Yet another crazy matchday three occurred on Thursday at the 2022 Men’s World Cup. Groups E and F finished their play and four more nations made the round of 16!
World Cup Matchday 3: Groups E & F
World Cup Group E: Costa Rica 2 – 4 Germany
Costa Rica’s surprising win over Japan had them in a position to advance on matchday three. A win, and a Spain loss to Japan, would mean Costa Rica would make the knockout stages. Germany was in trouble of missing the knockout rounds for a second straight Men’s World Cup; they needed a win and a Japan loss to Spain. Early on it looked like it’d be Germany’s day.
The Germans found the opening goal just 10 minutes into the match thanks to a Serge Gnabry header. Germany dominated the ball and the match, creating chance after chance, but Costa Rica hung in there and showed what they could do in the second half. The Costa Ricans were level after a Yeltsin Tejeda strike in the 58th minute. Even though they had very little of the ball, Costa Rica kept trying to find an improbable win.
Costa Rica went ahead in the 70th minute after an own goal from Germany keeper Manuel Neuer. It was a dream state for Costa Rica and all they had to do was hold on and they would produce yet another World Cup upset. Unfortunately, they could not do this; Germany was the more dangerous team on the day and scored three goals in the last 17 minutes of the game. Almost in the blink of an eye, Costa Rica went from 2-1 up to 4-2 down. That’s where the match ended. Costa Rica was out, and so was Germany after seeing that Japan had upset another European powerhouse Spain!
World Cup Group E: Japan 2 – 1 Spain
Japan knew that with a second win over a European giant they’d top Group E! Spain, the favorites, had the same scenario heading into this game. It also held stakes for the knockout lives of the other nations in Group E. This match was one of contrasting styles, and a case of being dangerous with the opportunities created.
Spain looked to do what they do best, dominate the ball. They did so early on and found an early goal because of it. Alvaro Morata headed home an early goal that could have doomed both Japan and Costa Rica in the process. However, Japan’s response was a showing of their collective will and sticktoitiveness to their game plan. The Japanese don’t want the ball often, but when they get it they look to attack quickly and clinically.
In the second half, Japan produced two of these types of attacks to equalize and then take the lead. Their first goal was off of pressing Sapin high; Ritsu Doan took one touch and then hit a great strike from outside the box to surprise Spain. Just three minutes later Japan had the lead, somewhat controversially. A quick attack was whipped across the box and dangled on the edge of the end line. Kaoru Mitoma just barely kept the ball in play and crossed it into the six-yard box where Ao Tanaka was able to redirect it into Spain’s net.
The chance ended up going to VAR to see if the ball was out of bounds before the cross, but the full ball was not over the end line, and therefore it was a good goal! The goal saw Japan win to top Group E at this; Spain was also through after Costa Rica’s loss to Germany. You gotta love the drama these World Cup matches provide!
Final Group E Standings
- 1st – Japan – 6 pts
- 2nd – Spain – 4pts
- 3rd – Germany – 4 pts
- 4th – Costa Rica – 3 pts
World Cup Group F: Canada 1 – 2 Morocco
Canada’s first Men’s World Cup since 1986 hasn’t gone as planned. They fell to Belgium after outplaying them and trash-talked Croatia ahead of losing 4-1 to the 2018 runners-up. In their final match, they were already eliminated, but it was a chance for the top team in CONCACAF qualifying to show their stuff. Morocco had other plans!
Morroco knew that with a win and a Croatia draw or loss that they’d win Group F! They had an impressive draw against Croatia and a 2-0 win over Belgium under their belt, and just had to take care of business against a demoralized Canada side. That is what they did on the day. Morocco went up in the 4th minute thanks to an Hakim Ziyech strike. They’d add a second goal in the 23rd minute as Youssef En-Nesyri struck. Canada would find a goal, thanks to a Morocco own-goal just before halftime, but the game was over at that point already.
On the day, Canada finally was able to look like they did in qualifying, but they were down and out in the game and had a freeness to their play. The moment of this Men’s World Cup may have been too big for them in 2022. however, Morocco showed just how dangerous they can be with their quick attacks and strong defensive shape. Could they make a knockout round run?
World Cup Group F: Croatia 0 – 0 Belgium
The other match in Group F showcased A Croatia side that only needed a draw to advance and a Belgium team that needed to defeat them to get out of the group. The play on the field in this one showed those two scenario’s very plainly. Both teams like to use the ball, and this match was as even and open as they come. In the end, this one will likely be judged by the missed chances of Belgium.
Belgium had the better of the chances on goal and needed just one to go in to help them advance. They had 16 shots, only three were on target, eight missed the net, and five were blocked. Those three that were on target were big chances missed; in total, Belgium missed five big chances and their expected goals percentage of 3.07 went begging.
Croatia had chances to put the game away as well that they squandered. A win for Croatia and they would have topped the Group in the process, but they created no big chances in the match. The match would end in a nil-nil draw seeing Croatia finish second in Group F and Belgium crash out; this is likely the bitter end to a Belgium “golden generation” of footballing talent, which showed on the players’ faces after the match ended.
In the end, Croatia and Morroco made it to the World Cup knockout rounds from Group F.
Final Group F Standings
- 1st – Morocco – 7pts
- 2nd – Croatia – 5 pts
- 3rd – Belgium – 4 pts
- 4th – Canada – 0 pts
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