Reading this in the Telegraph app? Sign up for Euro 2020 notifications here
Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with his 12th goal at the European Championship
But Germany hit back with four goals in a rampant display
Diogo Jota scored a late consolation and although Portugal threatened a comeback, they succumbed to defeat
Signs of life for Germany in Euro 2020’s group of death, and the possibility that the old masters are stirring once again with a new generation to carry on the tradition.
Suddenly, the land of the weltmeistermannschaft look like they may just emerge unscathed from the jeopardy of Group F and their manager Joachim Loew, making his last stand at this tournament, seems to have found a system that suits his players. His two wing-backs in the 3-4-3 system, Joshua Kimmich and Robin Gosens, are the new stars of this Germany team and for Portugal, it was more than they could cope with.
They took the lead with a thrilling counter-attacking goal, the 107th of Cristiano Ronaldo’s remarkable 177-cap career, but never looked like they had a viable long-term plan to win this game. It leaves the defending champions the most vulnerable of the big three in Group F and a big defeat against France in their final game on Wednesday may mean that they might not even advance as one of the four third-place teams with the best record.
The Group F picture had changed again with France’s draw with Hungary in Budapest and the stage was set for Germany to try to stay in the competition. “We knew they had difficulties in defence” Loew said later, “we played our wing-backs a lot higher”. The Portuguese never coped with the balls from wide, conceding two own-goals before the break before Kai Havertz and Gosens added another two in the second half.
Gosens is German-born with a Dutch father and German mother and needed to go to Holland and the second tier of football there to launch his professional career in 2013. The 26-year-old was scouted by Loew’s staff for a few years, the coach said, before he was brought into the national team last year. He was a Champions League player last season at Atalanta and paid tribute after the match to the influence of his coach in Serie A, Gian Piero Gasperini.
Gosens has never played in the Bundesliga and is something of a curiosity in German football. “I don’t feel like that,” he said later. “I’m completely integrated and I feel good in the team. All the lads welcomed me very warmly. This is what you need to perform like this. I feel a bit exotic because I took a different path but within the team I don’t feel different at all.”
There is already some question over whether he could be on the move this summer. “Atalanta are happy for me and proud that a player of their club can perform like this at the Euros,” he said. “We will see what happens after the Euros.”
More problems for Portugal, for whom there was a forgettable performance from Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, substituted in the second half. They are a deeply negative side when it comes to keeping, or even wanting, possession of the ball. While their coach, the less than joyful Fernando Santos, solemnly accepted responsibility for the defeat it sounded like he was unimpressed with some individual contributions.
Ronaldo moves around the pitch a lot less than he once did. Nevertheless, the goal and the assist he delivered are proof that while at 36 years old, he is a very old international footballer, he might be the best-ever international footballer of that age. This was his 19th goal in major international tournaments and no one, other than Miroslav Klose, can match that record.
The Portugal goal started, where all great counter-attacking goals begin, with the goalscorer heading clear a corner in his own penalty box. Ronaldo ran 92 metres from box to box, ITV later recorded, in 14.3 seconds. When it was cleared to Bernardo Silva on the right side the Manchester City man had the space and the time to advance up the pitch and pick his pass, a wonderful ping diagonally to Diogo Jota on the left side. The Liverpool man took it on his chest, cut it back with the outside of his boot and there was Ronaldo to score.
It was not simply the run itself, which he had to check at certain points in order that he did not stray beyond the offside line, that was so spectacular. It was more how certain he was as to how the phase of play was to unfold from that moment. His 107 Portugal goals is double his old team-mate Wayne Rooney’s record of 53 for England, and that is not to diminish Rooney’s achievement. The older of the pair, Ronaldo only has a few moments in games now, but what moments they are.
Portugal never looked comfortable trying, as Loew said, “to park the bus” and defend the balls in from wide positions. Kimmich switched play in the 35th minute to Gosens who played a sharp drive into the box. Ruben Dias, under pressure from Havertz, swung the wrong boot at the wrong time and turned it into his own goal.
It was not clear that left-back Raphael Guerreiro could claim quite as much pressure upon himself when he lashed a fierce drive past his goalkeeper Rui Patricio for the second Portuguese own-goal of the game. When the ball went wide, the Germans looked much more dangerous picking out the runs into the area.
The goals kept coming with Portugal hopelessly susceptible in the wide positions, even when it was not them firing into their own goal. The third German goal came from the cross of Gosens in the 51st minute, played to the feet of Havertz who could not miss with his right foot. The passing sequence to get it out to Gosens had been the best of Germany and they looked like they could score again and again.
The fourth came from Gosens himself at the back post, heading in the cross of his fellow wing-back Kimmich. Portugal also scored from a cross from their left that the German defence failed to deal with. Havertz gave away the original foul to Ronaldo and the Portugal captain was at the back post to keep the cross in play. His touch was good enough that it might even have ended up as goal 108 for his country but Jota, almost between the posts drilled it in to make sure. A second goal was rather more than Portugal deserved.
Full time, Portugal 2 Germany 4
Germany have put in a massive performance at the Allianz Arena and been rewarded with a massive result.
While they could easily have been knocked sideways by Ronaldo's opener against the run of play, they stuck to their gameplan and continued to dominate. With a little help from Dias and Guerreiro, their four-goal flurry either side of half time blew Portugal away.
Moutinho floats a ball into the box and Pepe does well to head it back across goal towards a mass of red shirts.
Just as it looks like Portugal might get another goal, Rudiger pops up to belt it clear. He's been immense today.
Final substitution for Germany
... with Gnabry coming off for Leroy Sane.
... with Eintracht Frankfurt forward Andre Silva replacing him.
Germany get a three on two, Goretzka loping forwards with the ball before leathering a shot over the crossbar.
Ginter is booked for a mistimed challenge on Jota, gifting Portugal a free kick in a promising position.
Portugal upgrade their free kick to a corner, before Moutinho plays it short to Sanches. He sends an absolute rocket at goal, rattling the post.
... with Havertz and Ilkay Gundogan swapping out for Leon Goretzka and Niklas Sule.
Portugal have also made another change, Fernandes coming off for Joao Moutinho.
Ronaldo goes past Can in the box and tries to pick out a teammate, but Rudiger makes a vital interception.
Moments earlier, Havertz picked up the first booking of the game after a foul on Ronaldo which broke up a Portugal counter.
GOAL! Portugal 2 Germany 4
Well, that was a soft one.
At a routine free kick, Ronaldo flicks a ball back across the face of goal and Jota smashes home from close range.
Havertz has made history
... as the youngest player to score for Die Mannschaft at the Euros.
Low makes double change
Gosens and Hummels are hooked, with Marcel Halstenberg and Emre Can coming on in their place.
GOAL! Portugal 1 Germany 4
They've already justified Low's decision to persevere with them at wing-back, but Kimmich and Gosens combine beautifully to score Germany's fourth.
Kimmich gets down the right and crosses to the far post, where Gosens powers a header into the back of the net. Germany deserve it, they've been excellent really.
Jota goes down under the attentions of Hummels, but Anthony Taylor isn't remotely interested.
Meanwhile, Santos has made another change, bringing off William Carvalho for Rafa Silva.
Portugal win a free kick in a menacing position and Ronaldo steps up, but he can only blast one over the crossbar.
GOAL! Portugal 1 Germany 3
Das ist gut.
A sharp passing move ends with Muller finding Gosens on the overlap. He sends a ball into the danger area and Havertz scores from two yards.
Gosens tears up the left flank and almost finds Gnabry with a curling cross, but it's cleared.
Teams back out
... and Santos has made a half-time change, with Renato Sanches coming on for Silva.
Half time, Portugal 1 Germany 2
Guerreiro whips a cross to Bruno Fernandes, but he can't control the ball and Germany get it clear.
Gnabry breaks and turns Pepe on the edge of the area before forcing Patricio into a smart save. With that, the half-time whistle goes. Germany were just finding their rhythm. Portugal need to regroup.
Germany win a corner and Rudiger rises highest, sending a header spinning just past the upright.
Can the Germans score a goal of their own here, or will Portugal continue to do the job for them?
GOAL! Portugal 1 Germany 2
It's another own goal, this time for Guerreiro!
Muller's dinked pass is deflected to Havertz, who clips it on to Joshua Kimmich. He gets a cross in and, in trying to block it, Guerreiro smashes the ball into the roof of the net.
GOAL! Portugal 1 Germany 1
Just like that, Germany have an equaliser!
Gosens crosses from the left and finds Havertz haring into the six-yard box. In attempting to tackle him, Dias scores an own goal.
Silva almost turns Rudiger inside out in the box, but the Chelsea defender does well to recover and nick the ball.
Germany continue to play in Portugal's final third, but can't work an opening.
Havertz gets onto a decent ball from Muller, but can only spoon it up into the air. Gnabry dances into the box and is tackled by Dias, who wins a free kick in the process.
A ball from deep finds Dias at the far post and he leaves Manuel Neuer stranded with a header across the face of goal.
Nobody gets on the end of it, unfortunately. Having made a modest start to the game, Portugal are growing in stature.
Ronaldo lofts a ball to Jota, whose shot is blocked.
Just before that, Ronaldo had beaten Rudiger with a clever flick before moving the ball on with a no-look backheel. Rudiger will be livid.
Gosens gets in behind on the left and unleashes a shot at Patricio from a tight angle, but it's saved.
Having started so brightly, Germany must be wondering how they are a goal behind. They seem intent on picking up where they left off, moving the ball with purpose, but Portugal have shown just how dangerous they can be on the counter-attack.
GOAL! Portugal 1 Germany 0
With their first chance of the match, Portugal score.
Breaking at a Germany corner, Bernardo Silva sends a raking long ball up to Diogo Jota. He squares to Ronaldo, who scores a tap-in. They made that look ridiculously easy.
Thomas Muller looses a shot from long range which is easily saved by Patricio.
Havertz forces Patricio into a diving save from distance, but he can only parry the ball into the path of Gnabry.
Regaining his composure, Patricio does just enough to force the Bayern Munich man wide. Germany have made a strong start here.
Matthias Ginter whips the ball into the box and, though it fails to find Serge Gnabry's outstretched toe, it falls for Robin Gosens at the far post and he rifles into the back of the net.
Portugal protest vociferously and referee Anthony Taylor calls on VAR. Replays show that Gnabry was narrowly offside when Ginter played the ball and, having been in Rui Patricio's eyeline, the goal is ruled out for offside.
Kai Havertz makes an early foray forward on the left, but his final ball is blocked.
Germany move the ball around nicely, feeling their way into the game. Portugal look perfectly happy to sit back and hold their shape.
We're underway at the Allianz Arena.
... have been sung solemnly, meaning we're about to kick off.
Players in the tunnel
... and it's all smiles on both sides.
Do those smiles disguise the cold, oppressive anxiety within? Maybe.
Hot, hot, hot
It's currently a spicy 31 degrees in Munich and, while the temperature will drop as the game goes on, this could be an energy-sapping affair.
Portugal fans arriving in numbers
... and they've already won when it comes to novelty eyewear.
Hungary hold France to a draw
... the final whistle has gone at the Puskas Arena, with Attila Fiola's goal in first-half stoppage time enough to secure Hungary a point against France.
Portugal now know that a draw would take them top of Group F on goal difference. Germany, meanwhile, know that defeat would leave them rock bottom.
... rather than twist, also naming an unchanged starting XI.
In answer to the question we posed earlier: yes, Low has indeed stuck with a back three.
Not only that, he's named an unchanged starting line-up. That's a brave call but, if Germany lose, he'll be monstered for it.
Germany team news
Portugal team news
Will Low stick with a back three?
While Low has found his tactics called into question ever since Germany's disappointing group-stage exit at Russia 2018, his use of a three-man defence going into this tournament has been especially contentious.
Having had so much success with a 4-2-3-1 (or 4-3-3) formation during his World Cup-winning heyday, he made the switch to a back three in response to Germany's shaky defensive record towards the end of last year.
It has also given him a chance to reintroduce Mats Hummels alongside two younger, faster defenders in Antonio Rudiger and Matthias Ginter, though Hummels still struggled against France and ultimately scored the own goal which decided the game.
There's a growing clamour among Germany supporters for a return to a back four, so it will be interesting to see whether Low relents or perseveres.
Meanwhile, in Group F's other game of the day
... France have equalised against Hungary thanks to a goal from Antoine Griezmann.
If you'd like to keep up with that match as well, our live blog can be found here. Open another tab, go on, treat yourself.
Germany looking to get back on track
After defeat to France in their opening game of the tournament, this could be make-or-break for Germany.
While losing 1-0 to the world champions might not seem like a cause for panic – even if the scoreline could have been considerably worse were it not for several timely VAR interventions – Die Mannschaft now have little margin for error in Group F.
If they lose to Portugal this afternoon, they will be hanging onto their tournament status by a thread. While a win and three points in their final game against Hungary might be enough for them to squeak through to the knockout rounds as one of the best third-placed sides at the group stage, that would be an extremely ill-omened way to reach the last 16.
Even in their 3-0 win against Hungary, Portugal showed that they intend to follow the same solid, defensively compact gameplan which served them so well at Euro 2016. While Raphael Guerreiro's belated opener and a last-gasp brace from Cristiano Ronaldo gave the scoreline some sparkle, Fernando Santos' side had been industrious rather than inspired up until the last five minutes.
That means that, having drawn a blank against France, Germany's attackers will have their work cut out for them. With the indomitable Pepe and Ruben Dias at the heart of their back four, Portugal have one of the most intimidating defences in the competition.
Speaking ahead of the game, Germany coach Joachim Low pledged that his side would find their rhythm going forwards. "Tactically we have to bring something else, more attacking power. We need to bring in more intensity," he said.
"When we are in the last third of the pitch we have to stay there. Against France, there were situations where we played the ball back out and our opponents have enough men against the ball again.
"We have to play with a different dynamic in the last third of the pitch and take more risks."