So, can you win a World Cup without a striker? On the limited evidence of a tiny group-stage sample so far, the answer is, unsurprisingly, unclear.
Heading to Qatar, two of Europe’s footballing powerhouses had the lack of a prolific centre-forward as clear weaknesses in squads that were otherwise among the tournament’s most talented.
For Germany, it has already proved costly, as Hansi Flick’s side failed to put Japan away and were stunned by a late comeback, despite having 26 shots in the game. Then Spain, a couple of hours later, played Costa Rica and scored seven.
On Sunday night, the 2010 and 2014 winners meet in what looked the highlight of the group stage as soon as the draw was made and even more so now that it is not simply a potential shootout for top spot, but a potential knockout for the Germans.
Ilkay Gundogan, the Manchester City midfielder who scored Germany’s goal from the penalty spot in the 2-1 defeat against Japan, offered a scathing assessment of his own team-mates after full-time, suggesting some players did not want the ball, but the tone was one of exasperation when it came to the act of putting it in the net.
“We had incredible chances to score but didn’t make it 2-0,” he bemoaned. “That must not happen to us.”
This is not a new issue for Germany, who had a whopping 72 shots across their three group matches at the last World Cup but scored just two goals as they crashed out in humiliating style. More anecdotally, think of Thomas Muller running clean through on goal at Wembley last summer and dragging blessedly wide.
Muller once looked firmly on course to shatter the World Cup scoring record, firing 10 in seven games across the 2010 and 2014 editions, but has since drifted into a deeper role and, remarkably, not scored a single major tournament goal since.
The much-maligned Timo Werner had led the line in Russia and was set to do so again here until being ruled out through injury, pressing Kai Havertz into service as a not entirely natural replacement in a role he must be getting sick of after being asked to fulfil it with Chelsea as well.
This is not a new issue for Germany, who had a whopping 72 shots across their three group matches at the last World Cup but scored just two goals as they crashed out in humiliating style
That Spain, albeit against dreadful opposition, coped rather better should not come as much of a surprise, given the country won a European Championship with a front line of little playmakers only a decade ago.
Luis Enrique’s forward options could hardly have enjoyed a more complete and confidence-boosting start, with the starting front three of Dani Olmo, Marco Asensio and Ferran Torres all scoring, before both Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata came off the bench to do the same.
Even Gavi, the genius teenage midfielder rather grievously wearing the No9 shirt, got involved. The jury remains out, though, on whether an unproven and undercooked Spain attack can deliver similar results when things heat up. Olmo, for instance, had started only twice for RB Leipzig since a knee injury in September, Asensio just once in La Liga all season for Real Madrid.
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Germany, for all their forward failings, are likely to provide a more resolute defensive test.
For Flick’s side, though, this is no dry run. By kick-off at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday, Germany could be staring down the barrel of a second successive group-stage exit in a row, having previously reached at least the last eight of every World Cup since 1954.
A win for Japan over Costa Rica earlier in the day would create that position of peril and mean Spain, too, could secure a last-16 spot with a win. In that scenario, even a point would not be enough to keep Germany’s fate in their own hands.