Germany coach Hansi Flick fronted the media alone yesterday. As per the FIFA rules, every team needs to send a coach and player to speak to reporters a day before the match at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. But a defiant Flick sat alone in the press conference at the Qatar National Convention Centre yesterday, even as his players trained 105km away at their Al Shamal training base.
Flick was unperturbed by the FIFA fine that will follow. It’s desperate times for Flick and his German team as they face a second successive group stage World Cup elimination if they lose to Spain at the Al Bayt Stadium today.
“We can’t expect a player to come along and drive for three hours. It’s a very important match so I told them I’m going to come and do it on my own,” Flick said nonchalantly.
“Every player in the 26 is important so I asked them not to come along because it is important they devote energy to the training session. We are disappointed. We have a very good media centre at the training ground and it would have been possible for a player to come if the press conference had been held closer,” he added, after FIFA refused Germany’s request to conduct the pre-match press conference at their training base.
At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Germany finished bottom of a group containing Sweden, Mexico and South Korea – in what was their earliest exit from the football showpiece in 80 years. And Flick is determined his team would not suffer another embarrassment.
Tonight’s match at Al Bayt is a blockbuster, even if it did not carry the weightage of a do-or-die clash for Germany. There is no ‘Group of Death’ at this World Cup, but this was the standout fixture when the draw was made on April 1. Japan and Costa Rica – the other teams in Group E – were never meant to pose much of a trouble for the European giants.
While Spain swept past Costa Rica in a seven-goal rout, Germany fell to a shock 1-2 defeat to Japan after having dominated in the first half making it a decisive clash. If Japan draw or beat Costa Rica earlier today at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, a defeat for Germany later against Spain will send the four-time world champions crashing out.
The recent result between the two teams does not augur well for Germans, so does their record against Spain in big tournaments. Spain thrashed Germany 6-0 when they last met in November 2020 in the UEFA Nations League, while Flick was assistant to Joachim Low when Die Mannschaft lost to Spain in the 2008 Euros final and the 2010 World Cup semi-final.
Flick said ‘past doesn’t matter anymore’ but conceded their reputation was at stake. “This will be answered on Sunday. Maybe we have another answer to that question, the right answer. Tomorrow is the first final for us in this World Cup. This is what it’s all about. We want to prevent going out,” he noted.
Germany’s defence faltered in their opener against Japan, and with a young Spanish team filled with world’s enviable emerging talents in Gavi and Pedri showing their ruthlessness against Costa Rica, Flick’s men need to find a way to shut their European counterparts.
“For me the focus is football,” Flick said. “I am convinced of the idea of how we want to play. If we are not on 100% then we give the opponent space. We did it against Japan. Such a defeat and how it came about is very bitter because it was avoidable. But we will continue down our road because we believe in the quality of the team and that it can apply the things we want. We have courage and belief going into the game,” said the German.
For Spain, without the burden of being considered as one of the title favourites in Qatar, seemed to have given them freedom to express themselves on the field. A win tonight, will seal La Roja’s qualification into the last 16.
In Luis Enrique, they have a coach who behaves and talks like he is under least pressure among the 32 managers in the tournament. Besides plotting Spain’s first World Cup title since 2010, Enrique has been live streaming from his twitch channel from Qatar. He also embraced technology in his training methods, using it to explain positional play and retaining possession to his players.
While the dominating win over Costa Rica has lightened the mood in Spain’s camp, it’s against Germans they will find their equal match. Enrique called it a ‘beautiful challenge’ of two teams who like to dominate possession.
“Without a doubt, they are the team that is most similar to Spain in terms of dominating the play and controlling it. That is a beautiful challenge for us,” Enrique said yesterday. “I think it will be an open game. A big win like that (against Costa Rica) creates confidence but we can’t go into the game over confident. Will Germany be more dangerous because they need the win more? You never know in football,” the former Barcelona coach said.
“They are world champions, when you look there are four stars on their shirt,” said Enrique, when asked if he considers his team as favourites for the match. “I played in 1994 against them, there was a big physical difference in that era, and a footballing one. I think that Spain are at that level now – in fact in the FIFA rankings we’re above them – but if anyone knows how to fight, it’s Germany. I have a lot of respect for their players, they are world class, and their history is there to see. But we have the conviction that we have to beat Germany.”


Spain vs Germany
When: Today, 10pm
Where: Al Bayt Stadium
Capacity: 60,000

Key stats:
Spain were World Cup winners in 2010 - their one success to date - while Germany have won the trophy four times, most recently in 2014 in Brazil.
Spain thrashed Germany 6-0 in their last meeting in November 2020 in the UEFA Nations League.
Spain will qualify for the knockout stage with a win. Defeat for Germany would mean elimination if Japan take at least a point from their match against Costa Rica.
Germany failed to clear the group stage at the last World Cup in Russia in 2018 when they lost matches to Mexico and South Korea. It was their earliest exit in the competition in decades.

Previous meetings: The two sides have met 25 times previously, with
Germany winning on nine occasions, Spain on eight and eight draws.
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