KEIR RADNEDGE in SAINT PETERSBURG —- Germany, despite bringing only a scratch squad to Russia, secured the Confederations Cup after defeating Chile 1-0 in a final in the Krestovsky Island stadium which underlined the World Cup-holders remarkable strength in depth.
Joachim Low, Germany’s coach, had decided that his seniors should have a holiday after reaching the semi-finals of the European Championship last summer and with the prospect of a World Cup defence ahead of them in Russia next year. Also, Germany’s under-21s have been contesting – and winning – their own European age-group title over the past three weeks.
Hence a squad mixing a handful of seniors, some fringe men and other youngsters. But whatever they lacked in cohesion and experience at the start of the Confederations Cup they learned quickly and were not intimidated, going toe-to-toe with the vastly more battle-hardened South American champions the longer the duel ran on.
Lars Stindl was the match-winning goal-scorer, striking after 20 minutes in which Chile had dominated the opening skirmishes. Chile midfielder Marcelo Diaz allowed Timo Werner to catch him in possession on the edge of his own penalty box and Stindl virtually walked ball into the net.
This was almost certainly the last Confederations Cup. The competition had found a role as a warm-up tournament for the World Cup but the next World Cup, beyond Russia, will be in Qatar in November and December 2022 and the European leagues will have enough trouble adjusting for one season, never mind making allowances for a Confed Cup a year earlier.
Had the host team been involved, he would certainly have been there but the prospects of the Sbornaya being ready for next year are a long way behind Russia’s hosting capacity.
They dropped out of the Confederations Cup at the group stage from which world and South American champions Germany and Chile emerged to contest the prize.
Chile were quickly into their stride, barely giving the Germans early room to breathe and should have taken the lead in the 19th minute. Man of the match Marc-Andre Ter Stegen failed to hold a low drive from Arturo Vidal from outside the penalty box but Alexis Sanchez, instead of popping the loose all into the net, pushed it square and Germany cleared.
With Chile still wondering how they were not in the lead the dithering Diaz was caught in possession by Werner and Stindl opened the scoring with ease with his third goal in four appearances at the tournament.
Not only the goal but its manner took the wind out of Chile’s sails. Their attack was suddenly becalmed with Sanchez almost trying too hard to make amends for his own slip-up and being shuffled repeatedly into midfield cul-de-sacs.
Germany, capturing the confidence Chile had lost, might have scored a second. Sebastian Rudy found Leon Goretzka in space on the right and the Schalke man’s angled drive skidded just wide of keeper Claudio Bravo’s right-hand post.
Next Werner and Jonas Hector combined only to see skipper Julian Draxler fire narrowly wide before a further Chilean defensive error, this time from Gonzalo Jara, let in the Germans again only for Bravo to block Goretzka’s effort at his right-hand post.
Germany continued creating all the danger in the early stages after the break. Draxler was finding more and more space and Chile had no idea how to track him. In the 55th minute he was unlucky to see yet another effort diverted wide.
The Chileans were growing increasingly snappy and Bayern Munich club-mates Vidal and Kimmich were both shown a yellow card after clashing in pursuit of the hall behind the Chilean goal. Then Jara was fortunate lucky to escape with a yellow card after jabbing an elbow in Werner’s face.
Eventually Chile raised their game with Arturo Vidal having one low shot saved by Ter Stegen then blazing another effort over the bar.
Germany coach Low reacted by replacing striker Werner with midfielder Emre Can but it was Chile’s newly-arrived subs who almost broke through when Edson Puch spun to hit the ball back into the goalmouth when Angelo Sagal shot high into the crowd.
There was just time for Ter Stegen to make one last fine save, from a Sanchez free kick before Chile finally ran out of time.
Chile: Bravo – Isla, Medel, Jara, Beausejour – Aranguiz (Sagal 80), M Diaz (Valencia 53), Hernandez – Vidal – Vargas (Puch 80), Sanchez. Coach: Pizzi.
Germany: Ter Stegen – Ginter, Mustafi, Rudiger – Kimmich, Rudy, Goretzka (Sule 90), Hector – Stindl, Werner (Can 78), Draxler. Coach: Low.
Referee: Mazic (Serbia) / VAR: Turpin (France). Attendance: 57,268.
Golden glove (best goalkeeper): Claudio Bravo (Chile). Golden Boot (top scorer): Timo Werner (Germany) 3 (plus assists). Golden ball (best player): Julian Draxler (Germany).