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U21 Championship Qualification
4 - 0
(3 - 0)
Germany U21
Latvia U21
J. Burkardt (25), A. Knauff (26), J. Burkardt (43), M. Tillman (75)
X L. Vapne (66)

Burkardt brace lifts DFB Juniors over Latvia

By Peter Weis   @PeterVicey

A spectacular all-around performance from squad captain Jonathan Burkardt ensured that Antonio di Salvo's Germany U21 side got 2022 off to the best possible start. 

A 4-0 win over visiting Latvia at the Tivoli in Aachen allows the DFB Juniors to reclaim top spot in their 2023 UEFA European Championship qualifying group. 
Jonathan Burkardt.
Jonathan Burkardt.
Even if the team on the pitch wasn't necessarily the one he initially envisioned, the head-coach of Germany's highest footballing youth level scored a very convincing victory in the first match of the German U21s in the new calendar year.

A slew of injuries and COVID infections meant that only 14 players from U21 trainer Antonio di Salvo's initial call-up pool were available for the fixture. The head-coach of the country's highest youth level was still able to field a competent XI. Jamie Leweling (Greuther Fürth), Ansgar Knauff (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Jan Thielmann (FC Köln) formed a triplicate striker set. Mainz's Jonathan Burkardt and Nürnberg's Toim Krauß worked immediately behind the attacking trident.

Hoffenheim's Angelo Stiller pulled the strings from a deep midfield position. Completing the 4-1-4-1 were center-halves Marton Dardai of Hertha BSC and Maximilian Bauer of Fürth, along with fullbacks Noah Katterbach (Köln, on loan at Basel) and Josha Vagnoman (Hamburger SV). Freiburg academy man Noah Atubolu got the start between the sticks. Some 7,000 live spectators came out to see the lads at the Tivoli in Aachen.

After a somewhat unsteady opening seven minutes, di Salvo's charges were able to get a foothold in the Latvian half. Burkardt, Thielmann, and Leweling were able to direct some activity, yet at nearly 20 minutes in the DFB Juniors only had one shot on target to show for their efforts. Knauff got a few things going on the right, yet couldn't find the precision to pick out a colleague on a pair of half-chances.

The opening goal actually came from an opportune strip in midfield. Krauß took the ball off a Latvian defender and immediately play Burkardt in. The Mainz striker finished cooly for the 1-0 in the 25th. Less than a minute later, Burkardt ensured that the advantage was doubled. The very same Latvian center back lost the ball. A very smooth DFB-XI counter saw Burkardt play Knauff through.

The Dortmund loanee slammed in an effort off the inside of the post. Matters calmed down a bit after the 26th minute 2-0. Di Salvo's youngsters mostly played down Katterbach's side and aimed to hit members of the striking tandem in the box. There nevertheless wouldn't be another legitimate scoring chance until Knauff whizzed a Leweling service past the bar in the 39th.

The very lively Burkardt certainly gave the impression that he wanted to engineer a decisive goal before halftime. Di Salvo's choice of an eight role on this day seemed to benefit the squad skipper immensely. Burkardt would deliver the third goal in the 43rd, finishing off a rebound of a Knauff effort. The very same Latvian defender was once again at fault with a poor clearance.

The visiting team made an effort to mount a response with some solid play just after the restart. Atubolu had to be on his toes to make a great save in the 50th. For the most part, the German youths did play the second half at a slower speed. Burkardt was nevertheless very active at times and put on a fine dribbling display near the hour-mark.

Di Salvo opted to change four of his outfield players in the 62nd. Felix Nmecha, Faride Alidou, Malik Tillman, and Simon Asta would all see significant action. The Latvians were awarded a rather soft penalty in the 64th. Atubolu got a nice confidence boost when he saved a weak ground effort. Tillman added the fourth goal following some in-box pinball with 15 minutes left.

Tillman and fellow later substitute Eric Shuranov combined several times down the stretch as the team sought out its fifth goal. In the end, the 4-0 scoreline held. The win enables Germany to pass Israel and once again claim first place in the group. Now with a two-point cushion at the top, the U21s shall face Israel.

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