If Germany are to avoid the ignominy of a World Cup group stage exit, they will need to get a positive result against a Spain side that looked like the tournament’s most dangerous team after the opening matches.
In Russia 2018, a tournament in which Germany went to the bottom of the group as the defending champions, it was a historic low for the four-time World Cup winner. It was the first time in 80 years that the German national team failed to advance to the preliminary stages of the tournament.
Now with Hansi Flick as coach after Joachim Löw finally stepped down after 15 years in charge, a repeat of that performance in Russia was surely unthinkable.
But after that shock 2-1 defeat to Japan in the opening match, it is once again a definite possibility.
Former National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann accused Germany’s players of thinking they were “going aboard” after İlkay Gündoğan’s first-half penalties gave them the lead against Japan.
Germany’s failure to capitalize on their dominance kept Japan in the game and, perhaps most impressively for the four-time champions, Flick was unable to successfully counter Hajime Moriyasu’s tactical changes that eventually led to a comeback.
This result means that the match against Spain is do or die for Germany, as defeat will ensure an early flight home from Qatar. It’s certainly an unwelcome situation for Flick and his men, especially after Spain’s 7-0 demolition of Costa RIca in the opening game.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Spaniards’ statement win was more a case of Luis Enrique’s men being unstoppable or the opposition too formidable, with Costa Rica rivaling hosts Qatar for the worst World Cup team ever.
Germany will certainly provide a much more accurate indication of this Spain side’s chances in Qatar, but the win has given rise to serious optimism that this team is a genuine contender.
World Cup team camps are traditionally somewhat austere, private affairs, but Spain boss Luis Enrique is taking an unusual approach to spending time behind closed doors.
The 52-year-old, who recently posted a shirtless photo of himself on Instagram looking hot, has been taking part in regular Q&As with fans via live-streaming service Twitch and has promised that as long as Spain is in stay in it will continue. competition
Enrique even revealed that he is happy for his players to have sex at the World Cup – in the past, other national team coaches have unceremoniously banned the team from engaging in intimate activities.
There are certainly good cheers inside the Spain camp and a win over Germany would secure passage to the round of 16 with a clean sheet.
In the other Group E match, Japan know that a win against Costa Rica will guarantee their place in the knockout stages.
The Samurai Blue made the biggest upset in the all-time World Cup by beating Germany for the first time in their history and will be looking to avoid going into the final group game against Spain needing a positive result.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, will be playing with as much pride as the points against Japan after the Central Americans suffered the humiliation of seven goals against Spain.
Los Ticos have generally acquitted themselves well at the World Cup stage, the high point coming in that historic quarter-final run in Brazil 2014, and manager Luis Fernando Suárez will be keen to prove that the opening day result was just a bad day at the office.
Needless to say, Canada coach John Herdman’s comments after his 1-0 loss to Belgium in Croatia did not go down well.
When asked what the message was to his players at full time, the Englishman said he told them “they are here.”
“And we will go and get out of Croatia,” he added.
In response to that statement, the Croatian newspaper 24 Sata published a mockup of a naked Herdman on its front page, with nothing but a Canadian Maple leaf to protect the figure.
Canada played leg-legger Belgium for most of their opening match and had a glorious chance to take the lead from the penalty spot, but star Alphonso Davies had his effort saved by Thibaut Courtois.
Belgium then found a breakthrough on the opposition thanks to Michy Batshuayi’s clinical finish and Canada, despite constant pressure, did not respond.
Croatia, runners-up four years ago, won their opener against Morocco without a goal and will be a much better performer against the Canadians.
Now 37, captain Luka Modric is likely to be playing in his final World Cup and Croatia’s talisman looked off his pace against North Africa, making a late challenge and narrowly avoiding a yellow card.
So what has made this team such a threat over the years passes for Modric and the Real Madrid man will need to be at his absolute best for Croatia to emulate what they produced in Russia four years ago.
Belgium, meanwhile, will be looking for a big improvement on their disappointing opening round win against Canada, as the country’s “Golden Generation” stars begin what will be their last real foray into a major tournament. make a deep competition.
In midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium have the best player in the world but, like the rest of his teammates, the Manchester City star was below his usual standards against Canada.
Morocco, however, looks set to provide another stern test for Roberto Martinez’s Belgium side.
The team looked disorganized and disorganized against Croatia and may have felt it was a missed opportunity to take all three points after creating a number of impressive chances.
The Atlas Lions have progressed past the group stages of the World Cup just once in their history and this side will be likely to get a positive result against Belgium and take another step towards the 1986 team.
Japan vs. Costa Rica: 5 am ET
Belgium vs. Mexico: 8 a.m. ET
Croatia vs. Canada: 11 am ET
Spain vs. Germany: 2 p.m. ET
USA: Fox Sports
UK: BBC or ITV
Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom
Canada: Bell Media
South Africa: SABC