Shortly after the final whistle, Rudi Völler discussed the 2-2 (1-1) win against Japan at the start of the European Championship year with U21 coach Antonio Di Salvo.

The U21s of the German Football Association missed the hoped-for victory in the first European Championship test of the year three months before the start of the tournament this summer – but discovered a new hope in Jessic Ngankam from Hertha BSC.

“I think we had more chances to score overall and could or should have won the game, even though Japan kept threatening,” said Di Salvo after the game. “It was the expected difficult test and a top test for us.” Without numerous regular players, the team struggled for a long time in front of 6161 spectators in Frankfurt and showed some uncertainties defensively.

Ngankam impresses on debut

Ngankam drew attention to himself offensively on his debut for the U21s. “It would be cooler if we’d won the game today. But sometimes that’s how it is. 2-2 is okay too,” said the scorer after the 1-0 win. He easily converted the penalty he was given in the 40th minute – also found the national coach Hansi Flick, who was present in the stadium on the Bornheimer Hang. “He did very well. He took the penalty while dribbling – and went to the point very confidently and pushed it in coldly,” said Flick during the half-time break on TV station ProSieben Maxx.

“Thanks to Mr. Flick, that’s an honor of course,” commented Ngankam with a smile after the game. He explained his good performance quite simply: “Like on the football field: just gamble.” Just gamble, that’s what Di Salvo liked about debutant Ngankam. “We’re glad we have players like him, we’re looking for them.”

The fact that Ngankam’s goal was not enough to win was due to Kein Sato (43rd minute) and Mao Hosoya (46th), whose goals turned the game around for the guests. Denis Huseinbasic from Cologne still managed to equalize (49th). “We fought for 90 minutes. That’s always our motto, that we come through the team, through compactness,” said midfielder Yannik Keitel, who is under contract with SC Freiburg.

Keitel and Co. under special observation

Keitel and Co. were under special surveillance. The new DFB sports director Völler said at the beginning of the week that the U21 European Championship this summer was just as important as the home European Championship in 2024 – and he followed his words with action. Together with Flick, Völler watched the German U21s start the European Championship season in the stadium.

The self-critical Frankfurter Ansgar Knauff still saw a need for optimization: “There are one or two things that we definitely want to improve,” he said. But they did well going forward. “We try to draw our conclusions and learn from our mistakes.”

The U21 players can learn the first lessons from this on Tuesday. Then the next test in Romania is scheduled for the DFB-Elf. “We’ve played against Romania twice in the finals of the European Championship, they’ve always been tough matches, they’re extremely aggressive,” said Di Salvo.