LONDON — It was the ruthlessness that caught the attention in those few vital moments, the cold and clinical efficiency of all of it.
Spain looked, in lots of regards, to be a greater team than Germany on the European women’s soccer championships on Tuesday night. It had more of the ball and did more with it, and it offered more style and more industry and, at times, even a bit more bite. And in a showdown that was widely seen as a gathering of a continent’s soccer past — Germany has won this tournament a record eight times — and its soccer present, it was Spain that, for frequent stretches, offered a glimpse at European soccer’s future.
The issue for Spain, though, was that it gave up two golden probabilities, Germany pounced on each of them, and that was that. The Germans won, 2-0, to assert a spot in next week’s quarterfinals, and the Spanish were left to wonder if this tournament would really be their coming-out party in spite of everything.
“There have been two big mistakes that we paid for,” Spain Coach Jorge Vilda said, “but we all know that’s the way it is against Germany.”
These are already looking just like the Euros of What Could Have Been for Spain: if the veteran Jenni Hermoso hadn’t sprained a knee ligament a month before the tournament; if the world player of the 12 months, Alexia Putellas, hadn’t torn a knee ligament only days before the opener; if this cross had delivered a bit of more bend and that shot had arrived with a bit more curl.
Germany has had nothing of those concerns. Its deep and talented team merely went about its work again on Tuesday: clearing the shots that needed clearing, saving those that sneaked through, winning the battles that needed winning. Style points hardly mattered when the ultimate whistle blew. Germany, which has scored six goals and surrendered none since arriving in England, had what it had come to take.
In some ways, oddly, Spain’s second game on the Euros was an improvement over its first. In its opener, it had conceded a goal in lower than a minute. On Tuesday, it took nearly three to do the identical.
The goal had come seemingly out of nothing: Spain was calmly working the ball across the back, maneuvering out of some pressure, when goalkeeper Sandra Paños collected it in her goalmouth and fired a clearing ball directly into Germany forward Klara Bühl’s midsection. Bühl settled the ball, sidestepped a defender and coolly slotted it under Paños and into the side netting.
Stunned by an early goal for the second game in a row, Spain dusted itself off and went back to work. In its opening game against Finland, it atoned for its early mistake by scoring 4 goals. On Tuesday, it went trying to find them again, controlling possession by greater than two to 1, completing several hundred more passes than the Germans, stroking the ball across the grass in a soothing geometry of neat zigzags and diamonds and triangles.
However the goals never got here. After which, a few half-hour after the primary goal, Germany won a corner, fired it toward the brow of striker Alexandra Popp and watched her nod it past Paños. Spain led nearly all of the statistics by then, including oohs and ahs, but trailed within the just one that actually mattered.
Germany’s victory was greater than symbolic: By winning and taking control of Group B, Germany most certainly will avoid a quarterfinal meeting against England, which thrashed Norway on Monday night, 8-0, in Group A — even when that collision arrives eventually.
“In Europe, we have now the perfect teams on the earth,” defender Marina Hegering said. “If you should reach the ultimate, you’ve gotten to beat everyone.”
On the opposite side, the defeat got here on what was already a grim day for Spanish women’s soccer. Hours earlier, F.C. Barcelona, Putellas’s club team, had confirmed that her knee had been repaired by a surgeon, but that she would most certainly miss as much as a 12 months while she recovered. Her injury already has affected Spain’s prospects at these Euros. Now it would bleed into its hopes at next summer’s World Cup.
But that may be a tomorrow problem for Spain, which is able to look to bounce back against Denmark on Saturday, and hopefully again after that in what’s now a looming quarterfinal against England.
Germany, meanwhile, marched methodically ahead with its second straight shutout, looking like soccer’s past still has quite a bit more time to go.