Discover more from Flying Geese
Day 4: Germany the team to beat?
We have now seen three of the mooted pre-tournament favourites play in England, Germany, and Spain, and so far Germany are the only ones to have truly impressed. Their 4-0 victory over Denmark last night helped bump them to the top of Opta’s model, with it giving them a 20% chance of winning a record ninth trophy.
Denmark were one of a number of ‘question mark’ teams at the tournament. In Pernille Harder, they have a player who can steam roll through defences, but when Harder is not in the game, they don’t seem to have many other ideas. So Germany just made sure she was not in the game. Lena Oberdorf basically said as much afterwards. Harder had the fewest touches of any outfield player to have played 90 minutes (36).
With Denmark’s attacking threat largely neutralised, Germany were free to bring the game completely under their control. There were warning signs early on for Denmark as Germany hit the bar three times, twice from long-range efforts from Felicitas Rauch. But Denmark’s serious problems were of their own making, conceding the opener when aan attempted pass ricocheted off Lina Magull’s shin sending her through on goal. Magull’s strike could have ripped through the back of the net she smashed it so hard.
The second came from goalkeeper Lene Christensen getting absolutely nowhere near a corner with Lea Schuller heading it in. Unfortunately this was just two minutes after Denmark had made a triple substitution but from then it felt like they knew the game was beyond them and they capitulated.
On the other side of that group, Spain beat Finland 4-1 having conceded a shock opener in the first minute. With Alexia Putellas absent from the tournament having torn her anterior cruciate ligament, there has been a lot of talk about Aitana Bonmati stepping up to take on the mantel of creator in chief. The focus on Aitana is understandable. She is immensely talented and probably slightly underrated as a result of playing in the same side as Alexia. She also plays in midfield and she was awarded Player of the Match, as well as scoring a delightful looping header to put Spain 2-1 up.
However, there is another player who might actually be more ready to step into Alexia’s shoes, emotionally, if not positionally. Mapi Leon looked rattled early on by Finland’s long balls over the top but regained her composure as the game went on to inspire Spain’s comeback. Leon is a centre-back but the nature of Spain’s play means she will often find herself higher up the pitch, ready to float balls into the penalty area or take corners.
Her all-round excellence meant she walked away from the game having created the most chances (6), made the most tackles (3) and completed the most passes (103). With three of Spain’s goals being from headers and the fourth being a penalty, Spain showed that beyond the neat passing and positional flexibility, they have a way to force the issue in games where it is not clicking.
This now sets up what always looked like the best fixture in this group - and maybe the group stage as a whole - Spain vs Germany on Tuesday. Germany will feel incredibly confident off the back of the Denmark game. Perhaps the lack of focus on them has suited them? Rafa Honigstein wrote in a piece on The Athletic that lots of the pre-tournament emphasis was on “team building, with players doing vocal coaching sessions…, recording TikTok videos and creating a collage.” They certainly looked relaxed on Friday night.
Spain will certainly have to take things up a notch if they are to beat this German team as Finland found it relatively easy to play through them at points, something Italy showed as well in a pre-Euros friendly. Germany have the players to more than make the most of that.