Whether Germany is to avoid the ignominy of world Cup group stage exits, he will have to get a positive result against a Spanish team who looked like the most dangerous team in the tournament after the first round of matches.
Finishing bottom of the group at Russia 2018, a tournament Germany entered as defending champions, 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 qualify for the round of 16 of the tournament.
Now with coach Hansi Flick at the helm after Joachim Löw finally stepped down after 15 years in charge, a repeat of that performance in Russia was certainly unthinkable.
But after this shock 2-1 loss to Japan in his opener, it’s again a distinct possibility.
Former national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann accused the German players of thinking they were going to “go on a cruise” after taking the lead against Japan with a first-half penalty from İlkay Gündoğan.
Germany’s inability to capitalize on their dominance kept Japan in the game and, perhaps most concerning for the four-time champion, Flick was unable to successfully counter the tactical changes. of Hajime Moriyasu which ultimately led to the comeback.
This result means the match against Spain is do or die for Germany, as a loss would confirm an early return flight from Qatar. It’s certainly an undesirable situation for Flick and his men, especially after Spain’s 7-0 demolition against Costa Rica in their opener.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Spaniards’ declared victory was more a case of Luis Enrique’s men being unstoppable or his opponent being abjectly terrible, with Costa Rica vying with Qatar for the title of worst team in the Cup. of the world to date.
Germany will certainly provide a much more accurate indicator of this Spain team’s chances in Qatar, but the win naturally sparked serious optimism that this team is a real contender.
world Cup Squad camps have traditionally been somewhat strict private matters, but Spain head coach Luis Enrique has taken an unconventional approach to passing the time behind closed doors.
The 52-year-old, who recently posted a shirtless photo of himself on Instagram in remarkable form, has been taking part in regular Q&As with fans via the Twitch live-streaming service and vowed to maintain it as long as Spain remain in the competition.
Enrique even revealed that he was happy for his players to have sex during the World Cup – previously other national team coaches have notoriously banned the team from engaging in intimate activities.
The vibes are certainly good inside the Spanish camp and victory over Germany would secure passage to the knockout stages with one game to spare.
In the other match of Group E, Japan know that their victory over Costa Rica will guarantee them a place in the round of 16.
Samurai Blue produced a big upset in the World Cup by beating Germany for the first time in their history and will want to avoid having to travel to the final group game against Spain needing a result positive.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, will be playing as much for pride as for points against Japan after the Central Americans suffered that humiliating seven-goal thrashing against Spain.
The Ticos have generally acquitted themselves well from the World Cup stage, with the climax coming in that historic quarter-final at Brazil 2014, and manager Luis Fernando Suárez will be keen to prove that the opening day result is no match. was just a bad day at the office.
It’s fair to say that Canada Head coach John Herdman’s comments following his side’s 1-0 loss to Belgium did not go down well in Croatia.
When asked what the message was to his full-time players, the Englishman said he told them ‘they belong here’.
“And we are going to eliminate Croatia,” he added.
In response to this bullish remark, the Croatian newspaper 24 Sata published a mock image of a naked shepherd on its front page, with nothing but a Canadian maple leaf to protect its modesty.
Canada dominated a leggy Belgium for much of their opener and had a glorious chance to take an early lead from the penalty spot, but star man Alphonso Davies had his effort saved by Thibaut Courteous.
Belgium then found the breakthrough on the counterattack through Michy Batshuayi’s clinical finish and Canada, despite sustained pressure, failed to respond.
Croatia, runners-up four years ago, stuttered a goalless draw against Morocco in their opener and will be hoping for a greatly improved performance against the Canadians.
Now 37, captain Luka Modric is likely to be playing his last World Cup and the Croatian talisman has watched the pace against the North Africans, arriving late to many challenges and somehow avoiding another a yellow card.
Much of what has made this team such a threat over the years comes through Modric and the Real Madrid man will need to be at their best for Croatia to emulate what they produced in Russia four years ago. year.
Belgium, too, will be looking to significantly improve on their first-round win over Canada as the country’s ‘Golden Generation’ of stars embark on what is likely their last realistic chance to make a deep run in major competition. .
In midfield Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium have arguably the best player in the world but, like the rest of his team-mates, the Manchester City star fell well short of his usual standards against Canada.
Morocco, however, look likely to provide another stern test for Roberto Martinez’s Belgium side.
The team looked compact and organized against Croatia and may even feel like it was a missed opportunity to pick up the three points after creating a few brilliant chances.
The Atlas Lions have only gone beyond the World Cup group stages once in their history and this team will likely be convinced to get a positive result against Belgium and take another step towards emulation of the 1986 team.
Japan vs Costa Rica: 5 a.m. ET
Belgium vs Mexico: 8 a.m. ET
Croatia v. Canada: 11 a.m. ET
Spain vs Germany: 2 p.m. ET
United States: Fox Sports
UK: BBC or ITV
Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom
Canada: Bell Media
South Africa: SABC