LILLE: World champions Germany launched their bid for the double, at Euro 2016, with all the steady focus of a test pilot checking all the controls.
Victory over Ukraine in Group C in Lille was the minimum requirement and achieved by 2-0, albeit with the second goal in second half stoppage time. National coach Joachim Low will have noted a need here and there for fine-tuning. But he also understands that a tournament team is work in progress, not built in a day.
German fans probably expected a few more football fireworks. The experiment with Mario Gotze up front needs much more work on the training ground if Low wishes to persist.
The first German goal, by Shkodran Mustafi, stemmed from a set piece rather than open play, while the second, by Gotze’s newly-arrived substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger, climaxed a classic breakaway after Ukraine had sent everyone forward in vain search of an equaliser.
Ukraine provided an occasional threat and, indeed, the first of the game after only four minutes. Yevhen Konoplyanka whipped in a first-time shot on the run which Manuel Neuer fisted over the bar.
Thereafter Germany took command, advanced into Ukrainian territory and went ahead in the 18h minute. Toni Kroos, who had an admirable first half, chipped in a right-wing free kick which Mustafi headed decisively beyond keeper Andriy Pyatov.
Ukraine remained dangerous on the break, above all in the 37th minute when Konoplyanka was again unmarked, cutting in from the left. His shot beat Neuer and ricocheted goalward off Jerome Boateng but the Bayern defender accomplished a remarkable, off-balance recovery to jab the ball off the goal-line.
Ukraine’s forwards appealed in vain: goal-line technology, making its Euro debut here in France, had proved its worth in a negative/positive way.
Germany controlled much of the second-half possession but without raising the threat level. Thomas Muller shot powerfully wide and newly-arrived Andre Schurrle was weakly off target. Ukraine’s response was a low drive from Yaroslav Rakitskiy which the diving Neuer pushed around a post.
Next up for the world champions will be Poland whom they overcame in the qualifiers. Poland won 2-0 in Warsaw with two goals from Arkadiusz Milik in October 2014 and the Germans responded by winning 3-1 in Frankfurt the following September. They went on ultimately to top the group.