DOHA ( Associated Press) — When the World Cup draw was held in April, one of the most anticipated group stage clashes was between Spain and Germany at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday.
Eight months later, the duel between the two former champions and favorites to lift the cup is even more relevant after the Germans’ unexpected defeat against Japan for the first time in Qatar.
Another blow against Luis Enrique’s men could see Germany eliminated in the first leg for the second time in a row. A defeat, along with a draw between Japan and Costa Rica in the match played earlier in the day, would eliminate the four-time champions of the tournament.
Spain, for their part, will look to secure their ticket to the round of 16 and cement their position as title contenders after an impressive 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica earlier this week.
The signs for Germany are not encouraging. Their last match against La Rosa was an embarrassing 6-0 defeat in the Nations League two years ago. For their last win over Spain you have to go back to a friendly match eight years ago.
Germany won their fourth World Cup in Brazil in 2014, but four years later in Russia they failed to progress beyond the group stage after losing to South Korea and Mexico. It would be the first time in its history that it did not reach the last 16 in two consecutive World Cups.
Spain were crowned champions in 2010 in South Africa and in 2018 they received a bye in the round of 16. A win on Sunday would allow Costa Rica to advance if they do not beat Japan.
The young Spanish team’s hopes were raised after their impressive game against Costa Rica, where they recovered “tiki-taka”, a style of play based on possession of the ball, and one of their stars, Gavi, scored on his 18. Years have passed. Youngest goalscorer at the World Cup since Pelé in 1958.
The seven goals against Ticos equaled the total achieved in Russia.
Luis Enrique said he was not worried about a possible extra confidence from his wards and promised to change the starting XI against Germany, although he gave no further indications.
Midfielder Leroy Sane could return to play for Germany after missing out with Japan due to a knee injury.
Sunday will be the fifth encounter between the two powers in the World Cup. Spain won the last match 1–0 in the 2010 semi-finals.