Japan, Spain advance as Germany ousted

And just when you thought we had reached the chaotic climax of the World Cup on Wednesday, we had our ups and downs on Thursday. All four teams from Group E – Costa Rica, Germany, Japan and Spain – have at some point been either through to the last 16 or eliminated outright.

Be sure to check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you all the latest news from Qatar. Here’s what you might have missed from Thursday’s World Cup action, and a look at what’s to come on Friday.

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Group E chaos: Japan and Spain in; Germany faces a reboot

At halftime in both of their late matches on Thursday, it looked as though one of the World Cup’s most exciting groups would fit together as expected: former winners Spain and Germany would advance, while Japan and Costa Rica would go home.

By the time the final whistle blew, Japan were leading Group E with a win over Spain, as Germany (yes, the team with four World Cup titles) was joined by outsider Costa Rica.

Spain initially dominated Japan after Alvaro Morata’s early goal, with Germany also shining on Costa Rica thanks to a Serge Gnabry score in the 10th minute. But as we should always expect in these tournaments, tables turned, scripts flipped, and chaos ensued.

Costa Rica and Japan both emerged from each of their locker rooms after halftime, each with two goals in their respective matches, and suddenly it was all up for grabs. For a brief period of 2 minutes and 55 seconds, even Costa Rica – who lost 7-0 to Spain and then bounced back to beat Japan – was in the driver’s seat for qualification.

When the dust settled, it was Japan – with the help of a controversial VAR decision – who won the group after beating Spain 2-1. Germany recovered to pass Costa Rica 4-2 but that wasn’t enough to overcome Spain’s goal difference.

What about Japan’s goal?

Of particular note is the second and ultimately decisive goal for Japan. In the 51st minute, Ao Tanaka fired the ball into the net after Kaoru Mituma cut it off the goal line. Initially ruled on the line when the assist flag was raised, the VAR determined the ball had not fully crossed and remained in play.

can you see it Unconvinced? Dig into detail here on the VAR’s decision here, or check out ESPN’s exceptional rules expert Dale Johnson as he broke the goal that ultimately sealed Germany’s World Cup fate.

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ESPN FC’s Dale Johnson explains why VAR chose not to allow Japan’s second goal against Spain.

The end of Germany’s era?

Technically, Germany has done what it needs to do. They beat Costa Rica despite trailing briefly Los Tecos In the second half thanks to a brace from Kai Havertz and a late goal by Niklas Volkrug. But that controversial goal by Japan proved costly, and so was the goal difference for Spain from their massive win over Costa Rica last week.

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It is a bitter way out of the World Cup stage, especially for a traditional power such as Germany. Having won the 2014 World Cup, the winners are knocked out four times in a row in the group stage.

The result is likely to lead to a major overhaul in German football, with coach Hansi Flick’s position now tenuous. Long-serving players like Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Antonio Rudiger, Mario Gotze and Ilkay Gundogan may have reached the end of the line on the international stage.

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ESPN FC’s Archie Rhind-Tutt calls Germany’s World Cup exit a disaster.


Today’s best reads

Ziyech and Al-Nusairi assist with the shooting Morocco to the round of 16
Morocco’s victory, which put them into the World Cup Round of 16 as Group F winners, had started with an unfortunate mistake that led to the opening goal.

Croatia preserves Belgium’s golden generation without titles
2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia kept alive and sent the star-studded but disappointing Belgium squad home.

The missing men of the World Cup: What do Salah, Haaland and Benzema do?
Whether it’s due to a disqualification or an injury, some of sports’ biggest names are keeping busy (or just relaxing).


Your best bets (odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

If you’re looking to bet on the World Cup, ESPN contributors Paul Carr, Dan Thomas, and Dallin Cove are here to give you essential advice on odds, options, and futures. That’s what we have for Friday’s games.

Group G: Cameroon (+750) vs. Brazil (-275), a draw (+375)

Dalin’s slap: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I am looking forward to cashing this out for the third time. Brazil will dominate the ball and this match. Takes Seleção to win with nothing (+114).

Paul Carr: Through two group games, Brazil has only allowed 11 shots and 0.5 expected goals, both of which are among the top three defenses in the tournament. I have concerns about the line-up here as well, although they are less important given Brazil’s depth. I like winning by not betting too much. I just want to see who goes first.

Daniel Thomas: Brazil has been the best team in the tournament so far. Even if they rest key players, they’re still overwhelmed with quality. I’m going to Brazil to win 3-0.

Group G: Serbia (+150) vs Switzerland (+180), Draw (+230)

slap: It is likely that the Swiss will need a draw to move forward. They are a resolute defensive group and Jan Sommer is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Serbia was everywhere in this tournament, and they need the three points to advance. I think the Swiss are managing this match well and getting the draw they need (+225).

Carr: Switzerland only need a draw to progress, assuming Cameroon don’t beat Brazil, and they are a veteran team that simply does what is necessary. They went undefeated in the qualifiers, outscoring opponents 15-2 and drawing 1-1 and 0-0 with Italy. Serbia’s attack doesn’t quite click (2.1 goals expected over two matches) and Switzerland will continue this trend in a low-scoring game. Give me an under 2.5 target at -130.

Thomas: Take under targets. This wouldn’t be fun to watch.

Group H: Ghana (+390) vs Uruguay (-140), a draw (+300)

slap: Ghana’s matches were interesting thanks to their ability to put the ball into the net (5 goals scored) but also their penchant for scoring (5 goals conceded). The Black Stars will likely only advance with a draw (assuming South Korea didn’t beat Portugal), while Uruguay would have to win to have any chance. Uruguay were not so lucky, hitting the crossbar three times in two matches. I think they will take advantage of the opportunities, pressing from the start. The Black Stars might also join the board. That’s why I like more than 2.5 targets at -105.

Carr: I’m on a similar page, where Uruguay should have a goal or two already, given their 1.9 goals expected. In addition, both of Ghana’s matches had plenty of chances, with each team having at least 1.0 expected goals per game. I’ll take both teams to score at -110.

Thomas: I love Ghana here. It’s a great value at +390. Uruguay has not been affected at all so far.

Group H: South Korea (+375) vs. Portugal (-150), a draw (+300)

slap: South Korea should win and create a lot of chances against Ghana. Portugal’s already qualified squad will be interesting. I’m not sure I’m going to play this match and I’ll definitely wait to see the starting 11. If it was the group that led Portugal to victory in this group, I would love for both teams to score (-115).

Carr: After what happened to France’s sub-par squad on Wednesday, I will not dwell on this match until I have seen the beginnings of Portugal.

Thomas: I also love for both teams to score, and I think that would be quite a fun thing to do.


News and notes

  • US midfielder Christian Pulisic said Thursday that he will “do everything I can” to play in Saturday’s World Cup round of 16 match against the Netherlands. Pulisic’s official day-to-day status remains a bruised pelvis, according to an NFL spokesperson.

  • Brazilian soccer legend Pele has been diagnosed with bronchopneumonia following new tests Thursday at a Sao Paulo hospital, sources tell ESPN Brazil. The three-time World Cup winner was initially taken to hospital on Tuesday to organize treatment as he battles a colon tumour, his daughter, Kelly Nascimento, said. She added that there was no “emergency” regarding the health of her 82-year-old father.

  • Mexico’s national team manager Jaime Urdiales said he felt “professional embarrassment” at the national team’s early group stage exit for the 2022 World Cup, and promised to rebuild for the next World Cup cycle. It was Mexico’s worst World Cup in 40 years, and You don’t see It had advanced past the first round in the previous seven consecutive World Cups.

  • Merritt Paulson announced his intention to sell the NWSL’s Portland Thorns club amid ongoing pressure since allegations of sexual harassment and coercion were leveled against former Thorns manager Paul Riley, for which he was fired for cause in 2015. That pressure – from both fans and sponsors – has increased after Release of the Yates Report, which details systemic sexual and emotional abuse across the league. Paulson, who also owns the Portland Timbers, has no intention of selling the MLS club.


What caught our eye?

Fans in Morocco are celebrating in full force after finishing Group F unbeaten, setting up a thrilling 16-game round with neighbors Spain.

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Tom Hamilton reports from downtown Doha as Moroccan fans took to the streets to celebrate their country’s victory over Canada in the World Cup.

It is a rematch in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup between La Roja and the Atlas Lions, which ended in a 2-2 draw. Who will get the bragging rights this time?

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ESPN FC’s Jaap Marcotti defends Morocco after Spain finished second in their group and faces them in the Round of 16.


Matches on tap for Friday

Group H: South Korea vs. Portugal (Education City Stadium, 10am ET).

All Portugal needs to do is stay healthy and avoid humiliation to progress, while South Korea could use a spark from Son Heung-min in order to get a chance to go further. Will we see Cristiano Ronaldo or rest?

Group H: Ghana – Uruguay (South Stadium, 10 am ET).

This seismic grudge match – remember Luis Suarez’s handball when Uruguay knocked the Black Stars out of the 2010 World Cup – has a lot at stake as both can advance. Ghana pass by winning or drawing (if South Korea lose), while Uruguay must win (and South Korea lose) to have a chance to advance. Skip some meetings to tune in.

Group G: Serbia – Switzerland (Stadium 974, 2 pm ET).

There is plenty of animosity here after their whirlwind meeting at the 2018 World Cup, but a win for either side secures a place in the last 16.

Group G: Cameroon vs. Brazil (The iconic Lusail Stadium, 2pm ET).

It is unlikely that Brazil will lose, but given the chaos in both Groups C and E this week, anything is possible. A win for Cameroon with some help from Serbia/Switzerland would see them through to the last 16.

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