Spain vs Germany. FIFA World Cup Group E.
Al Bayt StadiumAttendance68,895.
Match report as Niclas Fullkrug's equaliser earned Germany a valuable point against Spain in World Cup Group E; Hansi Flick's side remain bottom of the table but can still qualify for the knockout stages with victory over Costa Rica if results go their way
Monday 28 November 2022 06:42, UK
Niclas Fullkrug's late goal salvaged a 1-1 draw with Spain as Germany just about kept their World Cup campaign on track at the Al Bayt Stadium.
Alvaro Morata had come off the bench to give Spain the lead earlier in the second half but fellow substitute Fullkrug fired beyond Unai Simon to change the mood as Germany earned their first point of the 2022 World Cup following their shock defeat to Japan.
Hansi Flick made changes to the team from that game and Germany competed well throughout against a strong Spain side. Antonio Rudiger had a goal disallowed for offside in the first half and Jamal Musiala forced a really good stop from Unai Simon in the second.
Morata, introduced early in the second half, did manage to find the finish for Spain, his deft flick from close range proving too good for Manuel Neuer. But Fullkrug found the response with a fierce finish after Musiala's turn and Germany finished the stronger.
Germany remain bottom of Group E but the situation could have been worse. Had Japan not lost to Costa Rica earlier in the day then defeat to Spain would have been enough to eliminate the 2014 World Cup winners with a match still left to play.
This draw means that victory over Costa Rica would be enough unless Japan pull off another unexpected result against Spain. As for Luis Enrique's side, they could not match the fluency of their 7-0 win on Wednesday but do have one foot in the last 16.
This was a heavyweight contest, the only group-stage game between two former winners of the World Cup, and there were times when it felt that way. Both teams tried to play out from the back. Both teams tried to press the opposition high up the pitch.
There were moments of quality but errors too. Niklas Sule's dismal defending for the opening goal allowed Morata in, while Spain showed vulnerabilities too. The struggle for consistency seems to be a feature of this World Cup. Only France have won two games.
Ultimately, a contest that on the morning of the match had promised to decide much, actually decided little. Spain could not make the statement that their talented team promised. Germany live to fight another day at this World Cup.
If they beat Costa Rica by two goals or more then they are definitely through to the knockout stages unless Japan beat Spain. A draw might be enough for Japan if Germany only win by one goal - then it would go to goals scored followed by the head-to-head record.
It would take some bizarre results for Spain to be knocked out - a defeat to Japan of four goals or more combined with a heavy Germany win. For Costa Rica, it is slightly more straightforward. They know that they need to better Japan's result to progress.
Germany boss Hansi Flick said: "We knew what was at stake. Spain played good football but the teams were level and we had a huge chance in the end to win it but these things happen.
"Things come to you when you start winning. Maybe it is the spark we need.
"The team fought hard and I am very satisfied with their mentality. These are the things we want and we know that we did take the first step.
"We want to have the conditions against Costa Rica to reach the knockout phase.
"Costa Rica showed good mentality to come back from a 7-0 loss to Spain [and beat Japan]. Football is like that. Sometimes it's not those with the most chances that win. We experienced that against Japan.
"It is still too far away to think about Costa Rica. We have to let this game sink in and generate self confidence."
Spain head coach Luis Enrique: "There was a strange feeling in the changing room because we had the opportunity to beat Germany and we let it slip through our hands and that was a shame.
"But we have to think that we are at the top of the so-called Group of Death and we have to stay positive.
"A draw against Japan on Thursday would probably send us through to knockouts but we will not speculate. We will use our full strength and go for the win to secure the top in the group standings.
"We lacked finesse and freshness throughout the match against Germany, lacked a little peace of mind.
"But we have a say in our changing room that pressure is a privilege. So we will deal with that naturally. If we want to play seven games [until the final] we need to give our best."
At 30, it is a little late in the day for Morata to alter any opinions about him. Now at Atletico Madrid, the third club to take him back for another spell, the consensus seems to be that he is a quality striker who is nevertheless just short of the absolute elite level.
But he will still have his moments and this performance provided one of them. A match that kicked off with no natural strikers on the pitch was transformed by two of them. In Morata's case, he provided the perfect near-post run and a delightful finish beyond Neuer.
Morata is the only out-and-out striker named in Luis Enrique's Spain squad. That is an indication that the coach intends to find other solutions. But there are still locks that he will need Morata to unpick. He could have a big role to play in the coming weeks in Qatar.
Sunday began with a surprise result as Costa Rica defeated Japan and a day of upheaval continued when Morocco surprised the team ranked second in the world with a 2-0 win over Belgium. The elimination of Canada from Group F followed as they were beaten 4-1 by Croatia despite taking the lead with their first-ever World Cup goal.