World Cup 2022 Diary: Day 4. Croatia 0 Morocco 0, Germany 1 Japan 2, Spain 7 Costa Rica 0, Belgium 1 Canada 0 . Today was Germany’s turn to be on the end of the biggest upset in world cup history 2, – the sequel to Argentina’s fall just yesterday.
By Dave Bowler
Traditionally, it’s the FA Cup that is supposed to be the great leveler, but apparently playing the World Cup in mid-season, without any pre-tournament preparation, is the same thing.
After Argentina’s woes of yesterday, it was the turn of Germany to find themselves on the end of something of an upset, if not of quite the same magnitude. It was Japan who put them to the Samurai sword, coming from behind to win 2-1 with late goals that caught the Germans napping.
For an hour, all had been going largely to plan. Germany were on top and in the lead, but without finding the security of the extra goals they wanted. The epic goalkeeping performance of Gonda, his clumsiness in conceding a penalty aside, kept Japan in the game. That paved the way for the arrival of Asona around the hour mark to turn the tide.
Japan upped the tempo, took the game to Germany and suddenly, it was Neuer having to make the saves. In the end, he couldn’t make them all and Japan’s equalizer was no surprise. From there, Japan looked the more likely winners and so it proved. Germany meanwhile are facing a second consecutive early exit from the World Cup.
Belgium are another of the favored sides to have struggled through their opening game. In the end, they were fortunate that the Canadian attack could not find the rear end of a cow with the proverbial banjo.
In an otherwise impressive display from Canada, their finishing was absolutely woeful and, at this level of the game, you cannot hope to win games if you need more than 20 chances to score a goal. The shot count was 22-9 in Canada’s favor, but they couldn’t even score from the penalty spot. Courtois’ early save was the defining moment of the game. Belgium, even without Lukaku, always looked more threatening when they did go forward. Ultimately, they got the goal that made the difference. It was their eighth straight group win at the World Cup, equalling Brazil’s record.
It remained a humbling 90 minutes for Belgium, as it had been for Germany earlier, if a little more successful. The fact that so many of the big nations have struggled thus far can surely be laid at the door of the lack of preparation time. Many of these players were doing battle in the Bundesliga, Serie A, the Premier League etc only ten days ago.
There’s been none of the usual three week training camp prior to the tournament. No chance to try things out on the training pitch and move from club thinking into the international groove. Perhaps that will lessen in importance the deeper we go into the competition, but for some, it is proving so costly that that time might not come.
GAVI SHINES FOR SPAIN
Not that Spain got that memo. Like England, they produced an emphatic first performance, wiping the floor with a Costa Rica side expected to at least make life sticky. Instead, Spain were imperious, their movement and their passing at pace simply mesmerizing their opponents. In the past, Spain might be equally dominant but settle for keeping the ball and winning 1-0.
Not this Spain. Slamming in seven goals felt like a statement of intent, while in Gavi, the youngest World Cup goal scorer since Pele, they might have unveiled the next world star. Can he do to this World Cup what Mbappe did in the last one? Tougher tests will come, but on the evidence of this, and the way he took his goal, why not?
MOROCCO KEEP MODRIC AT BAY
Of Morocco and Croatia, least said, soonest mended as the proverb goes. Morocco were very well organisZed and set about neutralising Croatia with a will. Modric was given no real opportunity to get on the ball and create in his trademark fashion. Without his spark, Croatia offered little and certainly looked nothing like the team that reached the 2018 final. Morocco look like they will be a hard nut to crack for any side, as befits a team that’s lost just twice in 40 games. Whether they can translate that into wins is another question but they gave definitely given themselves a chance of reaching the last 16.
In other news… while their football might have left something to be desired, Germany did win the day’s PR war. Lining up for the pre-match photo, the XI covered their mouths with their hands. This was to symbolize the way FIFA has gagged teams over the use of the 1Love armband. Meanwhile, their federation, the DFB, has begun looking into the legality of FIFA’s stance on the armband. This one will run and run. Rather like a Japanese substitute.
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