Germany has only played one match and is already on the brink of elimination with Spain on the other side on Sunday. Could a world power be out before the third match?
Elsewhere in Sunday’s matches, Canada is also facing an early elimination if the Maple Leafs lose to Croatia. After a spirited, but ultimately losing effort against Belgium, Canada must deliver a result against a Croatia side that didn’t score in its opener.
Japan vs. Costa Rica
Japan (1-0-0, 3 points), Costa Rica (0-0-1, 0 points)
Kickoff time: 5 a.m. ET/10 a.m. GMT
Venue: Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
The feeling for these two teams could not be more opposite right now. Costa Rica took one of the worst losses in World Cup history, falling 7-0 to Spain. Losing to Spain, even by multiple goals, is no shame, but to concede seven does not feel good.
Japan had the second massive upset of the group stage with a come-from-behind win against Germany. With three points already secured, Japan is favored to get three more here and be in a great position to make the knockout stage for the second straight World Cup (and fourth time in the last six).
The Samurai Blue will need to apply different tactics against Costa Rica though. Japan sat back and made the match against Germany tight for a half before being more aggressive on the counter in the second half. Costa Rica will likely be the team sitting back in this one.
Spain has emerged as the strong favorite to win the group, but Japan is -275 to advance.
Belgium vs. Morocco
Belgium (1-0-0, 3 points), Morocco (0-1-0, 1 point)
Kickoff time: 8 a.m. ET/1 p.m. GMT
Venue: Al Thumama Stadium, Doha
Belgium got by Canada in its opener and did so without Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku was out with a thigh injury and is expected to also miss this one. Getting three points in the opener may be giving manager Roberto Martinez more patience with the nation’s all-time leading scorer.
The Red Devils were not dominant against Canada and needed a penalty save from Thibaut Courtois to avoid going down early. Kevin De Bruyne also wasn’t at his sharpest. Still, Belgium would secure a spot in the knockout stage with a victory.
Morocco is in a decent spot after getting a point against Croatia in a match where neither team created much. Both teams are dangerous on the counter so if this match gets an early goal it could open up, but neither team was particularly efficient in their opening matches.
Croatia vs. Canada
Croatia (0-1-0, 1 point), Canada (0-0-1, 0 points)
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. ET/4 p.m. GMT
Venue: Stadium 974, Doha
Canada showed well in its match against Belgium, its first World Cup match in 36 years. The Maple Leafs outshot Belgium 22-9, but Canada didn’t get a result and the World Cup’s unforgiving nature is about results.
Now, Canada must get at least a draw against Croatia to avoid being eliminated before the last group match. Canada is once again an underdog, but Croatia was disappointing going forward in its opener and Canada can take some positives from how it played on Wednesday.
Similar to how Canada had to watch for De Bruyne in the Belgium midfield, Croatia’s Luka Modric is another world-class midfielder. Modric dictates the game in a different way than De Bruyne though. Croatia like to play slower and settle the game while Belgium can play fast and scored by going direct. Perhaps this will be a better matchup for Canada to get its counterattack going with Alphonso Davies, who had a penalty saved against Belgium.
Canada manager John Herdman has been colorful in his press conferences leading up to the match, per usual.
Spain vs. Germany
Spain (1-0-0, 3 points), Germany (0-0-1, 0 points)
Kickoff time: 2 p.m. ET/7 p.m. GMT
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
This is arguably the biggest matchup of the group stage. Spain and Germany are two of the powers in the sport and have both won World Cups this century. The hype for this match took a bit of a turn with Germany’s shock loss to Japan.
In that loss, the Germans created a lot of chances, but only scored on a penalty and gave up two goals on counters in the final 20 minutes of the match. Spain is less likely to score on the counter because Spain is likely to have more of the ball.
Spain looked sharp against Costa Rica in a 7-0 win, but it goes without saying that Germany and Costa Rica are very different teams. If Japan beats Costa Rica as expected, the Germans would be eliminated with a loss to Spain. The pressure will be on the Germans.
For Spain, it’s possible to lock in a place for the knockout stage, but also a statement that this team is a real contender. Teenagers Pedri and Gavi both looked extremely good and extremely Spanish in their domination of space against Costa Rica. The stage appears set for the Barcelona pair to emerge as world stars, if they haven’t already.
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(Photo of Manuel Neuer: Robert Cianflone / Getty Images)
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