Germany’s Leon Goretzka, left, celebrates with Benjamin Henrichs after scoring his side’s second goal during the Confederations Cup, semifinal soccer match between Germany and Mexico, at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, June 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Just how much Leon Goretzka wanted to seize his opportunity in an experimental Germany squad became clear after only eight minutes against Mexico.
With two goals in the space of 109 seconds on Thursday, Goretzka put the defensively-ragged Mexicans on the back foot and set Germany on its way to the Confederations Cup final with a clinical 4-1 victory.
Germany coach Joachim Loew is using the World Cup warm-up tournament to assess his pool of talent, resting all but three of his world champions from 2014. Silverware was never the priority. But the World Cup will have another trophy for company if Loew’s fledglings can beat Chile on Sunday in St. Petersburg.
Germany drew 1-1 with the South American champions in the group stage, recovering after conceding in the sixth minute – and learning from the lax start.
“Against Chile in particular we were caught off guard; we’d discussed that beforehand and implemented it well today,” the 22-year-old Goretzka said. “After getting through the group stage, our objective was to reach the final. We’ve done that convincingly. Now we want to win the title and reward ourselves for our performances so far.”
All three German scorers in the southern Russian resort of Sochi were players making their tournament debuts. After Goretzka netted in the 6th and 8th minutes, Timo Werner and Amin Younes scored in the second half.
“They have developed really well,” Loew said through a translator in the Fisht Stadium. “Over these weeks, we have become a genuine team and that is important. They are very ambitious and yearning to be part of the national team.”
Despite the emphatic score line, Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was kept busy. There were 25 shots on goal but he only conceded in the 89th minute, when he was beaten by Marco Fabian’s long-range swerving shot.
Mexico will now head to Moscow to play Portugal in the third-place match on Sunday after paying the price for affording Germany too much space to cut through its defense.
“We didn’t have a good start of the game, and they took advantage,” Fabian said. “We have to acknowledge that we dared to play as equals.
“Sometimes adrenaline plays a trick on us. Sometimes we make mistakes that they take advantage of. We have to learn to be effective and take advantage of their mistakes.”
It was a misplaced header by captain Hector Moreno that freed Goretzka to launch the attack that he completed to put Germany in front. Goretzka seized possession around the halfway line, passed to Benjamin Henrichs on the right flank and accelerated to receive the ball back before sweeping in a low shot from 20 yards (meters).
Mexico was jolted and had not regrouped when its defense was shredded again. Werner threaded the ball through for Goretzka to slot under the legs of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa at the near post and claim his third goal of the competition.
“His special forte is that he can run longer distances,” Loew said after the Schalke midfielder’s eighth international appearance. “Running those long distances sets him apart from the rest.”
If anything concerned Loew, it was the way his team eased up.
Germany squandered the opportunity for a third goal when Werner struck straight at Ochoa. Soon Ter Stegen was being repeatedly called into action, using his outstretched right leg to clear a shot from Giovani Dos Santos and diving to block the follow-up from Jonathan Dos Santos.
Mexico had an even better chance to pull one back. The ball broke for Javier Hernandez and the striker only had Ter Stegen to beat but the shot was lifted too high.
Raul Jimenez was thwarted by Ter Stegen at the start of the second half before Germany extended its lead in the 59th minute. A flowing move saw captain Julian Draxler and Jonas Hector combine to set up the unmarked Werner to pass into an empty net.
Germany looked set for its first clean sheet of the tournament until a quickly-taken free kick left the defense unprepared to close down Fabian, who unleashed a strike that Ter Stegen could not stop.
But Germany still had the final say, with Younes released by Emre Can and striking across the face of goal to find the net.
“They have bonded together as an excellent team,” Loew said. “They are fighting for one another and collectively they have won.”
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports
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