Two chances, two goals and two wins for Germany

LONDON – The ruthlessness caught the eye in those few vital moments, the cold and clinical efficiency of it all.

Spain were, in many ways, the better team than Germany at the European Women’s Football Championship on Tuesday night. It had more balls and did more with it, offering more style and industry and, at times, even a bit more bite. In a clash widely seen as a meeting of the continent’s footballing past – Germany has won the tournament a record eight times – and its footballing present, it was Spain that often offered the future of European football.

The problem for Spain was that they gave up two golden chances, Germany took both and that was it. The Germans won 2-0 to book their place in next week’s quarter-finals, with the Spaniards wondering if the tournament would indeed be their exit party.

Spain coach Jorge Wilda said: “There were two big mistakes that we paid for, but we know that’s the case with Germany.”

It already looks like the Euros could have been for Spain: if veteran Jenny Hermoso hadn’t sprained a knee ligament a month before the tournament; If the World Player of the Year, Alexia Putelas, hadn’t torn his knee ligaments a few days before the opener; If only that cross had a little more curve and that shot landed with a little more curve.

Germany has nothing to worry about. His deep and talented team just got to work again on Tuesday: cleaning up the shots that needed cleaning up, saving the ones that sneaked in, winning the battles that needed to be won. Style scores didn’t matter at the final whistle. Germany, who had scored six goals since arriving in England and conceded none, had everything to do.

In some ways, it is strange that Spain’s second performance at the Euros was an improvement over the first. In the first match, he scored in less than a minute. On Tuesday, it took about three to do the same.

The goal seemed to come out of nowhere: Spain calmly worked the ball at the back, maneuvering under some pressure, when goalkeeper Sandra Panios collected it in the back of the net and fired the ball straight into the midsection of Germany striker Clara Buell. Buhl collected the ball, sidestepped a defender and coolly slotted it under the crossbar and into the side netting.

Stunned by an early goal for the second game in a row, Spain dusted themselves off and got back to work. In the opening match against Finland, he atoned for an early mistake by scoring four goals. He was looking for them again on Tuesday, controlling the possession more than two to one, making several hundred passes on the Germans, hitting the ball around the grass in a reassuring geometry of elaborate zigzags, diamonds and triangles.

But the goals never came. And then, about half an hour after the first goal, Germany won a corner, shot striker Alexandra Popp in the head and watched Panios turn the ball over. Spain led in every stat at the time, including Oh and Ah, but fell behind in the only one that really mattered.

The defeat came on an already difficult day for Spanish women’s football. Hours earlier, Putelas’ club team Barcelona confirmed that a surgeon had repaired his knee, but he is expected to miss a year while he recovers. His injury has already affected Spain’s prospects at these Euros. Now, he might get his hopes up for the World Cup next summer.

But that’s tomorrow’s problem for Spain, who face Denmark on Saturday and hopefully a quarter-final against tournament hosts England after that.

Germany, meanwhile, methodically inched ahead with a second successive shutout, looking like football’s past, with some time still to go.

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