Spain’s under-21 soccer team on Sunday edged Germany to secure a spot in the European Championship semifinals.
Alvaro Morata’s 85th minute goal was enough to push his side through after both teams failed to capitalize on a number of opportunities throughout the match.
Thousands of Israeli fans, wearing both German and Spanish shirts, showed up to watch the future of European soccer as the two talented teams played their second match at UEFA’s Under-21 Championship tournament held in Israel.
Among those present were Sandra and Itay Dotan, a married German-Israeli couple. Though they spent the game chanting in German along with the other fans — “Go Germany, go forward” and “Spain, we can not hear you” were the calls most heard — they also had some hard feelings following their encounter with Israeli fans at other matches.
“At the Holland-Germany match we were approached by several teenagers who called us ‘Nazis’ and said it was a disgrace that we were representing Germany,” they told the Times of Israel during the halftime break. The teens asked the how they could support Germany when they live in Israel. “We were shocked people would talk to us that way.”
While Sandra described her newly found love to the country she only recently moved to, Itay answered why they chose to wave the German flag at the games. “My wife is German, and I love the Bundesliga; it is the second best league in the world,” he said.
Morata’s goal came in the 85th minute, capping a game full of near scores. The goal by the Real Madrid striker was his second winning strike of the tournament, and both were scored by him after coming off the bench and giving his side a boost of fresh energy.
Spain dominated the first half, holding onto the ball and getting numerous chances in and around Germany’s penalty area.
Their first serious threat came at the 23rd minute, when a shot by captain Thiago Alcantara — who plays for the prestigious Barcelona FC during the season — ricocheted off the German post.
In the 37th minute, after a few minutes of German control in center field, Christian Clemens came close to scoring the first goal of the match, but his strike from outside the box narrowly missed the target. Both teams failed to capitalize and the half ended with no goals.
The second half opened with a German blitzkrieg as the team in white pushed the Spaniards back. None the less, it was Spain’s Asier Illarramendi who almost netted as a well placed kick was just off target.
Thousands of fans were on their feet during the 64th minute, as Spain missed a sequence of shots from within Germany’s penalty box, thanks to a strong performance by keeper Bernd Leno. Right after clearing the ball the German side raced out to a two-on-one fast break, but failed to capitalize.
Earlier, in the first match of Group B, Holland defeated Russia 5-1 at Jerusalem’s Teddy stadium in front of under 6,000 fans, a poor attendance at a venue set to sit 32,000 people. The Oranje all but guaranteed the first place of their group while shattering the Russian’s hopes of advancing to the semifinals.
Holland went up 1-0 right before halftime, ending a fast tempo opening period. In the second half however, only one team seemed to show up to play. The Dutch side went up 2-0 before Russia scored their first goal of the match, but five minutes later it was 3-1. From then until the last goal was scored two minutes after regulation, the Oranje were in complete control of the game.
On Wednesday Holland will face Spain as the two battle for first place in the group. The winner of the match will face Italy in the semifinals. The second game, between Germany and Russia will be for pride only, after both teams lost their chance of advancing to the next round.