Germany produce latest Euro 2022 statement performance as Spain walk away lamenting lack of cutting edge

S

o this is what happens when the coming force collides, once again, with its own historically immobile object.

Pre-tournament favorites Spain threaten to take women’s football to new heights, smashing continental and home attendance records, proud owners of a thriving domestic league that has produced a national team of unparalleled technical brilliance, imbued primarily with the genius of (almost) conquering Barcelona.

But never before have they beaten Germany and after a terrific game at the Brentford Community Stadium – by far the best of these Euros so far – the hoodoo remains very much intact, after goals from Klara Buhl and Alexandra Popp gave won the eight times. champions a 2-0 win.

The immediate result is that Germany will qualify from Group B as winners with one game to spare, while Spain will appear on a collision course for a quarter-final meeting with England, provided that she could clinch second place in what is now a winner. third game against Denmark.

A week ago, this ranking order might have come as a slight surprise, but the balance of power in the so-called group of death had already begun to change with the cruel ACL injury of Alexia Putellas, even before Germany’s 4-0 win over Denmark’s supposed dark horses espoused any doubts about their credentials this time around.

Spain’s own emphatic victory over Finland set up this match as the meeting of two true in-form contenders, and while last night’s equivalent between Norway and England disappointed, providing such a glaring discrepancy that it might have belonged to the Love Island villa, he delivered, producing a game of gripping quality and heat-defying intensity.

The exception to both came in the first three minutes, when Sandra Panos drowsily cleared straight to Buhl. The striker still had work to do but sold a dummy to Irene Paredes and then fired low into the far corner, the kind of finish Germany must have feared they would miss in the absence of the prolific striker of Bayern Munich Lea Schuller via Covid.

Spain hadn’t had time to settle in, nor had they been left behind by a ruthless German press in the midfield. They moved the ball quickly, but the Germans seemed to move faster, rushing into faces, closing spaces and defying the age-old assertion that no player moves faster than the ball.

Gradually, however, the magic roundabout of red began to hum and Aitana Bonmati, a player whose gaze never dips below shoulder height, as if restrained by an invisible neck brace, began to take control. The midfielder found his Barcelona team-mate Patricia Guijarro with a fine pass between the lines and Lucia Garcia was dispatched clear but wanted too much time, rounding the goalkeeper and finding the side netting as the angle closed .

Lucia Garcia should have done better when she was put on goal cleanly

/ Getty Images

Killer instinct was the only difference between two perfectly watchable sides until the 36th minute, when Felicitas Rauch’s corner, won after a clever link-up by impressive right-back Giulia Gwinn, was headed home all too easily by Popp. Popp, the beneficiary of Schuller’s absence, had scored a sentimental fourth off the bench against the Danes, his first Euros outing in a career of over 100 caps, but it was a goal of great substance.

After the break, the 31-year-old was involved in the incident that really should have settled the matter, when he threatened to run for goal from halfway through, only to be pushed back by Paredes. Referee Stephanie Frappart gave nothing, however, and not for the first time in this tournament, the VAR decided the intervention threshold somewhere beyond the sky. It was a confusing non-decision, but one that kept the Spanish creed intact.

Garcia burst in from behind again but Merle Frohms was quick to meet her, before Mariona Caldentey thought she had scored, only to be denied by the fingertips of the German keeper.

After beating Finland four times, it was a night the Spaniards feared a lack of incision and clinical advantage could cost them in the most crucial moments of this tournament. For all their beautiful football, with not only Putellas but also all-time leading scorer Jennifer Hermoso missing, there is no obvious silver bullet.

As for Germany, each day of this tournament seems to bring a new “statement” performance from one of their big guns. But the fact that they came out of such a hold, and for the most part, even a contest with such a convincing victory, makes them perhaps the best yet.


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