Germany’s Niclas Fuellkrug scores against Spain at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday.—Reuters
Germany’s Niclas Fuellkrug scores against Spain at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday.—Reuters

THE change in scenarios didn’t in any way affect the pace of this game, the first big one on paper at the World Cup between two recent champions; Spain won in 2010 and Germany followed four years later. Since their triumphs, both teams have undergone a rebuilding phase and here at the Al Bayt Stadium, shaped like a Bedouin tent on the outskirts of Doha, they cancelled out each other in a riveting 1-1 draw.

In a game where substitutes got the goals for both sides, Niclas Fuellkrug’s powerful finish in the 83rd minute levelled matters for Germany after Alvaro Morata had given Spain the lead with a deft finish from the outside of his foot in the 62nd.

Costa Rica’s earlier result — a 1-0 win against Japan — had thrown Group ‘E’ wide open and set this up as a tactical battle, a chess game between Spain coach Luis Enrique and his German counterpart Hansi Flick. Knowing that a loss wouldn’t end their World Cup, Germany — who had been stunned by Japan in their opening game — could afford to breathe.

But in a breathless start, Spain — playing with swagger after their 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica — came at them with fierce pace. Enrique started without a recognised striker but had three willing runners up front in Marco Asensio, Ferran Torres and Dani Olmo. Olmo came close to scoring in the seventh minute, seeing his shot tipped onto the bar.

Germany were also playing without a centre forward; Thomas Mueller leading the line. But they soon regained some control; Serge Gnabry having two chances. They thought they had taken the lead through Antonio Rudiger’s header from a free kick but it was ruled out for offside.

Germany came back strongly in the second half and threatened early on with Joshua Kimmich seeing a shot saved by Unai Simon.

Enrique introduced Morata to provide his side with a direct threat at goal and it paid off handsomely when he scored just five minutes after coming on when he was found by Jordi Alba from the left.

Looking to get something from the game, Germany threw the kitchen sink at Spain and Jamal Musiala had a fierce drive deflected away by Simon.

Flick sensed an opportunity and sent on marksman Fuellkrug, who snatched a point for his side after good interplay between another substitute Leroy Sane and Musiala set him free to arrow in a shot that Simon could do nothing to stop.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2022

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