Malta Independent

Germany needs a win and help to avoid World Cup early exit


After getting a f avor from Costa Rica, German y needs a win against the Centr al American team on Thursda y t o have any chance of reaching the knockout stages at the World Cup.

Costa Rica's surprise win o ver Japan on Sunda y ensur ed Germany did not face the prospect of immediate eliminatio­n with a loss to Spain lat er that da y. With the pressure off, Germany fought back from a goal down and dr ew 1-1 thanks t o Niclas F üllkrug's lat e equalizer to postpone its fate to its final game in Group E.

Germany will ad vance t o the round of 16 with a win if Spain also beats Japan in the other group game. Costa Rica contr ols its f ate and will ad vance with a win.

"We didn't come t o sit ar ound and take pictures of Qatar," Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suárez said before the tournament.

Even a dr aw would be enoug h for Costa Rica to reach the knockout stages if Spain beats Japan in the gr oup's other g ame being played at the same time.

Spain leads Gr oup E with f our points after two games, followed by Japan and Costa Rica both on three, while Germany has just one.

"We have a lot of humility ," said Germany midfielder Thomas Müller, who pointed to the team's position in the table. "Ther e isn't muchreason­tobereally­euphoric."

Müller said Germany's late draw against Spain provided a morale boost for the t eam, as well as the chance t o get t o the knock out stages and "show the f ootball world what we're really made of."

Germany was in a similar situation a t the last World Cup in Russia, where Joachim Löw's team lost its opening game 1-0 to Mexico before beating Sweden 2-1. A win against South Korea in the final group game would have ensured the defending champions progressed, but it slipped to a 2-0.

"Costa Rica has shown two faces at this World Cup," Füllkrug said. "The game against Spain is difficult to evaluate. Then they made a nuisance of themselves in the second game against Japan. They had better positional play and let the ball run. We're prepared for them playing like they did against Japan."

Spain faces Japan looking to seal last-16 spot at World Cup

After conceding late to miss out on a victory against Germany, Spain finds itself with some work left to do against Japan to guarantee its spot in the round of 16 at the World Cup.

The Spaniards doen't need much, though, because a draw on Thursday will be enough, and even a loss may allow the team to advance depending on the other Group E result between Germany and Costa Rica.

Japan doesn't have it as easy, but a win will guarantee the Japanese a place in the knockout stage for the second straight time.

It would be the first time Japan advances past the group stage in back-to-back tournament­s. If Japan loses, though, the team will head home.

The Japanese opened their campaign with a surprising win over four-time champion Germany before losing to Costa Rica. They were eliminated by Belgium in the last 16 in Russia.

Spain, which conceded an 83rdminute equalizer against Germany, may also go home with a loss if Costa Rica beats the Germans or if the Germans win big to overcome Spain's goal difference after its 7-0 opening win over Costa Rica.

A victory at Khalifa Internatio­nal Stadium will guarantee Spain first place in the group, and keep it on track for a possible matchup with five-time champion Brazil in the quarterfin­als.

Spain enters the final round with four points, one more than both Japan and Costa Rica. Germany has one point.

What may not help Germany is the fact that Luis Enrique may rotate some of his players after making only one change from the first to the second game — Dani Carvajal coming in for César Azpilicuet­a at right back.

Teenager Gavi, who started in the first two matches, trained separately from the group after the 1-1 draw with Germany because of a minor knee injury.

He was expected to be available for Thursday's match but was not likely to start.

Not much room for youth in Croatia vs Belgium at World Cup

When Belgium's "Golden Generation" meets Croatia's accomplish­ed veterans in a decisive World Cup match on Thursday, there won't be much room on the field for younger players.

Croatia, which reached the final four years ago, and Belgium, which finished third in 2018, each rely on a vast array of experience­d players.

Croatia's 20-year-old Joško Gvardiol and 25-year-old Nikola Vlašić, plus Belgium's 21-yearold Charles De Ketelaere, are some of the exceptions — with Belgium's 21-year-old midfielder Amadou Onana suspended for the game after picking up two yellow cards.

Nicknamed "Little Pep" because of the similariti­es between his last name and that of Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, the physical Gvardiol has already become a fixture at center back for Croatia and Leipzig, which recently extended his contract to 2027.

Despite the contract extension, Gvardiol has been linked with a possible to transfer to Chelsea, where he could join Croatia teammate Mateo Kovačić.

Nikola Vlašić, the younger brother of former high jump world champion Blanka Vlašić, usually plays as an attacking midfielder. But on a Croatia team featuring the likes of Luka Modrić, Marcelo Brozović and Kovačić in midfield,

Vlašić is used as a winger.

Belgium also relies on a veteran attacking core of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku — who hasn't been 100% physically — in attack, meaning that the baby-faced De Ketelaere, or "CDK" as he's referred to, has only played off the bench so far at this tournament.

But De Ketelaere impressed upon his arrival at Italian champion AC Milan in August, drawing comparison­s to former Rossoneri standout Kaká for his dribbling ability and precise crosses in the playmaker position.

If Canada beats Morocco, it's possible that both Croatia and Belgium will advance.

Morocco looks to advance in World Cup, Canada hopes for win

His nation on the verge of reaching the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time since 1986, Morocco coach Walid Regragui downplayed his role.

"There are other coaches that like to make you think that they're magicians, they're the ones, they're puppeteers," Regragui said through a translator on Wednesday.

“The players are the ones that make the coach and not the other way around."

Morocco would advance with a victory or a draw on Thursday against already-eliminated Canada and also could reach the round of 16 with a loss depending on the result of Belgium's match with Croatia.

Canada is 0-5 in World Cup play, failing to score in its only other appearance in 1986. After outplaying Belgium for most of their opener this year, but losing 1-0, they took an early lead against Croatia but lost 4-1.

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