In a tense tournament overshadowed by violent clashes between fans, the threat of terrorism and striking French rail-workers, defending world champion Germany delivered a dose of predictability on the field at Euro 2016 on Sunday evening: a solid victory over Ukraine.
Die Mannschaft has reached at least the semifinals of every major tournament since the 2006 World Cup.
Though the business end of the tournament is still weeks away, Germany took a confident first step. The side dominated from the outset with more than 60% of possession, quick passing and more than twice as many shots as its opponent on its way to a 2-0 victory, the largest so far at these European Championships. A disciplined Ukrainian defensive bloc frustrated the Germans at times, but they never lost control.
“A machine is a machine,” Ukraine head coach Mykhaylo Fomenko said after the game.
Winners of the World Cup in Brazil two years ago, Germany is under pressure for a repeat performance at Euro 2016, a tournament it has won three times—although not since 1996. The build-up to the competition was far from reassuring with Germany losing three of its five exhibition matches, including one to Slovakia, the world’s 24th-ranked team.