The German national soccer team flies disastrously out of the World Cup tournament. The team of national coach Hansi Flick is to blame for this, the opening game against Japan went too badly. The fact that the Asians are now also winning against Spain is once again causing wild speculation.
“I am not happy.” That’s what Spain’s national soccer coach Luis Enrique says after the decisive World Cup group game against Japan. Because Spain lost, 1:2 against Japan. He knows only too well that the prophecies of doom from before the game are now echoing back loudly. Germany is out of the tournament – of course, because of their own inability in the first World Cup game against Japan. But also because Spain cannot prevail either and Japan, as the first in the group, puts an end to the DFB team.
The situation is incredibly tricky before the start of both games – especially for Germany. The team of national coach Hansi Flick has to win itself. And at the same time rely on Spain. Everyone knows that, all possible constellations are calculated, every eventuality is reported in the media. The fact that Spain could possibly lose on purpose is something that the Spanish press itself brings up. Not to get one over on Germany, but to “only” finish second in the group.
It is the supposedly easier way through the rest of the tournament. Instead of the vice world champion from 2018, Croatia, the opponents in the round of 16 were Morocco, which was rated less strong. In the quarter-finals, the Spaniards will probably avoid one of the big favorites, Brazil. There can only be a duel with the South Americans in the final if they don’t give away the group win on Friday as a complete surprise.
“Never celebrate defeat”
“We qualified, but I would have preferred to finish first in the group,” said Enrique vehemently. “I never celebrate a defeat. A lot has changed in the tournament as a result – but I have nothing to celebrate.” This is how the 52-year-old head coach justifies himself after the game, in which exactly what was discussed so hotly before happened.
The Germans had gotten extra promises of victory from their Spanish teammates. Antonio Rudiger had reportedly spoken to Real Madrid colleague Dani Carvajal, while RB Leipzig’s Dani Olmo had been asked for support by Lukas Klostermann and David Raum. Unanimous opinion: Spain is playing to win, Spain will win. The request had encouraged “Marca” to take a dig at Germany: “The once invincible team is now asking for help. They are begging for help.”
Now the teams involved usually contribute little to such speculation, they let actions on the pitch do the talking. But this time it’s different. The Spaniards’ starting eleven caused a stir, Luis Enrique fueled the discussions about second place in the group, which he might want. He made five changes. “I thought it would be the best eleven players for this game,” he defends his change: “I would do it again because I had 100 percent trust in these players. You’re always smarter afterwards.” The flow of the first two games is lost, although Enrique trades world class for world class. He really doesn’t have to be reproached for setting up a B-Elf against Japan because of the name: the goalscorer against Germany, Alvaro Morata, moved into the team just like the stars Cesar Azpilicueta and Pau Torres.
But above all the weak second half, in which his team seems completely helpless at times, makes Enrique quarrel. And just the cheating speculation waft again. “Sometimes things like that happen in football,” says Enrique. Azpilicueta also speaks of a “disappointment”. “It wasn’t the best result, of course we wanted to win.”
“The ball stays in…”
The Japanese – overjoyed group winners – don’t want to hear anything about the allegations. Their victory was “deserved”, emphasizes goalscorer Ao Tanaka from second division Fortuna Düsseldorf. “In the second half we played more aggressively and that’s how we won.”
But there is one scene from the Japanese that raises doubts about the “deserved” victory, which, in addition to the less than glorious Spanish game, provides a topic for discussion: Tanaka’s goal to make it 2-1 is checked by the VAR for a long time. Bochum’s Ritsu Doan prevailed in the right penalty area and passed the ball to the second post. But this pass seems a tad too long, isn’t the ball out of bounds? Kaoru Mitoma slides in at the baseline, brings the ball to Tanaka, who just has to push it in. Then the anxious wait begins until the VAR decides: The ball was not completely over the line. This cannot be fully clarified on the basis of TV pictures, but ARD expert Almuth Schult, like the VAR, judges that the ball actually stays in play the whole time.
The international press doesn’t stop from churning out the questionable scene: “You think the ball is over the line… but it’s NOT! German hearts are broken as they are kicked out of the World Cup after Japan’s Goal against Spain counts – the ball is in play with the smallest margin,” writes the Daily Mail. “The Times” reports: “The ball stays in … Germany flies out.”
A small scene in a game where the Spaniards just don’t excel. Even if the statistics clearly speak for them: the Iberians have 82 percent possession of the ball, more shots on goal and more corners (well, the Japanese don’t have one), but Morata’s early lead (11th) doesn’t last. Also because the second, fatal half follows.
Flick: “It’s up to us”
The Swiss “Tagesanzeiger” therefore writes: “Yes, Japan prevails as group winners thanks to a 2-1 win against Spain, whose questionable attitude raises questions on the day.” It is the “Gazzetta dello Sport” that really gets going – and then puts its finger directly into the German wound: “Germany at home, betrayed by Spain. But the Germans themselves are to blame, because the knockout against Japan at the World Cup Debut cost her long-term elimination. Flick’s national team defeated Costa Rica 4-2 in a pretty crazy match, but it was a very bitter success.”
It is obvious that the Spanish team will not rest on Friday before the allegations of fraud. But they don’t come from one direction – and that’s the decisive one: The DFB team is only busy with itself. National coach Hansi Flick has no grudges against the Spaniards, he emphasizes: “No, I never look at other teams. It’s up to us. The sum of the games contributed to our elimination.” He looks back on the previous games. “It’s our own fault, we have to look at ourselves. We had enough chances to score, whether against Japan up to the 60th minute or against Spain at the end. Then you have to create those chances, then the conditions would have been different today.”