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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Stuttgart Arena

Chelsea man eclipses Havertz for a Spain scenting glory

Stuttgart Arena

Germany 1-2 Spain


So there we have it. Marc Cucurella is a European champion in the making.


The Chelsea defender is a step closer after Friday night's breathless, exhilarating noisy and drama-filled quarter-final which saw Spain eliminate hosts Germany with a last-gasp goal in extra time.


This was a tournament that could so easily have seen Cucurella’s North London adversary walk off into the sunset with the baubles at the end of it. Instead, it is the tousle-haired left back, now plying his trade at Stamford Bridge, who might do just that.


Cucurella is the left back England could have done with at Euro 2024. They have had to make do with an out-of-position Kieran Trippier and deploying Bukayo Saka there as a stop-gap emergency.


Spain know that in the 25 year-old, they have the perfect mirror image of the man on the right - the wily warhorse Dani Carvajal - the man who will snarl, snap, bite and play in-your-face football for however long it takes to get the job done. Cucurella is doing something similar on the left - though minus the red card that will keep Carvajal out of the semi-final.


Both are quite the contrast to the sublimely skilful, more cerebral players around them. The Spaniards, though not shy and retiring when it came to standing up to Germany's more robust, roaring-Tiger dynamics, have the silk to go with the steel, which promises to carry all before it - provided they can get past an out-of-sorts France to reach the Berlin final.


There were doubts about Cucurella’s worth to Chelsea last season. He sometimes looked uneasy, flaky and accident-prone. The fans really wanted to see Ben 'Chilly' Chilwell occupying that space, but the England left back had his campaign blighted by injury.


In Stuttgart he was as reliable as could be. Doing a fine job of keeping former Man City winger Leroy Sane fairly quiet. He did his bit in the feverish cacophony generated by the home fans.


It feels like he is a lucky soldier too. Always important. When Jamal Musiala fired goalwards in extra time, the ball clearly struck the defender's arm, but ref Anthony Taylor decided there was no deliberate intent.


Havertz had the chance to make Friday evening's contest about him. He is not an obvious out and out striker - as a weak first-half header on goal showed. But he makes things happen.


He had the chance to make himself a hero as Germany chased an equaliser at the end of 90 minutes but missed his cue. A lucky rebound from an Unai Simon clearance left the keeper exposed and Havertz with a chance to chip over him. His effort cleared the bar. The Gunners' German striker then saw a downward header well saved.


In the end, it needed sub Florian Wirtz to take the game to extra time, the Leverkusen man on hand to bury a headed knock down from Joshua Kimmich.


But Spain overcame that disappointment to win it. Dani Olmo, on early for an injured Pedri, had opened the scoring by turning in a low cross from teen Barcelona sensation Lamine Yamal. He then capped a man of the match performance by supplying the cross for the beautiful late headed winner from Mikel Merino.


Heartbreak for Havertz then, and for former Chelsea man Toni Rudiger, who was also in the home ranks. But for another ex Chelsea man in Alvaro Morata - skipper for the Iberians - opportunity knocks.


As indeed it does for the often underrated Cucurella.

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