clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tactical masterclass? Spain’s battle of wits against Germany

The plans from Spain caused pain in the main, but Flick struck back with the German attack.

Spain v Germany: Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Markus Gilliar - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images

Luis Enrique and Hansi Flick treated fans to a spectacle of a World Cup match in Germany’s 1-1 draw with Spain. Both team showed up to play and game-changing danger lurked around every corner.

A scoreless first half saw each side escape from an early deficit with at least one stroke of fortune — Manuel Neuer’s parry of Dani Olmo’s rocket ricocheting the right way off the post, and Antonio Rüdiger’s inches-offside starting position for Joshua Kimmich’s superb free kick.

The second half saw Spain enjoy a phase in the ascendancy and nearly punch their ticket with a killing blow — only to scramble to the finish thanking their lucky stars not to have blown it entirely.

The Athletic’s John Muller and Jon Mackenzie offered some great insights on Twitter as to how it all happened.

First there’s Spain’s eminently sensible plan in position to target Germany’s left flank in defense by concentrating their own build-up on the left. With David Raum’s penchant (as well as responsibility) for getting forward and providing width along the wings for Germany, Ferran Torres had favorable chances on the switch. That he didn’t make the most of them was at least partially Raum’s credit, and Germany as a team also did enough to disrupt Spanish initiatives.

The switch didn’t work only one way, however, as in Spain’s goal. Both German right-backs this game, Lukas Klostermann and Thilo Kehrer, often tucked narrow with scant support on the right wing. This let Spain find a winger or overlapping full-back on the left in space to work for multiple danger situations, including for the goal:

Jordi Alba free on the left wing
YouTube / FOX Soccer

There’s a mistake or two in Germany’s center-backs as well, so this is an area that could be ripe for the plucking in future matchups. On the goal, Thilo Kehrer (West Ham) shows Jordi Alba (FC Barcelona) way too much green, and Àlvaro Morata (Atlético Madrid) slips in behind Niklas Süle (Borussia Dortmund).

Then there’s the contrasting tales of the game’s super-sub strikers. Luis Enrique threw on Morata in the 54th minute for Ferran Torres (FC Barcelona), but he was really there to replace Marcos Asensio (Real Madrid)’s false nine function with a center-forward. Hansi Flick sent Niclas Füllkrug (Werder Bremen) on in the 70th for Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller in a mirror move. One of these substitutions decisively disrupted their team’s press, and it’s not the one you’d expect.

Jon’s thread is worth reading in full, but the contrast to Asensio’s role leading the Spanish line is an illustration that bears showing:

Interestingly, these tactical perspectives offer the opinion that Germany’s high press proved to be quite a nuisance for Spain — even if, as you might expect given the Spanish quality and technical proficiency — it didn’t result in total domination. That at least runs counter to the fingernail-biting mood in our gamethread as events unfolded!

It’s an intriguing lens. In throwing on Morata, Enrique may have helped his team finally find the breakthrough — but also lost the control that might have preserved a lead otherwise. Germany lacked just enough oomph to truly punish Spain for this roll of the dice, but it must be said they came close.

And for Hansi Flick? Vindication and redemption, to achieve this upper hand with his substitutions after his changes in the last game against Japan cost his own side control, and eventually, the game.

This clash against Spain ended with the teams splitting the spoils. But it feels a little like German Press 2, Spanish Press 1, doesn’t it?

Interested in a VERY in-depth review of Germany’s 1-1 draw with Spain? Then why not check out the latest episode of our podcast? We talk about everything from lineups, tactics, and individual performances, to a discussion about Bayern Munich at the World Cup overall. Listen to it below or on Spotify.

As always, we appreciate all the support!

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bavarian Football Works Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Bayern Munich news from Bavarian Football Works