Spain drew with Germany 1-1 in a crucial Group E match of the World Cup at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar on Sunday.
Alvaro Morata put Spain ahead in the 62nd minute of the match, but Niclas Fullkrug equalized for Germany in the 83rd minute. Germany are thus still alive in the tournament, but they will have to beat Costa Rica in their final group match and also hope Japan does not beat Spain on the same day.
We now take a look at three things that stood out in the match:
Spain squeezed ball-possession initially with their passing football
Spain had the lion’s share of possession during the initial 20-25 minutes and hardly allowed Germany to have much of the ball with the help of their passing football.
The Spanish centre-backs Rodri and Aymeric Laporte kept playing passes between themselves, with the likes of Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Gavi joining them from time to time.
The Germans, starting with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Thomas Muller as the centre forward, preferred to sit back and defend deep during that period and relied primarily on occasional counter-attacks. There was a time when Leon Goretzka set Jamal Musiala free with a one-touch pass to start a counter attack, but Musiala’s pass to Gnabry coud not result in a goal as Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simon came to the rescue.
Spain started the match with a 4-3-3 formation and both their wingers, Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres, troubled the German fullbacks with their constant pressure. As a result, the German full-backs could hardly go into overlaps. Olmo was yet again superb in Spanish colors after having impressed in the Euro 2020 last year.
ermany started pressing high to put some pressure on the Spanish defense
As the first half progressed, Muller started pressing more purposefully higher up the pitch and was often joined by the likes of Musiala, Gnabry and Ilkay Gundogan. As a result, the Spanish defense could no longer play passes with much ease and Busquets had to often drop deep to assist the centre-backs.
Gundogan could not have much of an impact on the game playing as the No. 10 as Germany did not have much possession in the first half.
Still, Torres kept troubling David Raum through his runs and most of Spain’s attack during the first half an hour as he flowed through the former down the right flank.
Olmo also gave a torrid time to Thilo Kehrer, playing as the right-back with Niklas Sule moving to centre-back, with his darting runs through the inside-left channel. Sule played well in the first half by thwarting a few Spanish moves through the inside-left channel.
Olmo also manged to take a powerful shot at the German goal that Manuel Neuer could only partially parry before the ball hit the crossbar. Torres also had a couple of his shots blocked inside the German penalty box as Musiala did exceptional defending on one occasion. Musiala also was good in possession with his dribbling, but was probably often a touch too late in releasing the ball.
However, it was Germany who succeeded in putting the ball into the net as Antonio Rudiger headed in from a Joshua Kimmich delivery from a free-kick. However, the German centre-back was already in an offside position before heading the ball and VAR disallowed the goal.
Germany and Spain shared the spoils in the second half as the substitutions had an impact
Around 10 minutes into the second half, Spain manager Luis Enrique introduced Morata in place of Torres and shifted Marco Asensio to his usual position as a right-winger. The introduction of a genuine No. 9 had a major impact soon after, as Morata flicked the ball past Neuer from an overlapping Jordi Alba pass from the left flank.
German manager Hansi Flick responded by throwing in Leroy Sane, Fullkrug and Lukas Klostermann in place of Gundogan, Muller and Kehrer, respectively.
Sane’s introduction injected some much-needed pace to the German attacks and Fullkrug’s presence as a No. 9 also put pressure on the Spanish defense. Moreover, Klostermann’s presence lent solidity to the German defense through the right. However, there were a lot of errant passes by the Germans inside the Spanish half which kept disrupting their rhythm.
Sane started making his darting runs through the inside-right channel repeatedly and also managed to play a great pass to Musiala, who could not score from point-blank range. On another occasion, the Spanish defense lost the ball near their penalty box and Gnabry’s pass to Kimmich had the latter take a shot at the Spanish goal only to see it being saved by Simon.
It was one of Sane’s surging runs that led to Germany’s equalizer. Sane dodged past a few players to play the ball to Musiala, who could not quite keep the ball under control, but Fullkrug was beside him and got hold of the ball before finishing superbly to the upper corner of the net past Simon.
It was the 29-year-old Fullkrug’s first international goal, and could have scored more with his opportunistic instinct and direct approach. Germany’s build-ups were a lot quicker during the last quarter or so and that did not allow the Spanish defense to organize themselves in time.
Spain primarily relied on counter-attacks in the second half, but the German defense held firm to deny them any more chance of scoring. On the other side of the pitch, the Spanish defense spent some anxious final minutes, but Simon kept things under control with a commendable performance.