Scotland were no match for Germany as the rampant Euro 2024 hosts made a dream start to the tournament on Friday.

Florian Wirtz got the ball rolling in the 10th minute, becoming the youngest scorer of an opening goal at the European Championships in the tournament's history.

The excellent Jamal Musiala soon made it 2-0, rifling home after he was set up by Kai Havertz inside the area.

In Wirtz (21 years, 42 days) and Musiala (21 years, 109 days), Germany became the first team in European Championship history to have two players aged 21 or younger score in the same match.

Havertz turned scorer when he slotted in from the penalty spot before half-time, with Scotland defender Ryan Porteous seeing red for a lunge on Ilkay Gundogan, after a VAR review.

Porteous became the second Scottish player sent off at a major tournament, after Craig Burley in the 1998 World Cup against Morocco.

It is the first time a player has been sent off in the opening game of the Euros since 2012, when both Sokratis (Greece) and Wojciech Szczesny (Poland) were dismissed in a 1-1 draw.

Havertz's successfully converted spot-kick also ensured Germany went in at half-time 3-0 up – it is just the third time in European Championship history a team has scored three goals in the first half of a game, along with France vs Belgium in 1984 (3-0 at half-time) and France vs Iceland in 2016 (4-0 at half-time).

Germany made their numerical advantage count to go on and secure the biggest win by a host nation in their opening match at a European Championship tournament, and their biggest victory ever at the Euros, with an own goal from Antonio Rudiger the only negative.

Indeed, that own goal was kind to Scotland, who had only one shot, which they failed to get on target, and mustered an xG of only 0.01, in comparison to Germany's 2.17.

It marks the first time Scotland have failed to have a shot on target in a major tournament match since 1992, when they faced the Netherlands in the Euros.

Steve Clarke's team put in a sorry performance, and must now pick themselves up to face Switzerland. They will go into that match on Wednesday on the back of suffering their heaviest defeat at a major tournament since they lost 7-0 to Uruguay at the 1954 World Cup.

Germany, meanwhile, already have one foot in the knockouts, and could get the job done by beating Hungary.

Musiala really was sensational, completing five of his eight dribble attempts while also having six touches in the opponent's box – four more than Scotland managed altogether.

And finally, this match was the first match in European Championship history to see a red card, a penalty scored and an own goal scored.

Euro 2024 has started in style, even if Scotland fans will be in a hurry to forget this result.

Julian Nagelsmann hailed his Germany players for the way they handled the pressure of being Euro 2024 hosts in their 5-1 win over Scotland, adding he was surprised by the lack of aggression on show from Steve Clarke's men.

Germany recorded the biggest opening-game win at a European Championship, with Florian Wirtz, Jamal Musiala, Kai Havertz, Niclas Fullkrug and Emre Can scoring.

The result made Nagelsmann just the second coach to win his first Euros game by four or more goals, after Sweden's Lars Lagerback in 2004 (5-0 versus Bulgaria).

It was also Germany's biggest victory at the Euros, and the first time Scotland had conceded five or more goals in a competitive game since they were trounced 6-0 by the Netherlands in a Euro 2004 qualifier 21 years ago.

Germany endured a troubled build-up to their home tournament, with Nagelsmann only having eight games to prepare after Hansi Flick was sacked last year.

He believes they did an excellent job of handling the pressure that comes with a home opener, telling ITV Sport: "I'm happy, I'm satisfied. 

"In the first game as the home country… we looked back at the first games of the last tournaments and there can be a kind of pressure.

 

"Especially in the first 20 minutes, we were brilliant, we had great ball possession and great counter-pressing. 

"I was happy with the performance and we stayed focused for the whole game.

"We conceded one goal, but in the end it's okay. Our players were complaining about conceding that goal, which is a good sign when we were already four goals in the lead."

Scotland did not attempt a single shot on target and failed to register an effort of any kind until Scott McKenna forced an own goal off Antonio Rudiger in the 87th minute.

Nagelsmann admits he was expecting more from Clarke's team, who found themselves three goals and a man down by half-time as Ryan Porteous was sent off for a horror challenge on Ilkay Gundogan. 

 

"I was kind of surprised that Scotland weren't that aggressive in the first 20 minutes," Nagelsmann said.

"I think they were surprised by our possession, which was really concentrated. They started the game very well and made one mistake in the first 15 minutes.

"Then they were kind of surprised, kind of afraid. They felt we had players in the offensive row that could score goals so they defended low. 

"They didn't make the high pressure like they sometimes did in the qualifiers. I think the first 20 minutes were the key to the game."

Florian Wirtz needed only 10 minutes to spark Euro 2024 into life.

After a brilliant season for Bayer Leverkusen, in which he was named the Bundesliga's Player of the Season, Wirtz came into Euro 2024 as one of the standout youngsters.

His first-time finish to put Germany ahead in Munich on Friday, a cute side-footed effort that Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn could only help in off the post, proved why everyone is so excited to see how Julian Nagelsmann gets the best out of a player who scored 18 goals and set up 19 more in all competitions in 2023-24.

Wirtz's goal set Germany on their way to a 5-1 rout – the biggest win for a host in the opening match of a Euros in the tournament's history.

He was not the superstar of Germany's performance, though. His fellow youngster, Jamal Musiala, was spellbinding.

Having lashed in a wonderful second goal for the hosts, Musiala ran the show in the final third, and played a key role with a wonderful pass when super-sub Niclas Fullkrug made it 4-0 midway through the second half.

Musiala, who was the one bright spark from Germany's dismal performance under Hansi Flick at the 2022 World Cup, teased and toyed with Scotland. He attempted eight dribbles, completing five, had a game-high six touches in the opposition box and came out on top in nine of his 15 duels before he was replaced, fittingly perhaps, by the vastly experienced Thomas Muller.

The intriguing question ahead of kick-off was how Nagelsmann, the youngest-ever coach in the history of the Euros, would manage to get those two fantastic number 10s into the same team.

His answer was to dovetail the duo with an experienced midfield – Ilkay Gundogan (33) played ahead of Robert Andrich (29) and the imperious Toni Kroos (34) – and it worked a treat.

Wirtz is the youngest player to score the opening goal at a Euros, and the youngest player to net for Germany at the tournament. 

Once Musiala drilled home, Germany became the first team to have two players aged 21 or younger score for them in the same Euros match.

But it was not all about the flair of youth at the Allianz Arena, where the only blemish on Germany's copybook was an Antonio Rudiger own goal as Scotland mustered a meagre 0.01 xG and failed to have a shot on target.

Kroos, in the first game of his swansong, led the game for touches (108), and completed 101 (99 per cent) of his 102 passes. It was his crossfield pass that opened up the pitch for Joshua Kimmich to cut inside from the right and lay on Wirtz's opener.

Gundogan nipped around, linking the play; the Barcelona midfielder won the penalty from which Kai Havertz made it 3-0 – and which led to Scotland defender Ryan Porteous becoming the second Scottish player sent off at a major tournament, after Craig Burley in the 1998 World Cup against Morocco. 

At the back, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer made his 35th appearance at a major tournament. It saw the 38-year-old surpass Philipp Lahm as Germany's all-time appearance maker in the Euros and World Cup combined.

Indeed, for all the talk that Nagelsmann had gone with a relatively inexperienced squad for this home tournament, and that it could act as a way to build towards the 2026 World Cup, Germany's starting XI on Friday had an average age of 29 years and 22 days. 

 

That makes it Germany's oldest starting XI at a World Cup or Euros since 2000.

There was a healthy balance all around the pitch for Germany, as Nagelsmann became only the second manager to win by four goals in his first game at the European Championship, along with Lars Lagerback in 2004 (Sweden 5-0 Bulgaria).

And the men in the middle are worth a mention.

Havertz is no longer the bright new hope for German football, but the 25-year-old was hugely impressive as he led the line, providing the assist for Musiala and coolly converting his penalty.

Niclas Fullkrug, fresh from helping Borussia Dortmund reach the Champions League final, replaced Havertz around the hour mark. Soon after, he fired in a wonderful strike.

He will be playing a back-up role in this tournament, but he should not mind that. Three of Fullkrug's major tournament goals have been as a sub, a joint-record for a European nation, along with Hungary's Laszlo Kiss, Portugal's Rui Costa, and Germany's Andre Schurrle.

Fullkrug's club-mate Emre Can, a late call-up, rounded matters off late on. 

Germany have not always clicked under Nagelsmann, but they are clearly the best team in Group A and have the weight of a nation behind them.

Hungary and Switzerland will likely provide sterner tests than Scotland, though with a perfect blend of youth and experience, the hosts laid down a marker.

Andy Robertson admitted Scotland "didn't turn up" in the first half of their chastening 5-1 defeat to Euro 2024 hosts Germany on Friday.

Backed by a vocal travelling contingent in Munich, Scotland were chasing their first major tournament victory since the turn of the century but were torn apart by Julian Nagelsmann's side.

Florian Wirtz, Jamal Musiala and Kai Havertz netted as Scotland went into half-time three goals and a man down, having seen Ryan Porteous sent off for a wild challenge on Ilkay Gundogan.

Substitutes Niclas Fullkrug and Emre Can then scored in the second half either side of an Antonio Rudiger own goal, as Scotland conceded five goals in a game for the first time since a 5-1 friendly defeat to the United States in May 2012.

At the other end, Scotland failed to record a single shot on target in a major tournament match for the first time since a 1-0 loss to the Netherlands at Euro 1992.

Speaking to ITV Sport after the full-time whistle, Liverpool left-back Robertson said Scotland's players had let boss Steve Clarke down.

"In the first half we didn't really show up. We weren't aggressive enough, we let good players on the ball," Robertson said.

"They obviously had a gameplan, like we did. Their gameplan worked a million times better than ours but it wasn't because of the practice, it was because we didn't put it together on the pitch.

"When big occasions like this come, you have to do that. In the second half, down to 10 men, I thought the lads dug in really well, to be fair to them. 

"We could have drawn the second half but it's no consolation. We're well backed here with so many supporters, and today was hugely disappointing.

"Playing against the host nation in the first game, you don't get much tougher than that. But we have to bounce back quickly because there was a lot of things wrong today."

Scotland's defeat was their heaviest at any major tournament since the 1954 World Cup, when they were trounced 7-0 by then-world champions Uruguay.

They have five days to put the result out of their minds ahead of their second Group A match, against Switzerland at the RheinEnergieStadion in Koln.

"It's a reminder of how tough this tournament is. You're playing against world-class players and their players turned up all over the park," Robertson added.

"They had an answer for everything we had. Sometimes that happens but if we sit down, we can't think we played to our maximum, and you have to do that. 

"We have five days to sort ourselves out and go again, it will be another tough test against Switzerland. We'll take tomorrow to be angry at ourselves but then come Sunday, we have to be positive."

Euro 2024 hosts Germany got off to a flying start as they comprehensively dispatched Scotland 5-1 on Friday.

Goals from Florian Wirtz, Jamal Musiala, Kai Havertz and Niclas Fullkrug blew Scotland away at the Allianz Arena.

But while the football entertained, there was also plenty of action on social media.

Here's a pick of the best posts.

The special... two?

Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson enjoyed a great rivalry on the touchline down the years, but there was no sign of that as the two watched on from the stands in Munich.

Unfortunately for Ferguson, Scotland were on the receiving end of a hammering.

We can only wonder what these two greats had to say about Scotland's sorry performance, though surely they will have been full of praise for Germany.

Honouring a great

Franz Beckenbauer passed away in January, and ahead of the opening game, his wife Heidi led a touching tribute to der Kaiser.

Moral support

Nathan Patterson is not fit to feature for Scotland, but the Everton full-back has travelled out to Germany to support his team-mates.

Unfortunately for Scotland, it didn't quite work out, and Patterson will be needing to provide plenty of moral support after their heavy defeat in Munich.

Pickford gets quizzed

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was fulfilling his media duties on Friday, and he stopped by to answer some fan questions ahead of the Three Lions' opener against Serbia.

Pickford was quizzed on how he copes with the pressure as kick-off approaches - "Enjoy the moment", he said - while revealing former England shot-stopper Joe Hart, who retired last month, has served as an inspiration.

Young guns exciting Schweinsteiger 

Bastian Schweinsteiger helped Germany to World Cup glory in 2014, so it feels like he is pretty well placed to pass judgement on up and coming stars.

And when asked on X for the players he was most excited to see in action at Euro 2024, the former Bayern Munich midfielder picked out Florian Wirtz, Cole Palmer and Rafael Leao.

Wirtz certainly delivered, as he starred in Germany's big win over Scotland. Will Palmer and Leao be equally as impressive for England and Portugal respectively?

Picture perfect

Olivier Giroud is one handsome devil, so it's no surprise that he's a photographer's dream.

That being said, it's rare that the person behind the camera is one of his team-mates, but Giroud could only smile, and offer a cheeky pose, as Benjamin Pavard sneakily grabbed a camera and tried to get the perfect shot while the France number nine was holding a press conference.

Euro 2024 is almost upon us, with Europe's finest preparing to battle it out to be crowned continental champions in Germany.

It all gets under way on Friday as Julian Nagelsmann's hosts face Scotland at the Allianz Arena. 

It seems remarkable to think Die Nationalelf – the most successful national team in Europe – have gone eight years without a knockout win at a major tournament, and they will be desperately hoping home advantage inspires a better run this time around.

England, meanwhile, will be looking to bring football home and end 58 years of hurt in the country their captain Harry Kane thrived in last season.

The Three Lions' 2022 World Cup hopes were ended by France, who are again among the favourites. There is plenty more intrigue elsewhere, from defending champions Italy being drawn in a 'group of death' with Spain and Croatia to Cristiano Ronaldo leading Portugal into a sixth edition of the Euros.

And who could forget Georgia's first tournament as an independent nation, or Scotland's attempts to upset the odds in Group A?

As Euros fever grips the continent, we run through the main storylines and contenders, pick out some underdogs and breakout stars to watch and take a look at the Opta supercomputer's predictions.

THE HOSTS

This will be the first edition of the Euros to take place solely in a unified Germany, though the Allianz Arena hosted games at Euro 2020 and West Germany staged the 1988 tournament – won by the Netherlands as Marco van Basten scored one of the most iconic goals in history against the USSR in the final.

This will be Germany's fourth major tournament as sole hosts overall, and they have always gone far on home soil, winning the 1974 World Cup and going out in the semi-finals at Euro 1988 and the 2006 World Cup.

Hopes were not high for them in late 2023 as a dismal run of friendly results saw Hansi Flick become the first Germany coach to be sacked. However, Nagelsmann has restored optimism and has a supremely talented group of players to work with.

Florian Wirtz's emergence as one of Europe's best attacking midfielders offers cause for excitement – the 21-year-old scored 11 goals and added 11 assists during Bayer Leverkusen's unbeaten Bundesliga title-winning campaign to claim Player of the Season honours.

Wirtz, Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan will likely support Kai Havertz in a fluid attacking quartet, while Toni Kroos' presence in midfield will be a major boost to a team that averaged 59.3 per cent possession at Euro 2020 – second only to Spain (66.8 per cent).

Kroos – who won his sixth Champions League with Real Madrid this month – played more line-breaking passes (214) and passes leading to final-third entries (69) than any other player in Europe's premier club competition in 2023-24.

The major question mark could pertain to Kroos' partner, with Germany having lacked a true midfield enforcer for some time.

They have conceded at least one goal in their last 12 major tournament games, last keeping a clean sheet against Slovakia in the last 16 at Euro 2016. Will that soft underbelly cost them again?

THE FAVOURITES

England

England's Euro 2024 preparations have been far from perfect, with defensive mainstay Harry Maguire missing out through injury and their final friendly ending in defeat against Iceland. However, Gareth Southgate's side enter the tournament as the Opta supercomputer's favourites.

It is not difficult to see why. In Kane, England have a striker whose tally of 44 goals in 2023-24 was only matched by Kylian Mbappe among players from Europe's top five leagues.

In Jude Bellingham, they have the outstanding player from Madrid's double-winning side, recording 36 goal involvements (23 goals, 13 assists) in his debut season in Spain. 

And in Phil Foden, Southgate can call upon the Premier League's Player of the Season, who produced talismanic performances against Manchester United, Aston Villa and West Ham to cap Manchester City's fourth straight title success. 

With Southgate thought likely to depart whatever the outcome of England's campaign, this tournament must be the culmination of their development into genuine contenders. Penalty shoot-outs excluded, England have only lost one of their last 18 Euros games (10 wins, seven draws) – against Iceland in 2016. 

With Marc Guehi now likely to partner John Stones following injury-disrupted campaigns for both players, the key may be Southgate's ability to protect his backline. 

Across the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and Euro 2020, England conceded just 0.59 goals per game and allowed opponents a paltry 0.72 expected goals (xG) per match – a figure only bettered by France (0.67) among the leading European teams to make each tournament. Reproducing that kind of solidity will be crucial. 

France

Didier Deschamps is eyeing history in Germany, where he could become the first person to win the World Cup and the Euros as both a player and a manager. 

Having reached the final at three of their last four major tournaments, Les Bleus are right up there among the favourites again.

The likes of Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema may be gone, but France still boast an incredible depth of talent, with Mbappe leading from the front as captain.

Mbappe endured a terrible tournament at Euro 2020, failing to score from chances amounting to 1.7 xG in four games, before missing the vital penalty as France were beaten by Switzerland in a last-16 shoot-out. 

Coming into this tournament on the back of a 44-goal season with Paris Saint-Germain and with his long-term future decided, few expect a repeat from Madrid's newest Galactico. 

Among the more interesting selections from Deschamps is a recall for N'Golo Kante, who was missed at the 2022 World Cup but failed to prevent Al-Ittihad from finishing a lowly fifth in the Saudi Pro League in 2023-24. With Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni also included, opposing midfielders are in for a tough time. 

A difficult group-stage draw means France will be tested from the very off, though. If they can top a pool containing the Netherlands, Austria and Poland, they could be on course to meet England in a titanic semi-final. 

Spain

Spain are the only nation to win back-to-back editions of the Euros, bookending their golden era by triumphing in 2008 and 2012. Since then, La Roja have won just two knockout ties at five major tournaments, with a 2022 World Cup exit to Morocco their nadir.  

Luis de la Fuente is the man tasked with bringing back the good times, and victory in the 2022-23 edition of the Nations League represented a decent start.

However, La Roja have been drawn into what is surely the toughest group at the Euros, with Croatia and Italy their first two opponents before they face Albania.

Spain's attractive, possession-based brand of football won them plenty of plaudits at Euro 2020 and the Qatar World Cup, but it did not win them enough games, with Italy, Japan and Morocco all keeping them at arm's length at those tournaments.

As well as averaging the most passes per sequence during Euro 2024 qualifying (six), Spain averaged the most sequences of 10+ passes per game (28.5). Adding an end product is now the aim of the game.

Alvaro Morata must step up after missing a tournament-high six big chances at Euro 2020. He did score 15 goals in LaLiga last term, though, and exciting wide duo Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams should provide him with plenty of service.

Spain's key men in midfield will be Pedri and Rodri.

Man City star Rodri saw his 18-month unbeaten run ended by Manchester United in last month's FA Cup final, but he developed into more than a midfield enforcer in 2023-24, scoring nine goals and adding 14 assists. 

Pedri, meanwhile, netted twice in a dominant 5-1 win over Northern Ireland last week, and is back to form after an stop-start season with Barcelona. His Blaugrana team-mate Gavi will be absent through injury, however.

If La Roja are to add punch to their possession play, this pair may need to be the driving force. 

Portugal

Portugal are the fifth team to be given more than a nine per cent chance of glory by the Opta supercomputer, as Cristiano Ronaldo heads into his 11th – and potentially final – tournament. 

Injury limited Ronaldo to the role of cheerleader when Portugal won Euro 2016, but he has already written his name into the competition's record books and can underline his legacy further in Germany.

Ronaldo holds the records for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – since 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five) at the Euros. 

His place was called into question at the Qatar World Cup, but Roberto Martinez has built around him since taking over last year, with the Selecao plundering 36 goals in 10 qualifiers and conceding just two.

With the likes of Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Rafael Leao, Joao Felix, Diogo Jota and Pedro Neto all making their squad, Portugal have one of the most exciting attacking line-ups at the tournament. 

A kind group-stage draw – pitting them against Czechia, Turkiye and tournament debutants Georgia also plays into their hands – and the Selecao also know topping Group F would put them on the opposite side of the draw to England and France, should they also win their groups.

Lionel Messi's triumph at the last World Cup will only have heightened Ronaldo's desire for more international silverware. With a strong supporting cast behind him, he should not be written off.

THE UNDERDOGS

Scotland

Scotland fell flat on their first tournament appearance of the century at Euro 2020, but there are reasons to suggest the Tartan Army might have more to cheer this time around. 

Steve Clarke's side were promoted to the top tier of the Nations League in 2022-23, while a famous 2-0 win over Spain at Hampden Park – courtesy of a Scott McTominay double – set the tone for their successful qualification campaign.

Having lost Aaron Hickey, Nathan Patterson and Lewis Ferguson to injury, Clarke's men face a difficult first test against Germany. However, one win could be enough to qualify under the 24-team format, and they might just fancy their chances of upsetting Hungary or Switzerland. 

Austria

Looking to bloody the noses of France and the Netherlands in Group D are Austria, tipped by many to be something of a surprise package under Ralf Rangnick.

Austria finished just one point behind Belgium in qualifying, Rangnick needing little time to implement his high-pressing style. They allowed opponents just 8.3 passes per defensive action (PPDA) in qualifying – the fewest of any team.

Austria also attacked with the highest direct speed (2.03 metres per second), and if their Group D opponents do not match their intensity, they could spring a surprise.

Georgia

One of the stories of the tournament can be found in Group F, with Georgia featuring at a major tournament for the first time as an independent nation – they are the only Euros debutants in Germany.

They failed to qualify directly - their Nations League performance teeing up a penalty shoot-out victory over Greece in the play-offs. They were the only team to reach the tournament while posting a negative goal difference (-6) in their qualifying group.

When it comes to one-off games, though, they do have match-winners. Napoli's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia completed the joint-most dribbles of any player in qualifying (44), alongside Jeremy Doku, also scoring four goals and providing one assist.

Georgia also have international pedigree in the dugout, with Willy Sagnol their head coach. The former France right-back only lost one of his 12 games at major tournaments as a player (six wins, five draws).

THE BREAKOUT STARS

All eyes may be on Kane, Mbappe and Ronaldo, but major tournaments are often defined by breakout stars, those players who earn big-money moves or become household names within a matter of days.

Slovenia's Benjamin Sesko could be a candidate, having attracted interest from several of Europe's biggest clubs, though he has now signed a new deal with RB Leipzig. Bellingham (19) was the only player aged 21 or younger to better his 14 goals in Europe's big five leagues last term. 

The Netherlands, who are shorn of Frenkie de Jong, may need to spread the goals around in the absence of a top-class number nine, and Feyenoord's Lutsharel Geertruida – who has played at centre-back, right-back or in midfield – had 13 goal involvements in the Eredivisie last term (eight goals, five assists).

Defending champions Italy are being overlooked by many as Luciano Spalletti oversees a period of transition. Inter midfielder Davide Frattesi could emerge as a star for the Azzurri, having scored five goals in 15 caps – more than any team-mate since his debut in 2022.

This tournament has been touted as something of a last dance for Belgium's 'Golden Generation', and PSV winger Johan Bakayoko is the Red Devils' next big hope. Only seven players bettered his 164 opposition-half take-ons in Europe's top six leagues last term, with fellow Belgium wide-man Doku (171) among them.

The supercomputer's prediction

According to the Opta supercomputer, football may finally arrive home on July 14. 

England emerged triumphant in 19.9 per cent of Opta's 10,000 tournament simulations, making them favourites ahead of France (19.1 per cent).

There is then a significant gap to the third favourites, with Germany victorious on home soil in 12.4 per cent of projections, ahead of Spain (9.6 per cent) and Portugal (9.2 per cent). 

The Netherlands (5.1 per cent) and Italy (5.0 per cent) are next, with tough group-stage draws working against them. Belgium (4.7 per cent), Denmark (2.2 per cent) and Croatia (2 per cent) round out the top 10.

Florian Wirtz will stay at Bayer Leverkusen next season despite interest from Europe's elite clubs, says Die Werkself's managing director Simon Rolfes.

Wirtz has been in irresistible form throughout Xabi Alonso's first full season at the BayArena, which could yet end with an unbeaten treble.

Leverkusen won 28 of their 34 games as they became the first team to go unbeaten through a Bundesliga campaign, and they face a pair of finals this week – against Atalanta in the Europa League and Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal.

Wirtz was named Bundesliga Player of the Year earlier this week, having scored 11 goals and provided 11 assists throughout the campaign. He has also been involved in eight goals (four goals, four assists) and created 28 chances from open play in the Europa League this term.

That form has reportedly put the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Manchester United on alert, but Leverkusen are not entertaining a sale.

"He will stay. His father and agent said it before. He has a contract here and he's really happy," Rolfes told Sky Sports.

"This is the right place for him to develop as a player and person. His future is bright, that's for sure. He is such a good player and shows a great will to win and to work. 

"It's not normally the attribute of a number 10 but he combines talent with the work rate of a six or a defensive player along with producing special magic moments."

When Bayern Munich last failed to win the Bundesliga title in 2012, they responded by raiding rivals Borussia Dortmund for the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze and Mats Hummels over the next few years.

Asked if Leverkusen had any concerns about that happening to them, Rolfes said: "For sure 10, 15 or 20 years ago that was a normal thing but things are changing. The European environment has changed a lot. 

"It's an international market now with the Premier League, and clubs in Spain, Italy and France as well."

Bayern were, alongside Liverpool, unsuccessful in attempting to lure Alonso away from Westphalia, and Rolfes says he was always convinced the Spaniard would stay.

"Maybe that was a little more special but I'm always convinced you have to concentrate on your strengths," he said. 

"I was convinced we could offer a lot to him and our players with other interest in them. That's why I was always calm."

 

Florian Wirtz played a starring role for Bayer Leverkusen this season and has been named the Bundesliga Player of the Year.

Wirtz scored 11 goals and provided a further 11 assists on the way to helping Leverkusen win their first-ever top-flight title.

The forward was pivotal in Leverkusen’s title charge as they became the first German team to complete an unbeaten season.

Only Victor Boniface has scored more goals than Wirtz this campaign, netting 14 times, while his tally of 11 assists is second only to Alejandro Grimaldo (13) across the Bundesliga.

Wirtz came off the bench to score a hat-trick in Leverkusen’s 5-0 win over Werder Bremen in April which clinched the title with five games remaining.

The Bundesliga champions still have the German Cup final on Saturday against Kaiserslautern, which follows the Europa League final against Atalanta on Wednesday.

Wirtz played a critical role in helping Leverkusen reach their third European final, having been involved in eight goals in the Europa League this season (four goals, four assists), the most of any player in the team.

He has also created 28 chances from open play in the competition, a tally only five players can better in a Europa League campaign, most recently Amin Younes for Ajax in 2016-17 (30).

In all competitions, Leverkusen’s unbeaten run stretches to 51 matches, as they aim to finish an unbeaten season with a treble.

Bayer Leverkusen will find it tough to overcome Atalanta in the Europa League final, manager Xabi Alonso said. 

The Italian side knocked out Premier League heavyweights Liverpool and three-times finalists Marseille in previous rounds.

But Leverkusen have plans of their own as they chase a treble of titles, having recently been crowned as the new Bundesliga champions.

Currently on an extraordinary 50-match run this season, Leverkusen play Gian Piero Gasperini's side, who are fifth in Serie A, in Dublin on May 22.

"Atalanta is one of the best teams in Europe. The coach has a clear plan, they have a great mentality and a big squad," Alonso told reporters on Wednesday.

"If we do our best, we have a chance, but it will be tight. They are a top team."

With the league title in the bag, Leverkusen are fully focused on winning both their finals, which includes the German Cup clash against Kaiserslautern on May 25.

But before that, they have a home game against Augsburg in the league on Saturday.

"The feeling is very good, we're looking forward to playing two finals. It's a great opportunity for us. We have time to prepare. There's still the Bundesliga game, but of course we're already focussing on the two finals," the Spaniard said.

"With the Bundesliga decided, we can focus more on the Europa League than if there was still something at stake. But the Bundesliga is not over yet, and we respect Augsburg."

Midfielder Florian Wirtz, who has scored 18 goals for Leverkusen in all competitions this campaign, is better after missing the last two games through injury.

"We'll take it slowly and look day by day. There's no risk of a more serious injury, it's all about the pain. We'll see how it looks again tomorrow," Alonso added.

Bayer Leverkusen put one foot in the Europa League final as Florian Wirtz and Robert Andrich scored in Thursday's 2-0 semi-final first-leg win over Roma at the Stadio Olimpico.

Roma were masters of their own downfall as Wirtz opened the scoring after 28 minutes, Rick Karsdorp's horrible error allowing Alex Grimaldo to race into the area and tee up Wirtz to finish into an unguarded net.

Though Daniele De Rossi's hosts improved after the break, Andrich added a spectacular second with 73 minutes on the clock, the midfielder giving Mile Svilar no chance as he side-footed into the top-left corner from 25 yards out.

Roma should have pulled one back four minutes into stoppage time, but Tammy Abraham could only nod over from inside the six-yard box after a goalmouth scramble, and they now have it all to do in next week's second leg.

Leverkusen's unbeaten run for 2023-24 stands at 47 games across all competitions (39 wins, eight draws), and they are now overwhelming favourites to stamp their ticket to the final in Dublin.

The other semi-final tie remains in the balance at the halfway stage, with Atalanta being pegged back in a 1-1 draw with Marseille at the Stade Velodrome.

Having scored twice in La Dea's memorable win at Anfield in the last round, Gianluca Scamacca took in Teun Koopmeiners' pass before finishing low across goal 11 minutes in, but Gian Piero Gasperini's team couldn't hold on.

Chancel Mbemba was the unlikely goalscorer for Marseille, stepping out of defence to clip a 25-yard effort against the far post and in after 20 minutes.

Neither side could find a winner from there, meaning it's all to play for ahead of next week's return fixture at the Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo.  

West Ham bowed out of the Europa League but only after giving new German champions Bayer Leverkusen an almighty fright.

Michail Antonio’s early goal had the Hammers, 2-0 down from the first leg, dreaming of inflicting a first defeat of the season on Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen and of maybe reaching a third European semi-final in three years.

But they were unable to find a second and were then left crastfallen when a deflected goal from Jeremie Frimpong a minute from time made it 1-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate to end the Hammers’ hopes.

Few gave David Moyes’ side any chance of overturning the deficit against one of the best teams in Europe, even if they were a little jaded after celebrating their first Bundesliga crown on Sunday.

At the very least West Ham knew they needed a fast start, and both the team and the crowd were instantly unrecognisable from the meek 2-0 home defeat by Fulham four days earlier.

The first shot in anger did come from Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz, whose 20-yard effort was acrobatically saved by Hammers keeper Lukasz Fabianksi despite it being his 39th birthday.

But the first goal was always going to have to come from West Ham if they were going to make anything resembling a contest out of it, and it arrived in the 14th minute when Jarrod Bowen swung a cross into the box.

Antonio got above Leverkusen centre-half Odilon Kossounou and in front of keeper Matej Kovar to guide his header into the net as a raucous home crowd genuinely started to believe something special could be in the air.

It was almost two four minutes later when Mohammed Kudus shook off the attentions of Kossounou and hit a deflected shot which Kovar did well to smother.

It was enough to rattle Alonso, who removed Kossounou from the firing line with less than half an hour gone, the Ivory Coast defender heading straight down the tunnel.

Tempers flared between the benches moments later with the Hammers’ mild-mannered first-team coach Billy McKinlay sent off along with Sebastian Parrilla from Leverkusen’s bench.

Still West Ham attacked and Edson Avarez’s shot looked goalbound until it hit Antonio’s backside, with Kovar holding Bowen’s follow-up.

Alonso made two further changes at the break, with big guns Victor Boniface and Frimpong called into action.

After the break Bowen, still a lively presence despite only passing a late fitness test, robbed Piero Hincapie in the area only to pull his shot across goal.

But Leverkusen were finding their rhythm. Frimpong should have wrapped up the tie with 10 minutes left when he raced through one-on-one with Fabianski, only to lift his shot way over the crossbar.

But with two minutes left Frimpong did strike, his shot taking a huge deflection off Aaron Cresswell to end West Ham’s European adventure.

Florian Wirtz should follow Xabi Alonso's lead and reject interest from Europe's top clubs to stay at Bayer Leverkusen beyond this season, says former Germany international Carsten Ramelow.

Wirtz has been one of the standout performers in a remarkable campaign for Leverkusen, who are just one win away from clinching their first Bundesliga title.

The attacking midfielder has 18 goal involvements in 28 league outings this term (eight goals, 10 assists), with his latest goal coming from the penalty spot in Saturday's win over Union Berlin.  

Among all Bundesliga players, Wirtz ranks third for successful dribbles (77), fifth for chances created (70) and fourth for expected assists (9.23 xA) this season.

His performances have won him plenty of admirers, with Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid among those credited with an interest in the 20-year-old.

However, after seeing head coach Alonso reaffirm his commitment to Leverkusen, Ramelow, who made over 400 appearances for Die Werkself between 1995 and 2008, thinks Wirtz should follow suit. 

"For Leverkusen, he is indispensable," the 2002 World Cup finalist told Stats Perform. "The same goes for the national team, where he has found a good role. 

"There's a lot of speculation. When you're in great form, the big teams come knocking. Leverkusen hope he will continue with them for a while and move on after that. 

"In my opinion, it would be good for his development to stay in Leverkusen, because you can see if young players leave too early, it is not always good."

With Alonso refusing to jump ship, Ramelow feels Leverkusen still have plenty to offer Wirtz, saying: "To show consistent performances, you have to be where you feel happy, and I think Leverkusen is a good place currently. 

"They are so consistent. They have a lot of confidence and also a pinch of luck in the final moments to win games. That's really good. You have to look at the collective, the coach and his staff.

"But of course, Wirtz is a very young player who showed his talent many times over the last few years. He has made really good development and has lots more to come.

"Why not continue on that path for another one, two, maybe even three years and make the next step afterwards? This is what I think is the right way, but we will see what decision Wirtz takes."

Remarkably, Leverkusen are yet to lose a game in any competition this season. They have just six further games to navigate in the Bundesliga, while they will face second tier Kaiserslautern in May's DFB-Pokal final and are among the favourites to win the Europa League.

 As Leverkusen look to banish the ghosts of 2001-02 – when they finished as runners up in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League – Ramelow says all the credit lies with Alonso.

"When he arrived in Leverkusen, he was facing a few problems, which is normal. I think you have to give managers some time in this day and age," Ramelow said.

"That is what they did with him. He explained his philosophy and ideas very well to the team. The boys execute that really well. 

"The whole package is in perfect harmony. The season they have played is phenomenal. Their streak is sensational and it looks like they will do this until the end. 

"Every team has a bit of a lapse every season, but Leverkusen have been exceptional across all competitions. They can still win everything. Things are looking really good."

Bayer Leverkusen stayed on course for a German league and cup double by thumping Fortuna Dusseldorf 4-0 to reach the DFB-Pokal final.

Jeremie Frimpong, Amine Adli and Florian Wirtz scored first-half goals as runaway Bundesliga leaders Leverkusen made light work of second-tier opponents at the BayArena.

Wirtz added a fourth from the penalty spot as Xabi Alonso’s side – who are also in the quarter-finals of the Europa League – made it 40 games unbeaten in all competitions this season.

Dusseldorf’s away form in Bundesliga – seven wins and four draws from 14 games – had given them semi-final hope, but this was a much tougher challenge than they were accustomed to.

The size of their task was laid bare within four minutes when Emmanuel Iyoha’s last-ditch tackle prevented Frimpong from opening the scoring.

Marlon Mustapha instantly managed a weak shot at the other end, but the unmarked Frimpong rifled Leverkusen ahead after seven minutes with a ferocious shot into the roof of the net.

Leverkusen doubled their lead after 20 minutes from a lightning counter-attack launched from deep inside their own penalty area.

Wirtz released Adli and his unerring low finish into the corner of the net gave goalkeeper Florian Kastenmeier no chance.

There was a massive chasm between the sides and Leverkusen rammed home their superiority after 35 minutes.

Dusseldorf were caught out playing from the back and Adli repaid the compliment as Wirtz finished in style.

Wirtz saw another effort tipped over by Kastenmeier before Andre Hoffmann and Christos Tzolis threatened for Dusseldorf.

But Matej Kovar stood firm in the home goal and Leverkusen added a fourth on the hour mark.

Patrik Schick’s header was going wide, but the ball clipped the hand of Matthias Zimmermann to be diverted on to the post.

It was definitely not an intentional intervention from Zimmerman, but the referee was sent to the monitor for a VAR review and a penalty awarded.

Wirtz, fresh from scoring after six seconds for Germany against France, sent his devastating spot-kick in to the corner.

Dusseldorf wanted their own penalty after 74 minutes when Tzolis tangled with Frimpong in the box.

On first glance it looked as if Tzolis had got there first, but on closer examination Frimpong’s challenge was shown to be legitimate.

Leverkusen welcomed back Victor Boniface for the final 15 minutes, the 16-goal Nigeria striker having not played since December 20 because of a muscle injury.

Substitute Nathan Tella was denied a late fifth, but the party had already started with flares lighting up the BayArena.

Leverkusen – 13 points clear of Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga – will play second-tier Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal final in Berlin on May 25.

Florian Wirtz scored after just seven seconds as Germany grabbed a surprise 2-0 friendly win over France in Lyon.

The 20-year-old Bayer Leverkusen forward struck moments after kick-off as the Euro 2024 hosts stunned the tournament favourites.

There was also an immediate assist for Toni Kroos, back in a Germany shirt three years after announcing his international retirement.

Straight from the whistle, the 34-year-old chipped the ball forward to Wirtz, who had darted to midway inside the France half.

Wirtz controlled the ball, took two more touches as he strolled forward before lashing his shot home from 20 yards.

It was the youngster’s first goal for his country and would have been the fastest international goal on record had Austria’s Christoph Baumgartner not opened the scoring after six seconds in his country’s friendly against Slovakia earlier on Saturday.

The previous quickest was Lukas Podolski’s strike for Germany against Ecuador in 2013.

France dominated the rest of the first half but Marcus Thuram side-footed their first decent chance over the crossbar from the edge of the box.

Kylian Mbappe then brought down a cross in the area only to shank his shot wide, before Aurelien Tchouameni skied a cross from Ousmane Dembele.

But Germany made it to half-time in front and promptly doubled their lead three minutes into the second half.

Wirtz turned provider, lifting the ball into the path of Jamal Musiala, who drove diagonally round France goalkeeper Brice Samba.

The Bayern Munich winger reached the byline before pulling the ball back for Arsenal forward Havertz to slot in his 15th international goal.

Mbappe, enduring a quiet evening, got himself booked after a tussle with Robert Andrich before firing an ambitious shot wide.

Stuttgart defender Maximilian Mittelstadt almost made it a debut to remember 10 minutes from full-time when he strode forward and fired goalwards.

His shot looked destined to nestle inside the far post until Samba stretched to get a fingertip to the ball and divert it wide.

Samba also denied Thomas Muller with a fine one-handed save after the substitute shot from 14 yards.

Mittelstadt was spared a comical own goal late on by a goal-line clearance from Antonio Rudiger, who sliced the ball onto his own crossbar to cap an ultimately disappointing night for the French.

Substitute Patrick Schick glanced home an injury-time equaliser to preserve Bayer Leverkusen’s remarkable unbeaten record and hand his side control of their Europa League last-16 tie against FC Qarabag.

The Bundesliga leaders looked like giving up their run of 34 matches unbeaten in all competitions when they went in 2-0 down at half-time in Baku, Juninho setting up the first and scoring the second with a silky piece of skill.

But Alonso, who had made eight changes to his starting XI, turned to his bench for inspiration and was rewarded as Florian Wirtz scored a delicate chip and Schick nodded in from close range in added-time.

It was a cruel finish for the Azerbaijani side, who lost twice to the same opponents in the group stages, but a further reminder of the resolve that Leverkusen have developed during a revelatory campaign.

Only Jonathan Tah, Robert Andrich and Alex Grimaldo survived the weekend win over Cologne and Qarabag took their chance to assert themselves in a lively start.

After forging three good chances in quick succession they deservedly took the lead in the 26th minute, Juninho robbing Tah on the press before cutting back across the box for Yassine Benzia. His powerful finish thudded into the roof of the net as the hosts turned up the heat.

The Germans were slow to respond, allowing Leandro Andrade a free header at the far post, and could have no complaints when they conceded again. This time it was brilliance from Juninho, who collected a beauty of a pass to spring the offside trap and race through one on one with Matej Kovar. With the deftest of touches he dragged the ball across the keeper, bouncing it over him with a kick off the pitch and leaving an open net to tap into.

Jeremie Frimpong, Granit Xhaka, Wirtz and Schick were all summoned for the rescue job and it was a much improved Leverkusen who hit back when Wirtz produced an inch-perfect lob in the 70th minute.

Kovar made a strong save from Juninho to keep the scoreline down and the ruthless visiting side hit their sucker punch just as time was running out, Schick planting Andrich’s cross into the bottom corner.

Leverkusen almost turned a draw into a win when Frimpong put a last-gasp header wide and will fancy themselves to finish the job on home soil.

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