15 min: Spain have enjoyed 64 percent of possession so far. Much as expected. Germany with 21. The bit marked In Contest probably means something too.
13 min: Olmo goes on a dribble down the left and runs smack into Kehrer, who isn’t giving an inch. Olmo wants a free kick just outside the box, but he’s quite rightly not getting one.
11 min: It’s been all Spain, but now Germany suddenly spring forward in attack, a cute Gundogan flick in the centre circle sending Goretzka romping into space down the middle. He slips in Gnabry to his right. Gnabry enters the box and tries to dink over Simon, but the shot is blocked and the flag goes up for offside anyway. Somewhere in the multiverse, it’s 1-1 already. The match we’ve got in this universe isn’t half bad either.
9 min: Neuer did just enough to keep that one out, pushing the ball onto the underside of the bar and away. That was sensational football all round, not least because Olmo’s shot went through a defender’s legs and the keeper only saw it late.
7 min: Asensio busies himself on the edge of the German D and lays off to Olmo on his left. Olmo absolutely creams a rising diagonal shot towards the top right. It’s flying in, but Neuer gets a fingertip to it and the ball crashes off the crossbar instead. What a shot! What a save! What a goal that would have been!
5 min: Torres and Asensio nearly combine to carve out a shooting chance on the edge of the German box. The former rolls a pass in from the right; the latter can’t control. It would have been a good opportunity otherwise.
4 min: Other than that, it’s a pretty shapeless, hectic start. “The German TV pundits fancy their nation’s chances, pointing out that five of their six offensive players are from Bayern and that Spain have a high Barca contingent,” reports Francis Lee. “The record between the two sides in recent years: six wins to nil for Bayern. Frankly I think Germany will get tonked.”
2 min: Musiala faffs around on the edge of his own box and has the ball taken off him by Asensio. Luckily for Germany’s hottest new talent, the whistle goes for handball. A generous decision.
Spain get the ball rolling. A huge 90 minutes (plus) coming up.
The teams are out. Spain in red, Germany white and black. A look of raw emotion in Luis Enrique’s eyes as he listens to the Spanish anthem. Earlier today on Instagram he posted a message to his late daughter Xana, who passed in 2019. “Today is a special day. Not only because we play Germany, but also because my daughter Xana would be turning 13 years old. My love, wherever you are, we love you.” So difficult to read. Everything in perspective.
Pre-match postbag. “It is 2.30 in the morning here and my whole damn sleep schedule has been interrupted. I will be cheering for Germany because I am from Costa Rica and I absolutely hate Spain’s style of football. Humph” – Alexandra Fullerton.
“German television just showed a clip detailing the strengths of the German teams of old and contrasted how the current version is lacking all of them. It finished with the great quote about football, adapted to the current form of the Nationalmannschaft: A game lasts 90 minutes and in the end… the other team wins” – Oliver Lind.
A signal lack of football fever on display here. Though to be fair, it is Sunday evening, and Sunday evenings have been a complete back-to-school downer since time immemorial. Especially on BBC1. [Trigger warning: pensioners careering down country lane in bath]
Spain make one change to their starting XI following the 7-0 rout of Costa Rica. Dani Carvajal replaces Cesar Azpilicueta in defence.
Germany respond to the earth’s-orbit-compromising loss to Japan by making two changes to their starting line-up. Thilo Kehrer replaces Nico Schlotterbeck, while forward Kai Havertz makes way for an extra midfielder in Leon Goretzka.
Spain: Simon, Carvajal, Rodri, Laporte, Jordi Alba, Gavi, Busquets, Gonzalez, Ferran Torres, Asensio, Olmo.
Subs: Sanchez, Azpilicueta, Garcia, Pau Torres, Llorente, Morata, Koke, Williams, Raya, Balde, Guillamon, Pino, Carlos Soler, Sarabia, Fati.
Germany: Neuer, Sule, Kehrer, Rudiger, Raum, Gundogan, Kimmich, Goretzka, Gnabry, Muller, Musiala.
Subs: Ginter, Havertz, Fullkrug, Gotze, Trapp, Klostermann, Brandt, Hofmann, Sane, Gunter, ter Stegen, Schlotterbeck, Adeyemi, Kotchap, Moukoko.
Good evening, and welcome to our coverage of the first heavyweight battle of the 2022 World Cup. Early this morning, we all assumed it would be infused with extreme jeopardy for Germany: after their shock 2-1 loss to Japan last week, defeat at the hands of Spain – who beat them 6-0 the last time they met, and will be hoping to seal qualification tonight – would see them packing. The 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014 winners out at the group stage again.
But then Costa Rica stunned Japan this lunchtime. Now Group E looks like this …
… so Germany can afford to lose again tonight and, providing they haven’t let the goal difference spiral out of control, still have a realistic chance of making it through to the last 16. Beat Costa Rica handsomely while Spain see off Japan, and that’d be the job done.
Of course, nothing’s ever quite as simple as that. In that scenario, even if they see off the Costa Ricans easily enough, Japan will be fighting for their lives against a Spain B side, Luis Enrique’s main men taking a well-earned rest having as good as won the group, and a draw would be enough to knock Germany out.
But you could tire yourself out working through all the possible outcomes. Bottom line is, Germany need a win to realistically keep it in their own hands. (A draw would keep it in their hands mathematically, but they’d most likely need a cricket score against Costa Rica.) Best just to concentrate on matters in hand. Kick off is at 7pm GMT, 10pm at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. انه يحدث! It’s on!