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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Fullkrug strike keeps Germany’s WC hopes alive

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Al Khor (Qatar): Substitute Niclas Fullkrug reignited Germany’s World Cup challenge with a scorching late equalising strike to claim a precious point against Spain at a rapt Al Bayt Stadium.

Spain, ranked 7th in the world, and Germany, ranked 11th played out a pulsating 1-1 draw here on Sunday night.

Fullkrug is a late bloomer when it comes to international football, but he announced his arrival on the world stage with a thumping finish.

His late equaliser means German hopes of qualifying for the group stage are still very much alive, after Alvaro Morata, a fellow substitute had given Spain the lead.

Fullkrug’s goal was the first by a German substitute at a FIFA World Cup, since Mario Götze’s 2014 Final winner.

Spain appeared on course for a second successive victory and a huge step towards the last 16 after Alvaro Morata came off the bench to convert a 62nd-minute Jordi Alba cross. But Fullkrug, who made a goalscoring Germany debut against Oman only 11 days ago, crashed an unstoppable strike past Unai Simon to earn a fully-merited point for Hansi Flick’s team.

Spain created the better of the early openings, Dani Olmo thumping the bar, via a vital touch from Manuel Neuer, and Alba rippling the side netting with an effort from distance.

Antonio Rudiger thought he’d scored six minutes before the break but the Germany centre-back’s celebrations were halted by an offside flag.

Spain broke through when the predatory Morata darted in front of Niklas Skula at the front post to apply a decisive touch to Alba’s fizzing cross.

Marco Asensio skied an attempt as Spain tried to put the game to bed. And Germany responded, Jamal Musiala forcing Simon into a fine one-handed stop, before Fullkrug beat the Spain goalkeeper with an unstoppable drive.

“If after the (World Cup) draw we’d been told that after the first two matches we’d be leaders of the group and depend only on ourselves, I would have signed for that,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said. “A draw against Japan (in final group game) is enough, but we’re not going to speculate.

“Yes, it’s a pity, the result, but we have to be happy because we are leaders in this group.”

Germany coach Hansi Flick said: “The team maintained a great level. I am very satisfied with the mentality and the team’s work today. This was a match on a high level. Those are things we want to see from this team, but this was only a first step. We want to see (more in the) next match (against Costa Rica) and create the conditions to go through.”

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