Niclas Fullkrug’s late equalizer gave Germany a morale-boosting 1-1 draw against Spain in a World Cup heavyweight duel on Sunday, still balancing hopes for both sides of qualifying for the last 16. Alvaro Morata’s flipped finish put Spain on course to qualify for Group E, but the electric Jamal Musiala and Fullkrug combined to unsettle La Roja and restore some German pride. Costa Rica’s surprise victory over Japan rather eased some pressure on Germany after their shock loss to the Asian side, but they were unable to capitalize for long periods in a battle for the ball against Spain.
The four-time world champion suffered a humiliating group stage exit in Russia four years ago, and Morata’s attack at the Al Bayt stadium had them in trouble, but Werder Bremen striker Fullkrug finished brilliantly to split the points.
Spain lead Group E by four points, Japan and Costa Rica by three points each, while Germany have one, with a final round coming up.
“We really wanted to pull out (this game), that was very important for the feelings (in the camp),” Fullkrug told German TV channel ZDF.
“We still have room for improvement, but we can hope that everything will be fine in the last game.”
The only World Cup group stage match to pit two former champions against each other lived up to the pinnacle in intensity and tactical intrigue, with both sides looking to dominate possession and press extremely high.
German coach Hansi Flick dismissed suggestions that his side had been distracted in their shock opening defeat to Japan over their pre-game protest against FIFA “silencing teams” and the tight opening exchanges soon turned all the focus on the football.
Flick cut Kai Havertz from his lineup and put Thomas Mueller up front after their shock opening day capitulation, hoping for a quick response.
However, Spain almost took the lead in the seventh minute when Manuel Neuer palmed Dani Olmo’s powerful drive from range on the woodwork.
It looked like they picked up where they left off after their 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica, but Germany braced themselves and kept Luis Enrique’s side at bay.
Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon relied on his footwork under pressure as La Roja tried to dominate possession.
An error gave Serge Gnabry a chance, but he shot wide.
Neuer also made a mistake with the ball at his feet as Germany similarly tried to build from behind, but Ferran Torres was unable to capitalize.
Antonio Ruediger headed in from a free kick but his celebration was cut short after VAR caught him half a step ahead of the Spanish defence, while Simon fended off Joshua Kimmich with a fine save.
Just when Luis Enrique’s side seemed to have lost control of the game, they broke the deadlock.
Morata, brought on for Torres, finished clinically at the near post after an inviting low cross from Jordi Alba after 62 minutes.
It looked like it was enough for the 2010 champions, but Fullkrug – only his third international appearance – decided otherwise, sneaking behind substitute Alejandro Balde to overtake Simon with seven minutes remaining.
Spain, needing a point to ensure progress, will face Japan on Thursday, while Germany must beat Costa Rica and hope La Roja doesn’t lose.
“They are a great team, they had one big chance and they took it,” Morata told Spain’s TVE.
“They have marked our best players and they are a team that could be among the favorites to win the World Cup, so we have to take the positives and keep working.”
(This story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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