In a battle of former World Cup champions, forward Niclas Fullkrug scored in the 83rd minute to help Germany to salvage a 1-1 Group E draw with Spain in Al Khor, Qatar on Sunday.

The four-time World Cup champions, who were denied a place in the knock round at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, must win their third and final Group F game to avoid another disappointing and embarrassing end to the competition.

Given Germany’s World Cup pedigree, being eliminated this early twice in a row is unheard of. The Germans have never lost their first two matches of a World Cup.

Spain had the first word in the match, as Alvaro Morata, an early second-half substitute, tallied from close range, putting home Jordi Alba’s cross in the 62nd minute.

It looked like the 2010 World Cup champions were going to get out of the stadium with three points until Fullkrug had the final word after he replaced Thomas Muller. Fullkrug beat goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from close range on the right side of the penalty area to level the match at 1-1.

Spain (1-0-1, 4 points) leads the group, followed by Japan (1-1-0 3), Costa Rica Rica (1-1-0, 3) and Germany (0-1-1).

The Germans can advance to the knockout rounds with a win over Costa Rica on Thursday and some help from Spain against Japan. The Ticos defeated Japan, 1-0, in yet another World Cup surprise earlier on Sunday.

A win would have put Spain through to the Round of 16. Now the Spaniards need a tie or a win against Japan to move on.

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at