Germany’s awkwardness came courtesy of the usually metronomic Toni Kroos, who lost his timing completely with an ill-advised half-volley along the edge of his own box, which nearly set up Szoboszlai.

Between these moments of misadventure, however, Germany did impress in spurts; of course they did. Kai Havertz demonstrated his keen sense of positioning and tricky movement, which are often his greatest strengths, and he used actual physical strength – something he does not employ enough – to create his clearest chance.

With a ball bouncing in the Hungary box, the Arsenal forward used his lanky frame to hold off Willi Orban before getting off a volley, which Peter Gulacsi only kept out with some fine reflexes. Ultimately, Havertz’s end product deserted him on a few occasions, and he was hooked just before the hour mark, with Florian Wirtz – so impressive against Scotland – accompanying him off the field. On came Niclas Fullkrug and Leroy Sane.

But it was Musiala, who had performed so brilliantly against Scotland, who was the difference-maker for Germany in Stuttgart. The city’s own son.

Musiala celebrates after giving Germany an early lead
Musiala celebrates after giving Germany an early lead (Getty)

Between die Nationalmannschaft’s clumsier moments, Musiala broke the deadlock, finishing off a scrappy first-half sequence in Hungary’s area. Ilkay Gundogan pounced on a mix-up between Gulacsi and the falling Orban, nicking possession and feeding Musiala, who sent a deflected shot skimming off the roof of the bar and in.

Orban believed he had been shoved over by Gundogan. He might have had a point, but a VAR check cleared the goal.

And in the phases around that goal, Musiala showed his quality, which would ultimately prove crucial to uniting this German side. In one moment he was bobbing and weaving his way through a cluster of Hungary defenders, nutmegging one, and in another he was racing back to prevent a counter-attack in the wake of a Germany corner, ferrying the ball to safety.

When Germany’s attacks were faltering, it was Musiala who set about producing something positive by himself. He was always looking for the ball, always keen to drive at players, but equally happy to defend when needed.

Ilkay Gundogan adds Germany’s second goal of the game
Ilkay Gundogan adds Germany’s second goal of the game (Getty Images)

Not long before the break, the Bayern Munich playmaker even seemed to have doubled Germany’s lead, and his own personal tally, forgoing backlift to send a shot searing into the top corner – just the wrong side of the netting, by the barest of margins.

In the second half, after another encouraging spell for Hungary, Musiala stepped up again. Picked out by Kroos on the edge of the visitors’ box, he killed the ball with one deft touch, feigned a shimmy, then slipped a pass out to Max Mittelstadt on the left.

The waiting full-back, an adopted son of Stuttgart having impressed for VfB this season, cut the ball back for Gundogan. The captain completed the trilogy of precise strokes, placing the ball in the bottom corner.

With victory sealed in Group A, as well as a place in the last 16, Nagelsmann took off Musiala, the Heimstadt hero leaving the field to a standing ovation.

And, as it turns out, not all heroes wear capes; some wear trendy, pink and purple football jerseys. But in Stuttgart, Musiala brought his very own brand of vibrancy.

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