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End of the line for hosts as Spain eye record fourth Euro triumph

Finals tournaments flash by nowadays with a handful of good and bad memories plus the guarantee of an indelible line in the record books. Every now and again come classic matches to be remembered in their own right.

At UEFA Euro 2024 the first such match was Turkey’s defeat of Georgia in the group stage and now, to follow up, came the Spain’s imposition of a long goodbye on hosts Germany and playmaker Toni Kroos. The reward for La Roja will be a semi-final in Munich on Tuesday against France who beat old rivals Portugal 5-3 on penalties after a goalless extra-time draw.


All three goals in the 2-1 victory which extended Spain’s status as the only finalists with a 100% record were scored by substitutes.

Dani Olmo, who plays his club football in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig, put Spain ahead early in the second half before a storming reaction earned Germany a deserved last-minute equaliser from Florian Wirtz. In the dying minutes of extra time Real Sociedad’s Mikel Merino sprang, almost out of nowhere, to head the winner.


Spain’s first victory over the hosts in Germany since a friendly in 1935 enforced the retirement of Kroos who had garnered much of his glory, ironically, in Spain with Real Madrid.

Controversy pursued Germany out of ‘their’ tournament after referee Anthony Taylor denied them a penalty for handball shortly before Merino’s breakthrough.


Spain made a sharp start with midfielder Pedri forcing a diving save from Manuel Neuer. Unhappily that was the fragile midfielder’s last positive involvement. Minutes later he was sent tumbling by Kroos who was fortunate to escape a yellow card.

The knee damage inflicted by the foul forced Pedri’s tearful substitution after only eight minutes, an unwanted Euro finals record.

Gradually Spanish technique proved superior to German tenacity and it was no surprise when they took the lead shortly after the interval. Teenager Lamine Yamal spied out a space between the German lines into which Olmo, Pedri’s substitute, slipped to shoot beyond Neuer.


For Germany it was now or never against the other three-times champions.

Coach Julian Nagelsmann replaced playmaker Gundogan with his favourite substitute, Niclas Fullkrug. He set up Robert Andrich a for a low drive well stopped by Unai Simon, headed wide, then scooped a Wirtz cross against a post. Eventually such desperate pressure was rewarded in the 89th minute with an equaliser from Wirtz.


So to extra time and referee Taylor’s rejection of German penalty claims after a drive from Jamal Musiala was deflected by an arm of Marc Cucurella.

Three minutes later Merino left Toni Rudiger flat-footed with a perfect ‘free’ header. Time remained only for Dani Carvajal to be sent off after pulling down Jamal Musiala and then it was all over, dramatically, for both Germany and Kroos.

Extra-time also later, in Hamburg, but France and Portugal produced no such excitement. Indeed, the two teams – Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo at al – created a mere handful of half chances between them over the 120 minutes.

Given such attacking ineptitude it was almost remarkable they finally did remember the route to goal when it came to the shootout.

Someone always has to fail and in Hamburg, while France converted all five penalties, that was the fate of Portugal’s Joao Felix. The 24-year-old slid Portugal’s third kick against keeper Mike Maignan’s right-hand post so Les Bleus could march on.

Credit: AIPS Media 

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