Wide boys Kimmich and Hector step up for Germany on big stage

While experienced penalty-takers Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Mueller were among those who failed from the spot in Germany's Euro 2016 shoot-out victory over Italy on Saturday, novices Jonas Hector and Joshua Kimmich notched key conversions.

And it was fitting that Hector, who only established himself in the Germany side during the Euro qualifying campaign, could bag the winner and set up a semi-final clash with France or Iceland in Marseille on Thursday.

"I knew I had to take one at some point and I had my heart in my mouth," the 26-year-old Cologne full-back said.

"It's hard to put into words, but I am overjoyed that it went in. There weren't many people left to kick."

Hector had stepped up to take Germany's ninth kick of the marathon shoot-out so there were only two people left behind him in the queue.

But after Manuel Neuer had saved from Matteo Darmian moments earlier, Germany had their second chance to secure victory - and after Schweinsteiger had scooped high over the bar, Hector did not fail.

In truth it was not the best penalty ever taken but it was low and ended up in that awkward area for keepers not especially close to the post - Gianluigi Buffon actually dived over the ball and it sneaked into the net under his wrist.

"We're happy to have gone a round further, it was really stressful and of course luck played its part," Hector admitted.

Hector had played an impressive game, bombing up and down the left flank as part of Germany's fresh 3-5-2 system, a tactical switch made by coach Joachim Loew for this match.

He was sound defensively, posed a threat going forward and it was his cross which deflected into the path of Mesut Oezil for the opening goal.

Though at his first tournament, Hector has a bit more experience than his opposite number on the right side, Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich.

He too converted a penalty when, with his coming in sudden-death, a miss would have sent his country home.

On a couple of occasions early in the second half Kimmich did threaten to get caught too far in field as Italy switched the ball rapidly to his flank but such errors were rare - and, crucially, went unpunished.

"Usually, we have good penalty-takers, even though there were some misses," Loew said. "It was great that the youngsters like Kimmich and Hector kept their nerves on such a stage."

Loew will decide whether Kimmich and Hector return to traditional full-back roles for the semi-final or stay pushed further up the pitch, which he made abundantly clear he expects to be against France, rather than Iceland.

"Of course, if you are in the semi-finals, your goal is the final," Loew said. "So I think now we have to focus on recovering.

"A game like this affects the body. We have to make sure the players recover, it was a great effort. We were superior throughout the game, I think we had two or three chances more than them."

Last update: Sun, 03/07/2016 - 10:51
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