Monday, August 8, 2022

Clinical Germany punishes Spain to face England in quarterfinals

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Total football, totally exploded. Spain’s unbeaten run is coming to an end after 24 games and Germany needed a menacingly efficient and ruthless performance to end their supremacy. In a duel between two Euro 2022 heavyweights, this was less of a fight and more of one side waiting before surgically exploiting their opponent’s weaknesses. Having executed their plan perfectly, Germany reach the quarter-finals alongside England and consolidate their grip on this particular rivalry.

Germany have never lost to Spain and now also secure their place as Group B winners, making them also sure to avoid the Lionesses in the last eight. Instead, Spain must beat Denmark again here in Brentford on Saturday to face England in Brighton next week. Until then, the pre-tournament favorites will need to pick themselves back up from a sobering night in which their identities were destroyed and used against them.

It’s true that Spain have lost two of their key pillars in the injured Alexia Putellas and Jennifer Hermoso and while they continue to take the same approach to their game, one could get the feeling that Germany not only expected it but wanted it also. The opening goal that came after just three minutes was a disaster for Spain and a gift for Germany, but the second just before half-time was the more decisive blow. It was only Germany’s second shot on target after Spain had more than 70 percent possession.

Spain midfielder Patricia Guijarro said before the game Germany were the “complete opposite” of her side. If that was an indication of their own desire to play possession-based passing football at all times, it would also be their undoing in the early moments.

Spain had conceded a goal in the first minute of their opening win over Finland and it would be less than three minutes here before they attempted to play the ball deep from their own corner. It was reported back to goalkeeper Sandra Panos, one of seven Barcelona players in the team, but her proposed move to right-back Ona Batlle would have dire consequences. It fell squarely on Klara Buhlt, who finished after ducking in front of Irene Paredes and firing over Panos.

Spain stuck to its principles and responded almost immediately. They cut Germany brilliantly with a quick pass change in midfield, with Guijarro putting Lucia Garcia on target. Garcia overcame goalkeeper Merle Frohms, but also too far, her finish from the angle into the side netting while the German defenders recovered down the line. Spain had the better of chances in the first half, as Mariona missed a shot from outside the box and Guijarro blitzed a ball over the goal, but Germany would go on to double their lead in cold blood.

Germany’s plan from Standards was clear, but Spain couldn’t prevent it. Felcitas Rauch was over the swinging corner and Lena Oberdorf and Marina Hegering completed an impressive pack that pushed Panos on the goal line. In the end it was captain Alexandra Popp who steered the cross into the corner for her second of the tournament.

It was the worst-case scenario for Spain and their attempts to stage a comeback only played further into Germany’s hands. Spain struggled in with the long ball and Paredes was perhaps lucky not to see a red card for tripping up her opponent’s captain, Popp, when she got on target.

It came as Spain tried to work the ball between tight spaces on the edge of Germany’s box, but their structure was too compact to allow for any further chances – although Mariona Caldentey’s volley repelled an excellent save from goalkeeper Merle Frohms. There would be no consolation. Germany stood too strong, too imposing as they had planned all along.

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