Clinical Germany punish Spain to join England in Euro 2022 quarter-finals

Klara Buhl fires Germany’s early opener

Total football, totally blown apart. Spain’s undefeated run comes to an end at 24 matches and it has taken an ominously efficient and ruthless performance from Germany to end its supremacy. In the contest of two Euro 2022 heavyweights, this was less of a fight and more of one side biding their time before surgically exploiting their opponent’s weaknesses. After executing their plan to perfection, Germany join England in reaching the quarter-finals, while tightening their hold over this particular rivalry.

Germany have never lost to Spain and are also now assured of their place as winners of Group B, also ensuring they avoid the Lionesses in the last eight. Instead, Spain will have to beat Denmark here again at Brentford on Saturday to set up a clash with England in Brighton next week. Before then, the pre-tournament favourites must pick themselves up after a sobering night which saw their very identity broken down and used against them.

It is true that Spain have been removed of two of their key pillars, in the injured Alexia Putellas and Jennifer Hermoso, and while they have continued to take the same approach to their play you could get the sense that Germany not only expected it but wanted it too. The opening goal, which came after just three minutes, was a disaster for Spain and a gift for Germany but the second shortly before half time was the more significant blow. It was just Germany’s second attempt on target and came after Spain had more than 70 per cent of the possession.

Popp celebrates adding Germany’s second before half time

The Spain midfielder Patricia Guijarro said before the match that Germany were the “complete opposite” of her team. If that was a reference to their own desire to play possession-based passing football at all times, it would also be their undoing in the opening moments.

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Spain had conceded inside the first minute of their opening win over Finland and it would take less than three minutes here after they looked to play the ball out from deep inside their own corner. It was fed back to the goalkeeper Sandra Panos, one of seven Barcelona players in the team, but her intended switch out to the right back Ona Batlle would have fatal consequences. It fell straight to Klara Buhlt, who finished after ducking outside Irene Paredes and firing across Panos.

Spain stuck to their principles and almost replied immediately. They sliced Germany open brilliantly with a quick exchange of passes in midfield, with Guijarro releasing Lucia Garcia through on goal. Garcia took it round goalkeeper Merle Frohms but also too wide, her finish from the angle into the side netting with Germany defenders recovering on the line. Spain had the better chances throughout the first half, as Mariona bent a shot wide from outside of the box and Guijarro flashed a ball across the face of goal, but Germany would be clinical in doubling their lead.

Popp wins the header to score Germany’s second

The plan from Germany from set-pieces was clear but Spain could not prevent it. Felcitas Rauch stood over the inswinging corner and Lena Oberdorf and Marina Hegering added to an imposing pack crowding Panos on the goalline. In the end it was the captain, Alexandra Popp, who peeled off the line to redirect the cross into the corner for her second of the tournament.

It was the worst-case scenario for Spain and their attempts to mount a comeback only further played into Germany’s hands. Spain struggled with the long ball downfield and Paredes was perhaps fortunate to not see a red card for bringing down her opposite captain Popp when she was through on goal.

It came as Spain attempted to work the ball in between tight spaces on the edge of the Germany box, but their structure was too compact to allow any further chances – although Mariona Caldentey’s volley took an excellent save from goalkeeper Merle Frohms. There would be no consolation. Germany stood too strong, too imposing, just as they had planned all along.

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