Spain vs Germany: Fullkrug, Morata make a point for old school strikers

Alvaro Morata and Niclas Fullkrug – old-school centre forwards not much liked in this Cruyff- and Guardiola-inspired days of everything false – made it 1-1 in an enthralling Group E clash between Spain and Germany.

Germany’s Niclas Fullkrug celebrates scoring the equaliser against Spain.

Germany’s Niclas Fullkrug celebrates scoring the equaliser against Spain. | Photo Credit: REUTERS/Molly Darlington

Alvaro Morata and Niclas Fullkrug – old-school centre forwards not much liked in this Cruyff- and Guardiola-inspired days of everything false – made it 1-1 in an enthralling Group E clash between Spain and Germany.

This was modern football at its best. The two tactical seminaries of new-age football – the Spanish possession and passing against the German gegenpressing – kept the ball rotating and created neat angles. But, the goal that matters the most in football was nowhere in sight at the Al Bayt Stadium.

In the end, the No 9s, who came in as afterthoughts, showed their more technical colleagues how easy football can be. Alvaro Morata and Niclas Fullkrug – old-school centre forwards not much liked in this Cruyff- and Guardiola-inspired days of everything false – made it 1-1.

Morata, the forgotten man of Spanish football, opened the scoring with a stabbed finish past Manuel Neuer in the 63rd minute. Sergio Busquets, the immune-to-ageing Spain captain, chiselling away in the midfield, moved the ball to Dani Olmo in the left and soon an untiring Jordi Alba had the Spanish substitute hurrying to the ball inside the six yards box. While Ferran Torres, looking for poise, had already squandered a few chances early, Morata took no time to flick this over an onrushing Neuer in the near post.

A minute later, Spain should have added another, but Marco Asensio, despite no defenders around, sent his hit miles high. He was promptly replaced by the experienced Koke, as Luis Enrique looked for calmer reinforcements.

With another first-round World Cup exit hovered on the horizon, Hansi Flick made a triple substitution. Fullkrug, the Werder Bremen striker, with seven minutes left to play, gave Germany a life-raft to cling on. Leroy Sane did the early hard work to get the ball to Jamal Musiala in the box. With his back to the Spanish goal, the Bayern Munich winger twisted to deal with Rodri snapping behind, and Fullkrug was there to blast it past the hapless Unai Simon.

Germany could have had its win to make Group E more interesting as Sane’s run created tremors in the Spanish defence, but then he ran a little more and the angle became too acute to pose any threat to Simon’s goal.

Spain had chances too many in the opening half as its midfield of Busquets, Pedri and Gavi forever bypassed the German press, overloading the play from left and right. The forwards, however, were not quick enough to deal with the balls that came their way. Torres took a touch instead of a first-time shot to squander a chance in the 26th minute. He was again culpable, allowing Antonio Rudiger to recover and block as he took time to control the ball.

The German defender thought he had put his team in front, heading in a freekick from Joshua Kimmich in the 40th minute as Spain’s defensive highline was harrowed once more from a set piece. But the Real Madrid star had moved a little too soon and VAR ruled it out.

The goals came much later when the traditional centre forwards made their point and Germany, at least, had another day to fight.

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