Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Germany cling on to World Cup hopes and expose Spain’s flaws with battling draw

Spain 1-1 Germany: The substitute Niclas Fullkrug rescued a point after Alvaro Morata also made an impact from the bench in a heavyweight Group E clash

Miguel Delaney
at the Al Bayt Stadium
Sunday 27 November 2022 22:17 GMT
Riot police deployed in Brussels after clashes erupt following Belgium’s WC loss to Morocco

A draw that might just show why a burgeoning Spain will fall short of winning this World Cup, and prevent Germany from falling out of it. It’s that fine a line, from an enthralling 1-1 draw.

Hansi Flick’s side need much more than that in their next game against Costa Rica, and also a favour off Spain against Japan, but they should feel considerable relief here. They have survived. They have persevered. It is remarkable to think that these sides went into this World Cup as equals, and that this game ended level. Spain were so much the better side, as evidenced by their positions in the group. But Luis Enrique’s team also have flaws, as evidenced by the way they gave this win up.

Flick and Niclas Fullkrug do deserve credit there. They didn’t exactly display Spain’s class but they did show considerable resilience.

It can’t be discounted how badly they needed this, even if Costa Rica’s win over Japan took some of the edge off the game, and they still need to drastically improve.

Germany need to show their true selves, their best idea. Flick needs to do what Enrique did.

Even if Spain do not win this World Cup, there is clearly something special coming together.

What is most impressive about them, and what should be shown to every child in the game, is their assertiveness on the ball. They are so willing to take it, and do something with it.

This is the moral bravery that figures like Bill Shankly and Sir Matt Busby commonly spoke about. It was like they backed themselves to play their way out of any situation, no matter the pressure. Most capable of this, of course, were the new Barcelona duo of Pedri and Gavi. There was one moment in the first half when Pedri won the ball when he shouldn’t then just danced his way around the German press to release another attack.

That confidence can admittedly lead to an overconfidence, that sometimes brings needless risk.

Pedri impressed once more against the German press (AFP via Getty Images)

A warning came shortly into the second half when Joshua Kimmich forced an error then forced a save from Unai Simon. The goalkeeper himself often tried to play the ball as if he was a creative midfielder, and it was a similar casual manner that saw Aymeric Laporte offer the sloppy moment for Germany’s equaliser.

It is the sort of flaw that will be finessed with a touch more maturity, maybe another tournament cycle for this young group, but for the moment remains one way to get at this team.

Germany were on the brink of exploiting it a few times, especially with Serge Gnabry running off the right. It fully displayed the fine line of that high line.

Enrique’s focus on intensity means this Spain do look for more angles of attack than previous iterations, such as when Dani Olmo smashed the crossbar from distance, and so many bursts down the flanks.

Spain’s Dani Olmo has a shot at goal (Getty Images)

They also have a lot of different weapons off the bench. One of them is actually a classic number-nine in Morata. The only reason he doesn’t start is because he isn’t a complete guarantee of goals, and can prove frustrating and let events get to him when he has too much to consider.

His highs are elite level, though, and mostly come when he doesn’t have time to think about what he needs to do.

You couldn’t have had a clearer example of that than the sumptuous goal. The move itself was again so smooth, and it perhaps isn’t insignificant that it came in the period of the game when Spain had the least control. That meant there was more space to move into, and they did that so fluidly, Jordi Alba swerving the ball for Morata to turn it in with the outside of his foot.

Morata produced an instinctive finish (Getty Images)

Germany didn’t have such finesse, or such a gameplan.

They did, however, have the urgency that comes from pure necessity. This was close to becoming their World Cup.

Flick again threw on Fullkrug. Germany were again going for brute force.

Jamal Musiala surprisingly went for it himself for his first big chance, only to see the ball cannon off Simon. A certain pace was set, though.

Luis Enrique made substitutions. His team were that bit more ragged. Fullkrug made it count by thrashing a strike into the roof of the net.

Fullkrug powered in the equaliser (Getty Images)

It created an anxious and open ending – but that is likely to be nothing compared to how the final group game pans out.

Spain need only a point to go through, but are probably there. Germany need so much more.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in