Thursday, July 25, 2024

Spain 1-1 Germany (2-1 AET): Talking points as titan clash goes to La Roja

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As fate would have it, the knockout stage path of Euro 2024 was such that the two teams that showed the most through the tournament met in the quarterfinals, and it was indeed a thrilling contest as Spain eventually eliminated hosts Germany.

Dani Olmo struck first for Spain in the 51st minute, and Florian Wirtz leveled the score with just over a minute of the 90 left to take the game into extra time. The excitement peaked at the very end, when Mikel Merino restored Spain’s lead in the 119th minute, and deep in stoppage time, Dani Carvajal earned a second yellow card.

The teams

Spain coach Luis de la Fuente used his preferred 4-3-3 formation again. Unai Simon was in goal, with Carvajal, Robin le Normand, Aymeric Laporte and Marc Cucurella forming the back line. Rodri anchored the midfield containing Pedri and Fabian Ruiz, while Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams supported striker Alvaro Morata from the flanks.

Olmo, who scored the opening goal, came on a substitute after only eight minutes, with Pedri forced off through injury after a hard tackle from Germany veteran Toni Kroos.

For Germany, boss Julian Nagelsmann expectedly named Manuel Neuer in goal, with the back four of David Raum, Jonathan Tah, Antonio Rudiger and Joshua Kimmich. Emre Can was preferred to Robert Andrich next to Kroos in the middle of the park, while the trio of Leroy Sane, Ilkay Gundogan and Jamal Musiala supported Kai Havertz up front.

The game

It was a relatively balanced contest, with Spain enjoying slightly more possession (52%) and the teams taking a total of 15 shots each. The first real opportunity came for Spain in the 15th minute, when Yamal’s clever free-kick trickled just wide of the post as Neuer merely looked on, though they did threaten before through Williams whose open-play shot from outside the box went considerably wide of the target. Ruiz had a go as well two minutes later, firing over the bar.

Germany responded in the 21st minute when Havertz headed on target, but Simon was alert enough to make a comfortable save. The Arsenal forward hit another accurate shot in the 35th, forcing Simon into another save. Neuer showed his quality to deny Williams from close range soon after, as the Spain winger got rid of Rudiger inside the box to create a huge chance for himself. Olmo got his first sight of goal in the 39th minute, but Neuer saved his effort from range as well.

Spain continued to threaten as both Williams and Yamal caused constant problems for the Germany defence. In the 47th minute, Yamal created a great chance for Morata, but the experienced striker fired over the bar from close range under pressure from Tah. But Yamal’s creativity was not to be denied four minutes later, when the Barcelona winger attacked from the right and slipped a pass to the edge of the box for Olmo to latch onto and put the ball past Neuer into the back of the net.

Having already replaced Can with Andrich and Sane with Florian Wirtz at halftime, Nagelsmann now had no time to wait to boost his attacking ranks, and in the 57th minute, Niclas Fullkrug joined Havertz up front, replacing Gundogan. The Borussia Dortmund striker certainly made a difference, threatening twice with headers before hitting the post from close range in the 77th minute.

Five minutes later, Simon made a huge mistake as his goal-kick ended up in possession of Havertz, who went for a lobbed the Spain ‘keeper only to see the ball drift over the bar by mere inches. But Germany finally got their equalizer in the 89th minute, as Kimmich headed across the box to set Wirtz up, and the Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder made no mistake from seven or eight yards.

Wirtz had the opportunity to replicate Olmo’s opener just as the first period of extra time expired, but his shot went slightly wide and it would eventually prove a moment that would haunt Germany later.

The hosts had a strong penalty appeal at the start of the second period as Musiala’s shot hit the hand of Cucurella, but referee Anthony Taylor did not award it and got no call from Stuart Attwell in the VAR room. And after Fullkrug failed to score from two decent chances for Germany, Spain attacked late on and Olmo eventually delivered a fine cross, adding an assist to his earlier goal as substitute Merino rose high to head into the net.

As Germany charged forward with nothing to lose, Ferran Torres, who had come on for Spain to replace Yamal earlier, had a great opportunity to deliver the final blow as he charged one-on-one with Neuer, but his chip over the Bayern Munich ‘keeper went wide. The last chance of the game came to Fullkrug for Germany, but his header in the 123rd minute also went wide. Germany, however, looked dangerous again in the 125th as Musiala took the ball away from Carvajal on the left, but the Real Madrid defender chose to bring him down deliberately and pick up his second yellow card.

Carvajal will now miss the semifinal, but the earlier booking would’ve meant him missing it anyway, so it was probably a calculated move by the veteran right-back, and paid off as the referee blew the final whistle with Spain through.

Controversies

The penalty appeal German had early in the second extra-time period is certainly something that will cause plenty of debate. Some will say that Cucurella’s arm was moving back towards his body when the ball hit it, but others will point out that it still made the Chelsea left-back considerably wider as an obstacle. Looking at it from a neutral point of view, the feeling is that Taylor and Attwell made a mistake and that it should’ve been given.

If so, the moment obviously had a great impact on the outcome, but such moments are, alas, very frequent when English officials are concerned. Both Taylor and Attwell have had plenty of dubious decision throughout their refereeing careers, exhibiting the worryingly low officiating standards in the Premier League, and now they’ve likely made a significant blunder at a major international tournament as well.

Taylor and Attwell have already been criticized at the Euros for not sending Rodri off in Spain’s opener against Croatia. On that occasion, they did award a penalty, but the Manchester City midfielder had obviously denied the Croats a clear goalscoring opportunity.

The hosts out, Spain set for France showdown

It arguably doesn’t get any easier for De la Fuente’s team after this huge triumph. France, who beat Portugal on penalties, await in the semifinals on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, football fans in Germany will be feeling extremely down at the moment and the host nation leaves the tournament, shattering the dream of being crowned continental champions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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