Qatar World Cup: Germany face crunch match against Spain; Belgium and Croatia also in action

Sunday sees a clash of two World Cup titans when Spain take on Germany, in a match that could send the Germans home from the tournament early should they suffer another defeat. 

Two other European teams are also in action: Belgium take on Morocco, before Croatia play Canada.

Costa Rica v Japan (11:00 CET)

Japan’s Ritsu Doan celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the World Cup group E match against Germany in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.

  • Victory over Costa Rica would guarantee Japan a place in the last 16. But head coach Hajime Moriyasu has warned his side to forget their historic 2-1 comeback win over 2014 winners Germany in their opening match.
  • Japan struck twice in eight minutes late in the second half to stun Germany and boost their chances of advancing from Group E.
  • This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance at a world cup finals. They have reached the last 16 on three occasions, including in Russia in 2018 when they lost 3-2 in stoppage time to Belgium after leading 2-0.
  • Costa Rica are reeling from a 7-0 thrashing against Spain, the 2010 world champions, in their opener. 
  • With a population of just over five million, the tiny Central American country are appearing in their sixth World Cup. They reached the quarterfinals in 2014 in Brazil.

Belgium v Morocco (14:00 CET)

Canada’s Alistair Johnston, left, challenges for the ball with Belgium’s Eden Hazard during the World Cup group F match in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.

  • Belgium secured an underwhelming 1-0 draw against Canada in their first group game, courtesy of a clinical finish from Michy Batshuayi. Head coach Roberto Martinez will expect a vast improvement from his players.
  • The match will have added spice as a number of players in the Morocco squad were either born in Belgium or play their club football there.
  • Morocco held Croatia to a goalless draw in their Group F opener. But the team are still getting to know one another, and coach Walid Regragui was hired at the end of August and had coached only three friendly games before arriving for the tournament.
  • If Belgium beat Morocco, they will become the first team in World Cup history to win nine consecutive group games.
  • Belgium are unbeaten in all four of their World Cup meetings with African teams.

Croatia v Canada (17:00 CET)

Croatia’s Mario Pasalic, center, reaches for the ball during the World Cup group F soccer match between Morocco and Croatia, in Al Khor , Qatar, Wednesday Nov. 23, 2022.

  • The match has been given extra spice thanks to comments by Canada’s coach John Herdman to his squad. “I told them… we’re going to go and ‘F’ Croatia,” he said. 
  • “This way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić said on Saturday through a translator, who repeated the word “respect” 13 times in English.
  • Croatia lost the 2018 final to France and the world’s 12th-ranked team opened the World Cup with a 0-0 draw against Morocco. 
  • Canada have played only four World Cup games in their history and are still searching for their first goal after the 1-0 defeat against Belgium.

Germany v Spain (20:00 CET)

A young Spanish fan reacts to seen Spain’s Pedri introduced during the match against Costa Rica, at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 23, 2022. Spain won 7-0.

  • When the World Cup draw came out in April, one of the highlights of the group stage was Sunday’s match between the 2010 and 2014 champions at Al Bayt Stadium.
  • Germany’s surprising loss to Japan in its opener in Qatar means the Germans could be heading for an early exit for the second straight World Cup, should they lose again.
  • After winning their fourth World Cup title in 2014 in Brazil, Germany didn’t make it out of the group stage in 2018 after losses to South Korea and Mexico.
  • Germany’s most recent match against Spain was an embarrassing 6-0 defeat in the Nations League two years ago.
  • Spain, meanwhile, are looking to qualify for the next stage and reinforce their status as one of the top title contenders following an impressive 7-0 rout of Costa Rica in their opener.
  • The match saw the team reintroduce “tiki-taka” ball-possession style, with 18-year-old Gavi becoming the youngest World Cup scorer since Pelé in 1958.

What happened at the World Cup on Saturday?

France became the first team to qualify for the last 16 of the tournament following their 2-1 win over Denmark, thanks to two goals by Kylian Mbappe.

Argentina survived a make-or-break test following their shock opening defeat against Saudi Arabia, second half goals from Leo Messi and Enzo Fernandez securing a 2-0 victory against Mexico.

Robert Lewandowski scored his first World Cup goal in a 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia that puts Poland on top of Group C.

Australia are back within a shouting chance of qualification from Group D, after Mitchell Duke’s header gave the Socceroos a 1-0 victory over Tunisia.

What are the key World Cup talking points so far?

Some high profile teams have been humbled: Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 1-2, while Japan beat Germany 1-2.

Records have fallen: Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo made history as the first male player to score at five World Cups. 

Players from Germany pose for the team photo as they cover their mouth during the World Cup match against Japan, in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.

Pre-match drama: German players held their hands over their mouths in a silent protest before kick-off of their first game, while Iranian players refused to sing their national anthem in the first game — but were back to singing in the second game after a well-known player who didn’t make the squad was arrested in Tehran, sending a clear signal to the players in Doha.

Off-pitch controversy: European countries have lodged complaints against FIFA’s ban on team captains wearing anti-discrimination “One Love” armbands at the games. The head of the English Football Association has alleged that FIFA threatened “unlimited” sanctions against any player wearing the armband.

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