World Cup recap - Day 4
Day 4 results;
Morocco 0 - 0 Croatia
Germany 1 - 2 Japan
Spain 7 - 0 Costa Rica
Belgium 1 - 0 Canada
Another day and another stunning upset at this year’s World Cup.
Japan came from a goal down to defeat powerhouses Germany and blow their group wide open and send fans of the Blue Samurai into pandemonium. It wasn’t the only result of note that happened overnight, with Spain breaking their record for a World Cup winning margin as they defeated Costa Rica 7 - 0. Such was the scale of the defeat that many of the Spanish players went over to console veteran goalkeeper Kaylor Navas at full-time. Belgium also pulled off a messy 1 - 0 victory against potential surprise packets Canada and Morocco, and Croatia saw out a free-flowing 0 - 0 draw.
Here are five things we learned from the World Cup overnight, plus a look ahead to tonight’s schedule.
Spain’s Perfect Start
It was just about the perfect night for Spain, who defeated Costa Rica 7 - 0 in their biggest-ever World Cup victory. Not only did they break the record for their biggest win at a World Cup, the Spaniards would have also been ecstatic to see the shock result in the game between Germany and Japan. Spain's impressive goal difference, matched with Germany’s loss to Japan, sets Spain up perfectly to top Group E.
It was a stark warning issued by Spain to the rest of the competition. They only recorded 7 shots on goal, resulting in 7 goals. They also had 6 different goal scorers, illustrating the depth of their squad.
All eyes now turn to Germany, who are staring down the barrel of their second successive World Cup Finals group stage exit. Germany will have to, at the very least, win and draw their remaining two games and will now rely on results to qualify, even if they are to do so.
It’s only day four of this World Cup, and we find Germany and Argentina with their campaigns in precarious positions after only one game. Both these teams were given a strong chance of winning the tournament before it began, but now they find their backs against the wall. The World Cup has started to heat up!
Belgium’s Brick Wall
Before Belgium scored against Canada this morning, it had seemed inevitable that Canada would go ahead. The only thing standing in their way was Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who made several impressive saves to deny the Canadians their first-ever World Cup Finals goal.
Even after Canada was awarded a penalty, Courtois stood up to make the save and keep the Canadians scoreless in the first half. Courtois was aided by the fact that Canada had 16 shots in the first half, only two of which were on target. But after Courtois saved the penalty and made another brilliant save in open play, the Canadians would have thought they had to shoot closer to the posts to score and get past the in-form keeper.
It allowed Belgium to stay in the game until they created their own chance to score, which they took in the 45th minute of the first half.
Belgium has one of the more balanced squads at this World Cup and their second ranking in FIFA’s World Rankings is a testament to this. As important as players like Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Axel Witsel are for Belgium, if Courtois can deny their opponents gilt-edged scoring opportunities like he did against Canada, then Belgium is going to be a very difficult team to defeat at this year’s World Cup.
Despite Having A World-Class Midfield, Croatia Looks Short Of A Striker
Croatia boasts one of the best midfield trios in this year’s World Cup. With Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic, Croatia will likely control large periods of their games throughout their stay at the tournament.
Last night’s game seemed to hint that Croatia is missing retired striker Mario Mandzukic, who helped Croatia reach the World Cup Final in 2018. This Croatian squad is playing with Andrej Kramaric up front, who plays more of an attacking midfield position with his club Hoffenheim.
There were several times last night that Croatia advanced the ball into dangerous areas of the pitch but didn’t have anyone taking an active position centrally that they could pass to. Kramaric often found himself stagnant on the edge of the box when a more traditional striker would have likely gambled on the cross coming in and aggressively attacked the goal mouth.
If Croatia is to get near the final of this year’s World Cup, as they did in 2018, they will need to find a reliable source of goals because they currently seem to lack the ability to convert midfield dominance into scoreboard pressure. It will be interesting to see whether they can find this in the two games left of this year’s group stage.
Japan Records Incredible Come From Behind Victory
It was a case of better late than never for the Japanese, who recorded a famous 2 - 1, come-from-behind victory against 2014 World Cup winners Germany.
Germany was the better of the sides in the first half and went into the break with a 1 - 0 lead, courtesy of a penalty kick. They then had another goal disallowed for offside on the stroke of halftime.
It took until the 76th minute for the Japanese to hit back after German goalkeeper Manual Neuer’s save rebounded into the path of Ritsu Doan, who smashed the ball into the back of the net.
It wasn’t the end of Germany’s misery, either. Japan, now buoyed by the equalising goal, then went ahead through Takuma Asano, who found himself on the end of a free kick and expertly found a tiny pocket of space beside Neuer on the acute angle he found himself.
When the final whistle confirmed the Japanese victory, their players rushed onto the field in celebration, illustrating just how big this victory was for the former Asian Champions.
It was a case of deja vu for the Germans, however, who failed to make it beyond the group stage in the 2018 World Cup following a 2 - 0 defeat to Asian rivals South Korea.
To make it past the group stage, Germany now relies on Japan losing to Spain, plus they must also drop points against Costa Rica, who will feel discouraged after their own heavy defeat to Spain.
Even if that happens, Germany can’t afford to slip up again in their final two games. It sets up a fascinating finish in Group E, which has now been blown wide open by Japan’s unlikely victory.
Canada’s Qualifying Was Not a Fluke
Belgium's 45th-minute goal was scored with their first shot on target since the first minute of the game.
In their only previous appearance at the World Cup Finals, they managed 28 shots in 3 games. They had 21 shots in today’s game alone.
It showed Canada’s success in their World Cup qualifying campaign was not a fluke after they finished above both Mexico and the United States in the CONCACAF Confederation. In their 20 games of qualifying, Canada had 14 wins, 4 draws and only two losses, with a goal difference of +48.
Although they didn’t win against Belgium, they showed that they belong in the World Cup Finals and still have a good chance of progressing to the knockout stages of this year’s tournament.
9pm AEDT - SWITZERLAND v CAMEROON
This is likely to be another exciting game that sees two sides with conflicting styles of play come up against each other in rare circumstances. It will be the first time these two nations have ever met in a competitive football match, so there isn’t anything to go off regarding their historical head-to-head.
Switzerland has been in good form recently, winning three out of their last four games. This run included victories against European powerhouses Spain and Portugal. Fortunately for Cameroon, the Swiss’s single defeat in that run of games came with a loss to African opposition when they were defeated 2 - 0 by Ghana in a warm-up game five days ago.
The Swiss will be looking to match or better their performance of Euro 2020, where they made the quarter-final. Their World Cup qualifying campaign also saw them top their group, where they consigned Italy to the play-off for qualification and eventual elimination.
Cameroon is coming off a decent World Cup cycle themselves, culminating in third place at the most recent African Cup of Nations. Unfortunately for Cameroon, this run of form has yet to extend to their most recent run of matches, which has seen them win only one of the past five games.
As we have seen before at this World Cup already, prior form only means something if you can convert it into a good performance in the first game of the tournament. It will be fascinating to see whether Switzerland’s recent purple patch against European opposition will carry onto the world stage against sides that play a different style of football or whether Cameroon can exploit a potential weakness that Switzerland may have against African sides. Regardless of how it plays out, it promises to be a fascinating game.
12am AEDT - URUGUAY v SOUTH KOREA
Uruguay will look to continue their impressive form in 2022 as they kick off their World Cup Campaign against South Korea. So far, the South Americans have lost only one of their nine international matches this year.
Ageing stars Diego Godin and Luis Suarez are both expected to start for Uruguay, whilst South Korea’s Son Heung-Min is likely to be fit after overcoming a facial injury.
Son will play in a specially adapted facemask after fracturing his eye socket in the Champions League with his club Tottenham a few weeks ago. If South Korea is to have any chance against Uruguay, they will need their best player showing no signs of being impeded by the injury.
Both of these sides will feel that they have a chance to qualify for the knockout stages of this year’s tournament. Group H, which also contains Ghana and Portugal, is likely to be one of the most hotly contested groups at this year’s World Cup, and so every result is likely to be the difference between a team making the knockout stages or going home with nothing.
3am - AEDT - PORTUGAL v GHANA
Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to put personal distractions behind him when his Portuguese side takes on Ghana in their first game of the World Cup.
Ronaldo has been in the spotlight recently after an explosive interview aired with Piers Morgan, in which he verbally attacked several people associated with his club Manchester United. Manchester United then made the bombshell decision to terminate Ronaldo’s lucrative contract after the interview aired.
Ronaldo will hope that the focus is on football after he takes to the field with his teammates against Ghana.
Despite their status as one of the biggest footballing nations, Portugal has only made the semi-finals of a World Cup twice in their history, and at 37 years of age, it’s likely to be their last chance with Ronaldo.
To get to the World Cup, Portugal overcame a tricky qualifying campaign that saw them finish second in their group to Serbia and then have to play off against a North Macedonian team that had defeated Italy the week before.
Portugal emerged victorious, however, and so find themselves up against a Ghana side that is back at the World Cup after a brief absence in 2018.
Ghana will want to get their World Cup underway with a win and will feel confident after a recent 2 - 0 win against European surprise packets Switzerland. Ghana has a host of top players, including Premier League defenders Daniel Amartey and Mohammed Salisu, as well as brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew.
Portugal goes into this game as favourites and is the favourite to win the group. However, if Ghana can get a result in this game, it sets them up well for the rest of the tournament. They will want to do particularly well in this year’s World Cup as they share a group with Uruguay and their old foe Luis Suarez. Suarez infamously used his hand to deny Ghana a goal in the 2010 World Cup, with the resulting missed penalty was all that stood between Ghana and a World Cup Semi-Final. With extra emotion likely to be attached to Ghana’s last match against Uruguay, these early games become crucial.
6am AEDT - BRAZIL v SERBIA
We’ve had to wait a little while, but tonight we will get the first chance to see pre-tournament favourites Brazil for the first time in this World Cup.
The side wearing the famous yellow shirt with blue shorts will be keen to get out and play after their home country has experienced a period of post-election turmoil in recent times.
Traditionally, football has been somewhat of a distraction from the political issues that have taken place domestically within Brazil, and the players will have an extra desire to deliver their nation some joy.
They will also recognise that this may be their best chance to win the World Cup since they last lifted the trophy 20 years ago. Brazil has gone 15 games without defeat and will feel they are in good enough form to take out this year’s tournament.
Brazil will also be buoyed by the upset loss of South American rivals and potential semi-final opponents Argentina. If Argentina doesn’t qualify first in their group, that is likely to give Brazil an easier run to the World Cup Final than if they had faced their fierce rivals in the semi-final.
In order to get off to the start they want, Brazil will have to overcome Serbia, who finished top of their group in qualifying, ahead of Portugal. The Serbs have enjoyed a decent run of form recently, with 5 victories and a draw coming in their last six games.
Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic is likely to overcome a foot injury and start the game against Brazil and will lead the team up front. Mitrovic’s aerial ability and ability to hold up the ball with his back to goal will suit Serbia’s likely style of play on the counter-attack. Despite Brazil being heavy favourites, this game is not likely to be the foregone conclusion that it may seem.
Tonight is the final game of Round 1 of the group stage at this World Cup and so after tonight we will have seen every team play and we have another four exciting games to look forward to, highlighted by the chance to see pre-tournament favourites Brazil.
This World Cup has already thrown up its fair share of surprises, though, and there’s a good chance that continues tonight with a couple of potential upsets on the horizon.