Sports

German goal king Waldschmidt targets record in Euro U21 final

June 29, 2019
Germany's forward Luca Waldschmidt celebrates after he scored during extra-time of the semi-final match of the U21 European Football Championships between Germany and Romania on June 27, 2019 at the Renato Dall'Ara stadium in Bologna. / AFP / Update Images Press / Isabella BONOTTO
Germany's forward Luca Waldschmidt celebrates after he scored during extra-time of the semi-final match of the U21 European Football Championships between Germany and Romania on June 27, 2019 at the Renato Dall'Ara stadium in Bologna. / AFP / Update Images Press / Isabella BONOTTO

UDINE, Italy — Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos insisted Spain were not afraid of German goal-scoring machine Luca Waldschmidt ahead of Sunday's final showdown in the European under-21 championships in Udine.

Waldschmidt has scored seven goals — half of Germany's total — and one more in the Stadio Friuli would see him overtake Swede Marcus Berg's 2009 record for the most scored at the continental championships.

"We know he's a very good player. His stats could be frightening, but we have to focus on ourselves," said Ceballos. "We have studied individual players, but this is a team effort. And I'm sure they have done the same with us."

Walschmidt has emerged as one of the stars of the tournament, which also doubled as a qualifier for the 2020 Olympics. It is estimated that the 23-year-old's value has tripled from the five million euros ($5.7 million) that Freiburg paid Hamburg for his signature. He scored nine goals in his first Bundesliga season.

"What matters more is the title," insisted the Vespa-loving vegan whose full name is actually the Italian 'Gian Luca'. Waldschmidt has flourished in Italy, scoring a hat-trick against Serbia in the group stage and two more against Romania in the semifinals.

"Luca is riding a wave right now," said Germany coach Stefan Kuntz. "I'm happy that he's having this spell with us right now, but if he's doing well, it's also thanks to his teammates.

"It's the group that's important, even those who didn't play a minute are also important for the team spirit."

Waldschmidt conceded he was feeling more at ease ahead of the match, a repeat of the title showdown two years ago which the Germans won 1-0 to claim their second title. "When you come from behind in a semifinal against such a good side (as Romania) it gives you confidence," he said.

Ceballos was among the stand-out players in Spain's run to the final, as he was in Poland two years ago. The 22-year-old has scored two goals and provided two assists so far and was instrumental as Spain swept past France 4-1 in the semifinals.

Spain, bidding to match Italy's record of five European titles, last lifted the trophy in 2013. The Spanish have the edge in previous meetings with four wins to two for the Germans and a draw in their past seven games.

"We've gained in confidence after the (3-1 opening match) defeat to Italy, and we'll show tomorrow how we can play," said Spanish defender Jesús Vallejo. "We can take the final step to win the title."

Coach Luis De la Fuente added: "This team is getting better with every match. I don't think my players are yet at their maximum."

Temperatures in Udine should be slightly cooler than during the semi-finals with forecasts of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) for the town on the Slovenian border.

"We hope there isn't the same heat as for the last game, but we should focus on what we can control," the Spain coach said. — AFP


June 29, 2019
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