Olmo Leads Spain to EURO'24 Semifinals
Came, Saw, Conquered: Olmo Leads Spain to EURO'24 Semifinals

The quarterfinal match was the last for Toni Kroos in the German national team's jersey.

The EURO 2024 quarterfinals kicked off with the host nation Germany facing Spain. The opponents often meet at major tournaments, and while the Spanish frequently come out on top, the Germans haven't won since 1988.

The last time the teams faced each other was in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup, ending in a draw. In the previous match, "La Roja" had demolished their opponents 6-0 in the Nations League.

In terms of playoff matches, Spain had a slight edge before this game: at the 2008 European Championship, they won the final by a narrow margin, and two years later, they knocked Germany out in the World Cup semifinals. However, there were positive signs for Germany – Spain had not been able to defeat the host nation in a tournament for many years. So, one streak was bound to end in this match.

The game started very openly, with both teams threatening each other's goals and focusing on attack, but without creating any real dangerous moments. It was evident that Germany's leader, Kroos, started the match unsuccessfully with two fouls. Meanwhile, Spanish midfielder Pedri had to leave the field due to an injury in the 8th minute. Media reported that Pedri would miss the rest of the tournament, and he was replaced by Dani Olmo. This substitution proved to be successful.

Throughout the first half, both teams took turns seizing the initiative and controlling the ball, but this did not lead to goals, causing the game to close. By halftime, the score remained 0-0.

Early in the second half, Morata received the ball in the penalty area, shielded it from defenders, turned, and shot from close range but missed the target. In that situation, it seemed easier to score than to miss.

However, a few minutes later, the Spaniards did score. 16-year-old Yamal sped down the flank and delivered a cross to the edge of the penalty area, where Dani Olmo struck the ball into the far bottom corner. 1-0, Yamal became the youngest player to assist in a EURO quarterfinal match.

Germany immediately launched an attack to equalize but continued struggling to create chances. In the 70th minute, they finally threatened the Spanish goal: Andrich struck powerfully from outside the box, but Unai Simón saved it.

A few minutes later, the post saved Spain: Füllkrug won a battle against a defender and connected with a cross but couldn't change the score. In the 82nd minute, Spanish goalkeeper Simón received a yellow card for time-wasting and then gifted Germany a one-on-one opportunity – Havertz tried to chip the ball over Simón but shot over the bar.

Germany pressed hard in the final 10 minutes, barely allowing Spain any possession. The Spanish defense blocked shot after shot, resorting to clearing the ball away. But in the 87th minute, Germany equalized: Kimmich won an aerial duel at the far post and headed the ball to Wirtz, who struck it into the net off the post – 1-1. Interestingly, Wirtz had only come on at halftime. Just before the final whistle, Müller nearly clinched victory for Germany but missed the post with his header.

In the first extra-time period, both teams had chances to score. Towards the end, Mikel Oyarzabal missed the target from a good position. Then Wirtz squandered a golden opportunity to score a second goal.

Early in the second 15-minute period, there was a controversial moment: Musiala's shot was blocked by Cucurella's outstretched arm. The situation was 50/50, but the referee did not award a penalty, and VAR did not intervene. Near the end of extra time, Füllkrug almost won it for Germany, but Simón saved his diving header. When you don't score, you concede. This time, Olmo turned provider: his cross was headed in by Merino. 2-1 – the hosts of the EURO were out, and Spain awaited their next opponent.

Published by Patrick Jane