Groups E & F began their quest for the World Cup on Wednesday. Two out of the last three World Cup champions have been a part of Group E (Spain 2010, Germany 2014).
Groups E & F Matchday 1 recap
Group E: Japan 2 – Germany 1
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia shocked Argentina. On Wednesday, it was Japan who came back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat the four-time world champions, 2-1.
Just like in 2018, Germany lost its opening match in the World Cup. The Germans took a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute from an Ilkay Gundogan penalty.
A goal from Kai Havertz was reversed by VAR in the 48th minute for being offside. The Germans had the lead at the end of the first half, 1-0, but their offense wasn’t creating enough chances to go into the second half with a larger lead.
When the second half began, Japan’s substitutions would turn the tide of the match. Kaoru Mitoma, Takuma Asano, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ritsu Doan, and Takumi Minamino would give Japan a much-needed spark to claw their way back into the match.
In the 70th minute, Japanese goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda would make three consecutive critical saves in a row to keep the score 1-0. Gonda would go on to finish the match with eight saves.
In the 74th minute, Japan would tie the game. Doan, who was subbed on in the 71st minute got in front of a ricochet off of Manuel Neuer to give Japan their first goal of the tournament.
Eight minutes later, Asano would receive a pass from the right side of the pitch and would find space to get the ball over the head of Neuer. Underdogs heading into the match, Japan would see themselves upsetting the German side and picking up their sixth-ever World Cup victory.
Group E: Spain 7 – Costa Rica 0
Spain ran rampant over Costa Rica with a 7-0 victory. Six different players contributed to their biggest-ever World Cup win, and Spain now sits at the top of Group E.
Dani Olmo opened the scoring in the 11th minute. He had a brilliant chance in the 5th minute but just missed wide. Six minutes later, Olmo redeemed himself.
Marco Asensio struck just 10 minutes later to put Spain in control. Sergio Busquets sent a beautiful pass to Jordi Alba who then found Asensio on a cross. Asensio’s laser shot beat Paris-Saint Germain’s, Keylor Navas.
FC Barcelona’s Ferran Torres added to Spain’s already dominating performance with a goal in the 31st minute from the penalty spot. At the end of the first half, Spain was leading 3-0.
Torres would open the scoring back up for Spain in the 54th minute. Gavi would find his Barcelona teammate heading toward the goal to make it a 4-0 match. Torres would fight off two defenders to beat Navas for the second time on the day.
Gavi, the 2022 Golden Boy, would score his first-ever World Cup goal in the 75th minute. The 18-year-old is now the youngest-ever Spaniard to score in the World Cup. FC Barcelona’s future stars were on full display against Costa Rica.
In the 90th minute, Carlos Soler would tie Spain’s record for most goals ever in a World Cup game with six. Then three minutes later, Alvaro Morata would break the Spanish record. Spain broke three records in their thumping of Costa Rico.
Group E World Cup Standings
- 1st – Spain – 3 pts
- 2nd – Japan – 3 pts
- 3rd – Germany – 0 pts
- 4th – Costa Rica – 0 pts
Group F: Croatia 0 – Morocco
The World Cup runners-up in 2018, Croatia got off to a slow start to begin their 2022 tournament.
It was an even match throughout 90 minutes. Morocco led Croatia in shots, 8-5, but both countries each had two shots on target. Croatia would lead in possession though, at 65%-35%.
Croatia had a chance to get on the scoreboard in the 45th minute but Yassine Bounou would make a pivotal save, keeping the game even heading into the second half.
Croatia began to apply early pressure during the opening minutes of the second half but once again, it was Bounou putting a stop to their chances.
A rocket of a free kick from Achraf Hakimi nearly gave Morocco the lead in the 64th minute, but his chance was denied by Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic.
The fans on both ends of the pitch were loud in support of their respective countries. But after 90 minutes, the match would end in a draw, 0-0.
Group F: Belgium 1 – Canada 0
In their first World Cup appearance since 1986, Canada nearly shocked Belgium. However, it was the Belgians who were victorious thanks to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, 1-0.
Canada had 22 total shots throughout the match, but only four were on target. The Canadians started the game with an early chance in the 10th minute, but Alphonso Davies’s penalty attempt was saved by Courtois.
In the 38th minute, Canada’s Richie Laryea was taken down in the box by Axel Witsel. The referees determined there was no foul and Canada would not receive a second penalty attempt. The missed penalty call would haunt the Canadians for the rest of the match.
Before the end of the first half, Michy Batshuayi struck first for Belgium. The Fenerbahce striker would convert on a through ball to give his country their first lead of the tournament.
Courtois was Belgium’s x-factor in their first win of the 2022 tournament. The 2022 Yashin Trophy winner, Courtois continues to show his world-class status.
Group F World Cup Standings
- 1st – Belgium – 3 pts
- 2nd – Croatia – 1 pts
- 3rd – Morocco – 1 pts
- 4th – Canada – 0 pts
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