• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Euro 2024: Merino’s late goal sends Spain past Germany into semi-finals

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A dramatic 119th-minute goal by Mikel Merino secured Spain a thrilling 2-1 victory over Germany, sending them into the Euro 2024 semi-finals and keeping their dream of a record-breaking fourth European Championship title alive.

After a fiery yet goalless first half, Dani Olmo opened the scoring for Spain in the 51st minute, connecting with a precise pass from 16-year-old Lamine Yamal. With 14 minutes remaining, Niclas Fuellkrug struck the post, but Germany’s Florian Wirtz managed to equalize in the 89th minute, converting a knock-down from Joshua Kimmich and sending the game into extra time.

As the match seemed destined for penalties, Olmo delivered a crucial cross to Merino, who headed in the winning goal, setting up a semi-final clash with either France or Portugal. Reflecting on his decisive goal,

Merino expressed his exhaustion, saying, “Well, I’m dead, really. The adrenaline is taking its toll on me now. It has been a special moment.”

Olmo also shared his feelings of pride and fatigue, stating, “It is a source of pride, what a great team we have, how we have fought until the end.”
Germany’s exit marks the end of the hosts’ aspirations for a fairytale Euro victory and the close of Toni Kroos’ illustrious career. “We played a good tournament but when you’re so close, to be eliminated like that, it’s bitter,” Kroos remarked to ARD.

The match, featuring two of the most successful nations in Euros history, was seen as a final come early, with Spain’s in-form team facing Julian Nagelsmann’s rejuvenated German squad. Despite pre-match concerns about Kroos, who had an unintended early impact by colliding with Pedri (forcing his substitution), Germany struggled to match Spain’s speed and precision.

Germany’s best chances in the first half fell to Kai Havertz, who twice failed to capitalize on opportunities against Spain’s goalkeeper Unai Simon. In response, Nagelsmann made strategic substitutions, bringing in Robert Andrich and Florian Wirtz, who energized Germany’s attack.

Olmo’s goal early in the second half shifted the momentum in Spain’s favor. However, Germany fought back, with Wirtz hitting the post and eventually equalizing in the final moments of regulation time.

Extra time saw near misses from both sides, with Mikel Oyarzabal and Wirtz coming close to scoring. Germany’s strong penalty appeal for a handball was denied after a VAR check, and minutes later, Merino’s header from Olmo’s cross sealed the victory for Spain.

Spain will face additional challenges in the semi-finals, as Dani Carvajal will miss the match due to a red card, and both Robin Le Normand and captain Alvaro Morata will be suspended after receiving yellow cards.
Luis de la Fuente’s squad will need to make key adjustments as they prepare for the next stage, hoping to continue their quest for another European Championship title.