'Insatiable' Spain make history to defeat Germany

STUTTGART, Germany — Spain coach Luis de la Fuente said his players are “insatiable” for more success at Euro 2024 after creating history by knocking out hosts Germany at the Stuttgart Arena on Friday.

Mikel Merino scored a dramatic 119th-minute winner as Spain beat the hosts at a major tournament for the first time in 10 attempts after Florian Wirtz had cancelled out Dani Olmo’s opener in normal time.

Spain will meet France in the semifinal in Munich on Tuesday, and De la Fuente hopes their run will continue to the final in Berlin on July 14.

“We are seeing history,” the coach said in a news conference after the game. “It is the first time we have had five wins in a row at the Euros or a World Cup.

“It is also the first time beating the hosts in one of the major tournaments. It’s a moment to put value on what we have achieved and enjoy this historic moment.

“We will see how the story ends, but this team wants to go all the way. These players have heart. They’re insatiable; they don’t tire of competing and working hard. They are ambitious. It’s an honour to have players with those values.”

Spain have previously struggled against hosts at major tournaments. They lost at World Cups to Russia in 2018 and South Korea in 2002, while they were also painfully beaten by France in the Euro 1984 final.

More heartbreak looked set to follow in Stuttgart when Wirtz levelled for Germany to take the game into extra time after Olmo had turned home Lamine Yamal’s cross.

Merino’s late goal got Spain over the line in the end, but De la Fuente was still questioned about why he took off Yamal and Nico Williams, among others, after taking the lead, removing La Roja‘s running threat on the counter.

“It depends if it’s good to run or not,” he responded. “We have shown that without running [so much], we won the game. We needed to run less and be more clinical in the final third. That was enough to win a really difficult game.”

A frenzied affair ended with 16 bookings and one red card — to Spain defender Dani Carvajal — while Germany also committed 22 fouls to Spain’s 17.

De la Fuente refused to criticise Germany’s approach but was not happy with an early challenge from Toni Kroos, who was playing his last game before retiring from football, on Pedri, who is likely to miss the rest of the tournament with a knee injury.

“No, because this is football,” he said when asked if Germany’s toughness surprised him. “I played football in the 1980s, so these things don’t scare me.

“I have a friend that says: ‘What do you want, for them to kiss you?’ There is a referee to manage these things. We know these games are played at the limit.

“That aside, Pedri was on the end of a strong challenge that could have been dealt with in another way on the pitch. It deserved a red card.”

Merino, meanwhile, celebrated the winning goal, set up by Olmo, by doing a loop around the corner flag, imitating the celebration his dad performed when he scored at the same stadium in a UEFA Cup game for Osasuna against Stuttgart in 1991.

“It could be the best goal of my career because of the importance of the game, a quarterfinal at the Euros, in the last minute, to win it,” the Real Sociedad midfielder told reporters.

“At first, I didn’t believe it because I didn’t see the ball. There was an incredible silence. I didn’t know if something happened or not, so it took me a few seconds to realise it was a goal.

“And then I celebrated it like crazy. All my teammates came piling over and I realised it had gone in and we were about to win. I am so happy because this is a family.

“There’s a lot of work behind this, especially from my teammates, who were doing a great job, and for Germany to equalise in the 90th minute was a setback, but it’s a reward for perseverance and I think we deserve it.”

As well as losing Pedri to injury and Carvajal to suspension, Spain will be without centre-back Robin Le Normand in the semifinal after he received his second booking of the finals.

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