Al Khor (Qatar), Nov 28, 2022, IANS
Substitute Niclas Fullkrug's goal seven minutes from end helped Germany to a 1-1 draw against Spain in a FIFA World Cup Group E match at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, on Sunday evening.
The 29-year-old's close range strike gave the Germans the first point of the competition having lost their first match to Japan 2-1.
Fullkrug, who is playing his first-ever World Cup, came from the bench to the rescue with a fine turn and finish to level in the 83rd minute, smashing home a loose ball inside the box.
The goal by Werder Bremen striker cancelled out the 62nd minute strike by Spanish substitute Alvaro Morata, who beat his marker Niklas Sule and flicked the ball in at the near post past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer following a low cross from Jordi Alba to give Spain the lead.
The one-all draw has left the group still wide open with Spain needing just a point against Japan to qualify for the knockouts. A win will guarantee them top spot. Germany stays bottom for now, but they can jump to second and qualify for the next phase if they beat Costa Rica and Japan lose to Spain. However, it gets a little bit trickier for Germany if Spain and Japan draw. If Japan draw it would come down to goal difference or goals scored by Germany and Japan.
This is the first time Germany, who have won the World Cup four times, have failed to win their first two group stage matches at a single World Cup but they still have hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage of the competition.
In a clash of former champions, 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.
The Germans found the net in the 39th minute, but Antonio Rudiger's header was ruled out for offside and then Spain struck on the goal front.
Soon after going up Spain had a chance to take the game beyond Germany's control but Marco Asensio missed the chance of putting the game to bed with his effort going over the bar.
Germany manager Hansi Flick gave full credit to his players for fighting back to draw level.
"I liked our mentality. We maintained a great level over 90 minutes -- and we showed Spain what we wanted to do," Flick said.
Flick added that the German ship he was heading was moving in the right direction.
"Spain are a great team with many young players. They play good football -- I like the way they play football.
Spain, who trounced Costa Rica 7-0 in the first match of the group are looking for their second World Cup title.
Flick complimented striker Fullkrug, who came off the bench and scored after spending 13 minutes on the pitch.
"The things that Niclas did, for example -- we need that determination," the German tactician said.