World Cup 2022 Diary: Day 8. Japan 0 Costa Rica1, Belgium 0 Morocco 2, Croatia 4 Canada 1, Spain 1 Germany 1. Canada will exit the World Cup as a much improved team, while Germany must beat resurgent Costa Rica.
By Dave Bowler
Canada’s World Cup hopes bit the dust earlier today with what was eventually a comprehensive defeat at the hands of Croatia, but in spite of having lost to both them and Belgium, Canada have contributed richly to the tournament with their high octane approach to the game.
Ultimately class told against them, especially against a wily Croatian side who knew how to pick them off on the break, but in terms of the spectacle, Canada’s style of play has been something to enjoy, not least for having been so out of step with an otherwise very cagey World Cup so far.
It’s to be hoped that they persevere with this style and we see more of it in four years time, rather than taking the lesson that pragmatism is the only way for smaller footballing nations to earn success – we’ve seen too much of that already.
Morocco are a case in point. They have built their side very much on the back of a redoubtable defence that gives nothing away. Six clean sheets in a row tell you plenty about where their strengths lie. Certainly Belgium had run out of ideas long before the end in today’s game. Their rope-a-dope tactics were ever but as successful as when Muhammad Ali employed them in the Rumble In The Jungle against George Foreman nearly 50 years ago.
With real pace on the break, Morocco always looked a threat. They eventually found their goal when Courtois fell asleep at a free-kick and was beaten at the near post in the 73rd minute. From there, there was only one winner and Morocco confirmed victory in added time, deservedly, if not excitingly, so.
That leaves Group F in an intriguing position going into the final games. On the face of it, Morocco have the best chance of progress, a draw against Canada sufficient to see them through, while even defeat might not stop them, but in this World Cup, is anything predictable? It would appear that Belgium and Croatia are fighting over one place in their meeting. It’s a game that Belgium will almost certainly have to win to progress. On what we’ve seen from their golden generation gone rusty so far, that is hard to imagine.
GERMANY ON THE BRINK
Germany were on the edge of disaster against Spain in Group E. The four-time World Cup winners were seven minutes away from a second successive defeat and likely elimination. A goal down to a clever finish from Morata, Fullkrug lashed in a late equaliser in a lively game. The Germans deserved the draw that gives them some hope of pulling off a Houdini act.
It is still a German side that fails to convince however. they are a team that is in development rather than being anywhere near the finished article. But they have that typical German cussedness, that refusal to give up. That remains one of the biggest, and most elusive ingredients in success. They are hanging on by a fingernail, but they are still in the fight.
COSTA RICA SURPRISE
Germany’s next opponents Costa Rica did them a huge favour by beating Japan in the earlier game. After their 7-0 thrashing by Spain, it was no surprise to see Costa Rica fall back in blanket defence. Japan, having made five changes, could not find the cohesion, nor the invention, to discomfort them. Costa Rica showed little real ambition in the game, understandably after their first game mauling, but they grew in confidence in the second half and Fuller’s deflected strike after 81 minutes was enough to win three points and put them level with Japan, albeit on a goal difference beyond rescue.
There’ll be no change in their tactics for the meeting with Germany, that’s for sure, but will Germany be able to break them down? If they can’t, Germany will be out and a draw might see Costa Rica through, for Japan look to have blown their chance of reaching the knockout stage. Victory today would have had them home and hosed but now, they have to get at least a draw with Spain, and perhaps a win. I think the Germans are going to stick around a little longer after all.
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Sir Alf Ramsey: England 1973 focuses on the final full year of Sir Alf’s reign as England boss. The nation that won the World Cup in 1966 failed to even qualify for the 1974 tournament. Ramsey was suddenly a man out of time, both on and off the pitch. The failing fortunes of the England team mirrored those of a post-Empire nation heading for its own a fall.
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