The two most recent world champions came head to head in Germany this evening. No less than seven Madridistas featured, with footballing class in abundance. Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, and Isco would start for Spain while Toni Kroos was in the eleven for Germany. Rarely do friendlies live up to the billing, but it was a back and forth affair with quality chances for both sides. If not for the superb goalkeeping by De Gea and Ter Stegen, the score line would have been far larger.
Not even five minutes into the match and Iniesta was working his magic. A well timed run from Rodrigo was matched by an inch perfect through ball from Andres. Rodrigo latched on and his first time finish put Spain in front. La Roja dominated the opening moments, playing their typical tiki-taka football, with some lovely touches from the likes of Isco and David Silva. Uncharacteristically for Germany, their press was poor and disjointed. Spain was able to easily play through Germany’s attempt to put them under. As the first half wore on, Germany’s play improved and their confidence grew. Their press improved and they hounded Spain before their first goal. It was Dani Carvajal who got caught on the ball and lost possession a few yards from his own eighteen yard box. In typical German fashion, Spain were punished. Kroos found Khedira who found Mueller right outside the box. The Bayern man needs little space to do some damage and he ripped a screamer from his right foot that not even the in-form De Gea could stop.
The second half was equally entertaining again with De Gea and Ter Stegen showing the world why they are so highly rated. After some brilliant football from Spain, Isco latched on to a low driven cross that was saved pointblank from the German keeper. Less than 30 seconds later, Germany had countered down the field and Ilkay Gundogan tested De Gea with a blistering, low-driven shot that the Spaniard parried away. A number of changes were made by Lopetegui in the second half which impacted the chemistry and rhythm of the Spanish squad. Germany began to look the better side late in the second half. A well worked set piece from Toni Kroos connected with Mats Hummels, whose header bounced off the crossbar and out of play. It was a poor lapse in concentration from Spain that went unpunished.
There were clear opportunities for both sides, but neither could find a way past the others respective goalkeeper. The game was a nice sample of what may come in Russia this summer.
Madrid Player Performances:
Sergio Ramos: The Andalusian is well on his way from becoming the most capped Spaniard in the history of the national team; he is now only 18 games away. Tonight would be his 150th appearance. The captain played well and was the veteran presence his side needed, especially in the second half as younger squad members took to the field. Sergio dealt well with Werner’s pace and played some beautiful long range passes throughout the match.
Dani Carvajal: A good, but not great game from Carvajal. Draxler caused Dani and the whole Spain backline problems. There were a number of times where Dani got caught in possession as Germany pressed high. One such occasion occurred before Germany’s goal, where Spain tried to play their way out of the back, but Germany had suffocated all options on the right flank and hounded Carvajal into coughing up the ball. Improved when Lucas Vazquez came on as he had more defensive cover and their strong partnership was evident.
Nacho: Entered the match at the start of the second half for Gerard Pique. Partnered Sergio Ramos and looked assured in possession. Had a few moments where Werner’s pace caught him out, but all in all it was a typical Nacho performance with few mistakes.
Toni Kroos: Played the full 90 minutes for Germany and did not put a foot wrong. Surprisingly, played a bit deeper than Khedira to help build out the play. Each of his passes were inch perfect. Nearly notched the game winning assist with a cheeky free kick play that found the head of Hummels whose header bounced off the crossbar and out of play.
Isco: Lopetegui seems to give Isco just what he needs—a shot of bullet proof confidence. The former Malaga man started from the left, but had the freedom to roam all across the pitch. Isco could be found everywhere, much like his diamond role with Madrid, he was left, right, center, deep, and advanced. Again similar to Madrid’s issues this season, Spain sometimes struggled in transition when Isco roamed with no cover. Iniesta did a good job to shift over to the left, but as the game wore on that structure became sloppy. Had a point blank shot saved by the immense Ter Stegen, but Isco should be disappointed not to have converted. Overall it was a good match from Isco, with some beautiful touches to get out of danger, but his production was lacking.
Marco Asensio: Took to the pitch in the 60th minute for Isco. Was glued to the left flank and did well when he got on the ball, coping with the German pressure. An intriguing battle took place between Kimmich and Asensio. The youngster led a brilliant Spanish counter and provided one of his perfect left footed curling crosses that nearly found Diego Costa and David Silva at the back post, but neither could get the right connection.
Lucas Vazquez: Lopetegui put Lucas on for David Silva and had both Marco and Lucas hug the wings with big Diego Costa leading the line for the final fifteen minutes of the second half. Germany had a lot the possession in the final minutes, pinning Spain back and forcing Lucas to demonstrate his defensive capabilities as he helped provide cover for Dani. Had a few opportunities to go 1v1 against Jonas, but a couple of his crosses and final passes failed to find a man in red.
Spain U21 4 – Northern Ireland U21 3:
Not to be forgotten were La Rojita, with Vallejo, Ceballos, and Mayoral all forming part of the squad. Ceballos captained the team and as always proves to be a level above the u21 standard. But it was Mayoral who stole the headlines, the Madrid youngster bagged a hat trick. Surprisingly, Vallejo did not feature in this match. Mayoral and Ceballos picked up some good minutes and their confidence will be high before returning to Madrid.
El hat-trick de @Mayoral_Borja ante Irlanda del Norte. pic.twitter.com/Zq1Jokt0Tm— Le Commandant (@Rayhunter_eu) March 23, 2018