National coach Hansi Flick took him to Qatar for this. Bremen’s Niclas Füllkrug saves the DFB-Elf from another setback against fearful opponents Spain. At the World Cup in Qatar. Now, however, a win against Costa Rica is needed, because the preliminary round knockout is still on. a realistic scenario.

Well, a soccer game was played. One that had lost its existential character for the German national team on Sunday afternoon, 1 p.m. local time. Because Costa Rica had prevailed in a curious duel against Japan (1-0), the horror scenario against Spain was off the table: the fastest World Cup knockout since 1938. Also off the table: the political dimension. No “One Love” armband, no new protests. The fierce dispute over freedom of expression is now being raised to the level of the association, where it belongs according to many experts – the outcome between the DFB and FIFA is uncertain. But this duel was not without excitement. Before things really got going on the field, a couple of men in their dishdashas showed a photo and drawings of Mesut Özil, mimicking the DFB team’s “close your mouth” gesture from the Japan game. Who were the men? Not clear. What they say: You’re fighting for “One Love”, but saved yourself with love in Özil’s photo affair.

An aftermath, probably. But now to the sport: In Germany, tough settlements with the national team had already been pre-formulated. What’s not going wrong! Not a top striker! No furious full-backs! And a Hansi Flick who refuses to take the advice of 40, 50, 60 million national coaches at home: namely to transfer Joshua Kimmich. And so the six against Spain remained a six, plus the two dissatisfied İlkay Gündoğan (mockered about his teammates) and Leon Goretzka (was not happy with his role as a reserve player). Thomas Müller stormed, Thilo Kehrer defended. In the 18th game under Flick’s direction, there was already the 15th defensive formation. A clear indication that Germany had rebuilt for the most important lineup of his coaching life, not as massively as many had expected! And did it work? As a result, the still toughest currency in the football business: yes! It ended 1:1 (0:0).

Oh yes, thanks for asking, actually probably good. It looked different for the first ten minutes, the “Furia Roja” ran wildly intoxicated towards everything that had a German jersey on. The plan behind it was as simple as it was comprehensible: capitalize directly on the German uncertainty after the initial embarrassment. The bar was shaking after seven minutes, Dani Olmo had shot, Manuel Neuer had thrown his arm up like an arrow. Phew, what a start. And the Spaniards didn’t give up, what they did with the ball was beautiful to look at. But Germany fought back and caused chaos. The controlled game turned into a sometimes wild exchange of blows with good physicality on the part of the Germans.

Experts know: as sensitive as the gifted are, they detest tough duels as much as they do. And that’s how they got into the game and created opportunities. A headed goal by Antonio Rüdiger was disallowed for offside (40′). Another time, Kimmich failed with a hard shot from 13 meters at Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon (56th), who put the people in front under pressure with sometimes absurd passes. Perhaps the best opportunity, however, was given to super talent Jamal Musiala (73rd), he shot on goal instead of serving the substitute Niclas Füllkrug in the centre. The shot was parried.

At this point it was already 1-0 for the Spaniards. Right in the middle of the best German phase, Alvaro Morata made the decisive blow. Jordi Alba had too much space on the left because Kehrer wasn’t close enough to him and just put his foot in instead of looking for a duel. The FC Barcelona icon brought the ball precisely to the first post, where Morata was significantly faster than the previously very attentive Niklas Süle. From a half-left position of five yards, he made a run with his right and heaved the ball under the bar in the near post corner for captain Manuel Neuer. A striker who did striker things. And a suggestion for the national coach. He brought a jug – and the turning point. After being substituted on in the 70th minute for the weak Thomas Müller, he was involved in almost every strong action. His force put the Spaniards. Its force was indefensible. In the 83rd minute he welded the ball into the far corner with the conviction that he was the best German striker. Third game, second goal. Deserved wage for filling jug, for Germany. Flick’s plans worked. Balm for the maltreated Bundeshansi soul, whose decisions against Japan had been shredded in the national expert committees.

Deserved reward for a passionate game. For a successful redemption. Full concentration for 95 minutes. The way Goretzka prevented a counterattack with a hero’s tackle in injury time, although yellow had been charged, was outstanding. Likewise the mentality of the team. Always greedy, always handy. And the fact that there was no 2018 deja vu, that the very agile and dangerous Leroy Sané, who was also substituted on, did not refine a counterattack in the 95th minute (play into the middle was too late), does not have to be bad news. Back in Russia, Germany won the second group game late – and got kicked out.

Goals: 1: 0 Morata (62nd), 1: 1 jug (83rd) Spain: Unai Simon / Athletic Bilbao (25 years / 29 internationals / 0 goals) – Carvajal / Real Madrid (30/32/0), Rodrigo /Manchester City (26/36/1), Laporte/Manchester City (28/18/1), Jordi Alba/FC Barcelona (33/89/9) from 82. Balde/FC Barcelona (19/2/0) – Sergio Busquets/FC Barcelona (34/141/2) – Gavi/FC Barcelona (18/15/3) from 66. Williams/Athletic Bilbao (20/5/1), Pedri/FC Barcelona (19/16/0) – Ferran Torres/FC Barcelona (22/33/15) from 54. Morata/Atlético Madrid (30/59/28), M. Asensio/Real Madrid (26/33/2) from 66. Koke/Atlético Madrid (30 /70/0), Dani Olmo/RB Leipzig (24/27/5). – Coach: Enrique Germany: Neuer/Bayern Munich (36 years/116 internationals/0 goals) – Kehrer/West Ham United (26/24/0) from 70. Klostermann/RB Leipzig (26/20/0), Süle/ Borussia Dortmund (27/44/1), Rüdiger/Real Madrid (29/56/2), Raum/RB Leipzig (24/14/0) from 87. Schlotterbeck/Borussia Dortmund (22/8/0) – Kimmich/ Bayern Munich (27/73/5), Goretzka/Bayern Munich (27/47/14) – Gnabry/Bayern Munich (27/38/20) from 85. Hofmann/Borussia Mönchengladbach (30/19/4), Gündogan/ Manchester City (32/65/17) from 70. Sane/Bayern Munich (26/49/11), Musiala/Bayern Munich (19/19/1) – Müller/Bayern Munich (33/120/44) from 70. Full pitcher/Werder Bremen (29/3/1). – Coach: FlickReferee: Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)Spectators: 68,895 (sold out in Al-Khor)

But yes, Germany can still become world champion (no kidding!). The round of 16 is still within reach, the showdown is on Thursday, 8 p.m. (in the live ticker). Then it’s up against Costa Rica, who had been beaten up by Spain and took down Japan with what seemed like the only chance. But the situation is, to put it mildly, complicated. We break down:

Our observers Stephan Uersfeld and David Bedürtig, known for their furious World Cup diary, radioed the following greetings home: The ranks of the Bedouin tent in Al-Khor filled up late and then only sparingly. After all, this time the organizers had brought the World Cup trophy for the show before the game. Struck silence at the “fireworks” and then again: “Get up if you can”. The national anthems, please. At 24 degrees and 69 percent humidity, the Al-Bayt was surprisingly not cooled down everywhere this time. It was one of the warmest games of the World Cup. Which caused plenty of flies in the stadium. They annoyed Flick during the interview, and they also buzzed around the microphone with Goretzka and Kimmich after the game. The mood was not conducive to not cooling down. In between, even the signals from Radio Müller could be heard up to the grandstands. Because everything seemed pointless somehow, the German fans tried their hand at the wave. They were hardly more successful than in the game against Japan.