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Germany focused on the positives despite issues in build-up to Euro 2024 opener

Pascal Gross, who turns 33 on Saturday, may never score a more resonant goal than the one he netted late on Friday night. It will rank as one of the finest finishes Gross, a midfielder who has never won a major medal at senior club level, files away in his scrapbook, too – a beautifully clean volley, from outside the opposition penalty area.

There were 89 minutes on the clock in Monchengladbach. With a combination of daring and textbook technique, Gross, a second half substitute, had saved Germany from the ignominy of going into their own European Championship without a morale-boosting win against Greece, the 50th-ranked team in international football.

Greece will not be at the Euros. Nor, thankfully for the hosts, will Japan or Colombia, both of who have beaten Germany in Germany in the last 12 months.

But there have also been losses to Turkey, Poland and Austria, outsiders at this summer’s Championship and nations on the long list of underdogs who made Germany’s 2023 their worst calendar year, in terms of results, since 1964.

The previous year might equally have been classed as Germany’s most humiliating, what with its group-stage elimination from the Qatar World Cup, except that the 2018 World Cup had been as bad, given that the Germans went to Russia as title-holders and came home after three games.

These are the many punctuation marks on a 10-year decline. And this is Germany, once famed as peerless tournament specialists.

It’s that fame that breeds a special form of nostalgia when a big tournament lands there. Over the last week, German broadcasters have been ushering in Friday’s kick-off with various rose-tinted documentaries about successes past.

There’s been a deep dive into the dreamy World Cup in Brazil 10