Unlikely hero Robin Gosens shows Germany anything is possible

When Robin Gosens was a young man he wanted to be a police officer, just like his grandfather. However, he was told by one regional office that his legs were too different in height to make it so he ended up pursuing plan B instead: a career as a professional footballer.

The German police force’s loss has been the Nationalmannschaft’s gain. On Saturday night Gosens was instrumental as Germany rediscovered their form and beat Portugal 4-2 to make an interesting Group F even more interesting.

Having stared elimination in the face, Germany go into their final game against Hungary level on points and with a head-to-head advantage over Portugal, and only a point behind France.

Gosens has taken a circuitous route to the top. He played for Fortuna Elten, FC Bocholt and VfL Rhede in Germany before joining Vitesse in the Netherlands. However he never made a league appearance for the Dutch club and after spells with Dordrecht and Heracles he signed for Atalanta in 2017. There he has developed into an international player of the highest order under Gian Piero Gasperini.

If you play for Gasperini you run and you fight. Of course you have to be a good footballer as well but if you are not giving 100% you are not in the team. In Munich on Saturday Gosens gave his all as always but, perhaps more unexpectedly, he put in a man‑of‑the-match performance, crowned by a thundering header to make it 4-1 after the hour.

It was just reward for Joachim Löw’s side, who looked aggressive from the outset, with Kai Havertz bundling over a startled Pepe, Thomas Müller flying into tackles in central areas and Mats Hummels wiping out Cristiano Ronaldo around the halfway line all in the first 10 minutes.

Then Gosens produced one of the moments of the game as he came flying through the air to score an acrobatic goal from a precise Joshua Kimmich cross.

Sadly for Gosens and Germany, Serge Gnabry had strayed offside in the middle and was judged to have interfered with play as he stretched for the ball. Germany did not give up though and it was the two wing‑backs, Gosens and Kimmich, who created most of their chances.

After Portugal had gone ahead against the run of play, the two of them were both involved in Germany’s equaliser after 35 minutes. Kimmich found Gosens with another crossfield ball and the Atalanta player cushioned it towards Havertz in the middle, only for Rúben Dias to steer it past his goalkeeper, Rui Patrício.

And so it continued throughout the first 60 minutes, Kimmich and Gosens swapping passes to open up a baffled Portugal defence. The head coach, Fernando Santos, looked bemused, unsure what was going on, and the European champions never found a way of dealing with the galloping Gosens. His goal, the second in his ninth cap and the first at a finals, was nothing more than he deserved. Kimmich – who else? – supplied a pinpoint cross for the 26-year-old to head home. Shortly after that he was withdrawn.

Perhaps it was no coincidence that he had the game of his life against Portugal. In his book Träumen Lohnt Sich (Dreaming is Worth It) he recalled an incident when he tried to swap shirts with Ronaldo against Juventus. “After the final whistle I went to him, having not even gone public to celebrate,” he wrote. “But Ronaldo did not accept. He didn’t even look at me, he just said: ‘No!’ I was completely ashamed.”

There was no shirt swapping this time either, Ronaldo probably being even less in the mood despite scoring his side’s opener. Portugal tried to salvage something from the game but despite Diogo Jota scoring and Renato Sanches hitting a post they never came close to grabbing a point.

It was a huge win for Löw. He had selected the same starting XI as in the defeat against France and the same system, a 3-4-3. This time it paid off and it will be intriguing to see how Germany do from here. They did everything right on a blistering afternoon in Munich and now anything is possible. Just ask Gosens; he knows.

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