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July 17, 2024
Football European Championship

Merino’s Late Winner Sends Spain Through To Euro 2024 Semis

  • July 5, 2024
  • 3 min read
Merino’s Late Winner Sends Spain Through To Euro 2024 Semis

Mikel Merino’s dramatic 119th-minute header secured a hard-fought victory for Spain over hosts Germany in a thrilling Euro 2024 quarter-final clash on Friday.

The match was a tense affair filled with drama and passion, showcasing the tactical prowess and competitive spirit of both footballing giants. Spain dominated the midfield from the outset, controlling the tempo and flow of the game.

Alvaro Morata had the first significant chance for Spain, but his shot lacked the power to beat Germany’s stalwart goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer. Pedri, who was later forced off with a knee injury after a collision with Toni Kroos, also saw his involvement cut short early on.

Germany’s first attempt on target came courtesy of Kai Havertz, who met a Joshua Kimmich cross in the 20th minute. However, Unai Simon, Spain’s goalkeeper, was equal to the task, comfortably saving the effort. He was called into action again in the 34th minute, denying another attempt from Havertz.

Dani Olmo tested Neuer from distance just before halftime, but the German custodian parried the shot away, ensuring the first half ended scoreless.

Germany made strategic changes at halftime, introducing Florian Wirtz and Robert Andrich to bolster their attack and midfield defense.

The second half saw Spain take the lead early on. In the 51st minute, Olmo tapped home a well-placed cutback pass from the 16-year-old sensation Lamine Yamal.

Germany responded with a double substitution of their own, bringing on Nicolas Füllkrug and Maximilian Mittelstädt. They nearly equalized through Andrich’s curling shot from outside the box, but Simon was again up to the task. Füllkrug also came close, hitting the post with his effort.

Despite Spain’s attempt to control the game with their passing, Germany’s persistence paid off in the dying moments of regular time. A header back into play by Kimmich found Wirtz, who unleashed a shot that deflected off the post before finding the net, sending the match into extra time.

The tension escalated in extra time, with more fouls recorded than in any other game of Euro 2024. Musiala nearly put Germany ahead, but Simon made another crucial save. As the game progressed, Germany looked more comfortable, maintaining possession and applying pressure on Spain.

Determined to avoid a penalty shootout, Spain found the winner in the 119th minute. Olmo delivered a beautiful cross into the box, met by Merino, who headed home to secure Spain’s place in the semi-finals.

In a dramatic closing moment, Musiala broke free from Dani Carvajal, who brought him down as a last resort, receiving a red card for the challenge. This means the Real Madrid right-back will miss both the semi-final and the final if Spanish go that far. The match also marked the retirement of German legend Toni Kroos, who has had an illustrious career at both club and national level.

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Nkanyiso Mchunu

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