KOCHI: As the final whistle went off, the Germans held their hands together, walked to the other side of the turf, and bowed to the crowd in unison. The celebrations didn't stop there as the boys hugged each other, while coach Christian Wueck --with a thin smile-- let his boys live the moment.
A tournament win or entry to the finals entails such celebration. But in Kochi, the occasion was far different. They had just won a group C match, defeating Guinea 3-1.
And it was as good as a title win for them. Having endured a heart-breaking 4-0 defeat at the hands of Iran, the Germans required a win to enter the Round of 16. An adverse result would've made their fortunes hinge on arithmetic.
"The reaction back home was not that good after the Iran match. To give the boys confidence, it was important that we get a good start in the match," said Wueck.
As he had wished, the Germans began on a positive note and made their intentions clear in the first minute itself when skipper Jann-Fiete Arp won a free-kick just outside the box.
Though the shot failed to find the target, the urgency that the Germans exhibited telegraphed both their intentions and the fact that Arp was going to be their go-to-guy.
In the eighth minute, he took Germany ahead. Capitalising on a defensive lapse, Dennis Jastrzembski set up his captain in the centre of the box, and the latter easily slotted into the left corner.
The goal was followed up with some quick raids and it appeared as if the Germans would have a walk in the park. But that was not to be.
After their initial scruple, the Africans came back strongly. Their 14-year-old talismanic striker Fendje Toure was slightly off-colour in the first half, but his partner Doss Soumah and overlapping defender Ibrahima Soumah put the pressure back on the Germans.
In the 26th minute, Soumah pulled one back through a scorching left-footer. The momentum of the game settled into an equilibrium after, as both teams launched a few good moves. Guinea custodian Mohamed Camara was brilliant as he denied the Germans half-a-dozen times.
The deadlock was broken in the 62nd minute. Arp had a hand in this too. He crafted an inch-perfect pass to Nicolas Kuehn from the left, and the latter skilfully evaded the advancing goalkeeper to bury it in the right corner of the net.
Guinea had their moments too. Toure --who regained his touch later-- and Seydouba Cisse had couple of chances, but failed to provide the finishing touch.
Midfielder Elhaj Bah disappointed as he proved wasteful upfront, skying several chances with only the keeper to beat. However, Guinea's fightback was cut short when German substitute Jessic Ngankam was fouled inside the box by Sekou Camara in stoppage time, with Sahverdi Cetin coolly slotting in the resultant penalty.
Germany will now face Colombia in a round-of-16 match on Monday.