Spain 2-1 Germany [AET]: Kroos hangs up boots as EURO2024 hosts bow out in Stuttgart

This could, in an alternate reality, have been the EURO2024 final. Instead, these two European heavyweights were forced to clash in a winner-takes-all quarterfinal tie. There would be no consolation of a silver medal: it was all or nothing, and for Germany, the pressure was on.

As the hosting nation, expectation weighs heavily on the shoulders of die Mannschaft. Germany haven’t won a tournament on home soil since the 1974 World Cup, finishing third in both 1988 and 2006.

Yet on Friday in Stuttgart, it was a Dani Olmo strike and then a Mikel Merino header that dented German dreams, ensuring Spain progress to the final four of EURO2024. The result also means that Toni Kroos has played the final match of his professional career.

As it happened

Spain wasted no time in getting proceedings underway in Badem-Württemburg on Friday – and were perhaps left rueing what could have been inside the opening two minutes. Nico Williams’ ball for Álvaro Morata was flicked back for Pedri, though his dismal attempt from the edge of the box was driven straight into the arms of Manuel Neuer.

It would, in truth, be the last real opportunity of note that Pedri was involved in. His involvement ended prematurely, forced to limp off after just seven minutes with apparent discomfort following an early challenge from Toni Kroos.

Wasted opportunities defined the first twenty minutes in Stuttgart. Lamine Yamal curled an effort just wide of the base of the post and Fabián Ruiz blazed an effort over the bar, and their lack of ruthlessness in front of goal would seemingly come back to bite them.

Julian Nagelsmann’s men grew into the match: Kai Havertz saw a header denied by Unai Simón, and was kept out by the shotstopper at the near post soon after. For all the chances, neither side looked genuinely able to score – and the first of four EURO2024 quarterfinals remained goals at the break.

But that didn’t last long. Morata was perhaps unfortunate not to eon the scoring in the 47th minute as he jinked past Jonathan Tah, but Spain’s blushes would be spared merely five minutes later when Dani Olmo delivered the moment they’d been so eagerly awaiting.

(Photo by Alex Caparros – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Yamal drove forward on the right, assessing his options before drilling a low ball back towards the advancing Olmo – and he connected sweetly, dispatching a first-time finish past the outstretched arms of Neuer and into the bottom-left corner. Advantage España.

Robert Andrich forced Simón into action, Niclas Füllkrug struck the base of the post and Havertz’s attempted chip sailed over the crossbar. The clock ticked into the final five minutes, and with every Spanish save, hope waned. Crucially, the German grit did not.

Die Mannschaft couldn’t have left it much later, but in the 89th minute, Florian Wirtz stunned Stuttgart and those in the Berlin fan zone burst into raptures. Maximilian Mittelstadt’s cross was lifted towards the back post, flicked back by Joshua Kimmich and driven home by Wirtz, the post playing a crucial role and steering his strike over the line.

It was in extra time that proceedings really began to get going. La Roja came painstakingly close to restoring their lead at the end of the first fifteen minutes, with Mikel Oyarzabal watching in despair as his curling strike rolled wide of the far post.

The second half, however, was the definition of frenetic. Die Mannschaft were understandably aggrieved when, just minutes into the final period, Jamal Musiala’s thunderous strike was blocked by the hand of Marc Cucurella – though Anthony Taylor and the VAR opted not to award a penalty.

With the match seemingly guaranteed to be decided by means of a penalty shootout, the value of composure cannot be underestimated. Dani Olmo, having netted Spain’s opener at the start of the second half, delivered in a pinpoint cross for Mikel Merino; the midfielder rose to the challenge, leaping spectacularly above Rüdiger to nod home the goal that would send la Roja into the final four.

(Photo by Alex Caparros – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

The action was not over there: Füllkrug directed a header wide in the third minute of injury time, before Carvajal was dismissed for a second bookable offence when he dragged back the advancing Musiala.

It was a painstaking way to draw the curtains on Toni Kroos’ decorated career at the highest level – but there can only be one winner, and on Friday, it wasn’t the tournament hosts. They slump to the worst-ever finish for a EUROs host nation.

The lineups

ESP: Simón; Cucurella, Laporte, Le Normand, Carvajal; Ruiz, Rodri, Pedri; Williams, Morata, Yamal

GER: Neuer; Raum, Tah, Rüdiger, Kimmich; Kronos, Can; Musical, Gündoğan, Sané; Havertz

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