Why the winner of the Spain vs Germany quarter-final could well be the winner of the Euro 24.

04.07.2024 10:47:41 Adam England
Euro 2024 football in goal.
  • Spain and Germany play each other in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024 on Friday (July 5).
  • They’ve been the strongest two teams in the competition so far.
  • The likes of France, Portugal, and England are among the other Euros contenders.


It’s fair to say that most of the big teams haven’t exactly set the Euros alight yet. Holders Italy went out with a whimper in the second round against Switzerland, while 2018 World Cup winners France have failed to hit top gear. Belgium and England have looked uninspired, the former going out in the last round to France, and Portugal lost 2-0 against Georgia.

Enter Spain and Germany. Spain have been the team to watch so far this tournament, brushing aside Italy and Croatia, as well as Albania, and making light of the group of death claim in the first round for nine points from nine. After a scare against Georgia in the round of 16, they regrouped to beat them 4-1 in the end.

 

Spain are back after a decade of underachievement

It looks as though manager Luis de la Fuente is achieving what the likes of Julen Lopetegui and Luis Enrique had failed to do in following Luis Aragonés and Vincent Del Bosque in turning Spain into a formidable force once again.

It’s not exactly the vintage tika-taka of that 2008-12 golden period, but Spain’s passing accuracy is impressive, as is their attacking record at this tournament. Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal (who could win the tournament the day after his 17th birthday) have lived up to expectations out wide, while midfielder Rodri, quite simply, is one of the best players in the world. Even Marc Cucurella, who’s had a mixed couple of seasons at Chelsea, has been in sublime form at left-back.

Perhaps Spain’s only issue is that they don’t have a striker in the mould of David Villa, Fernando Torres or Raúl. Álvaro Morata probably isn’t quite at that level. But that hasn’t stopped them from scoring, with Fabián Ruiz, Ferran Torres, Dani Carvajal, Dani Olmo, and Williams all chipping in.

 

Germany making the most home advantage

Meanwhile, tournament hosts Germany have impressed after a decade or so of underwhelming tournament performances, ever since winning the World Cup in 2014. They’re certainly making use of their home advantage, and have one of the best young players in the world in Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala.

They’ve been adept at adapting their play to be either direct or more progressive and intricate when needed. They have excellent passing accuracy, but against Denmark, we saw them go more direct to move the ball up to their forwards before Denmark had time to get back.

Musiala and Florian Wirtz are two of the best young players in the world, while Kai Havertz is a versatile forward who was in excellent form before the tournament for Arsenal. Niclas Füllkrug is something of a throwback, more of an old-fashioned striker. And then there’s captain Ilkay Gündogan, whose role needs no introduction.

Can the other nations threaten?

Because of the way the draw has worked out, Spain and Germany are meeting each other at the quarter-final stage of the tournament at 5pm on Friday (July 5). This is a game that could (and possibly should) be the final, and it’s a shame that we’ll see one of arguably the two best teams in the tournament go out at such a relatively early stage.

In some ways, this is the final. To put it another way, Spain and Germany have found themselves on the trickier half of the draw. Portugal and France play each other in the other quarter-final in this half, with France knocking out Belgium in the second round – nobody would have expected these two European heavyweights to play each other so early, but that’s what you get when you don’t top your respective groups.

Whoever wins out of Spain and Germany, you’d have to fancy their chances against either Portugal or France. And then, looking at the other half of the draw, is there anyone stronger than either of those two teams? England, on paper, could beat anyone, but they’re not clicking.

The Netherlands are another traditionally strong team, but haven’t been great this Euros. Switzerland have been impressive dark horses, and Turkey have surprised, but Spain and Germany should have enough to beat them. And then there’s England, who have one of the strongest teams based on club form, but were a whisker away from going out to Slovakia in the previous round.

Of course, it’s not a foregone conclusion. Portugal have a frightening set of attacking players, while France have Kylian Mbappe and the evergreen Olivier Giroud, not to mention Eduardo Camavinga, N’Golo Kante, Aurélien Tchouaméni and Antoine Griezmann. Even when they aren’t playing well, they have enough quality to get the goal to see them through.

Should England get to the final, who’s to say Jude Bellingham won’t come up with a world-class winner, or that Harry Kane won’t get an 80th-minute penalty to win the game? Could the Netherlands or Switzerland defeat the odds for an unlikely Euros win?

However, Spain and Germany have been far and away the best two teams. They have the big names, but plenty of chemistry too. They don’t look like collections of individuals, they look like teams.

While it wouldn’t be a huge shock for France, Portugal or England to strengthen as the tournament goes on and win the whole thing, the winner of Spain vs Germany on Friday have to be the favourites to win the whole thing.

 

 

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