After one football giant failed, another flexed his muscles.
Germany joined Argentina as the shocking first loser when it lost to Japan 2-1 early Thursday morning.
But Spain didn’t make a mistake, scoring seven goals past Costa Rica to record their biggest ever World Cup win.
In the final game of the morning, Canada ended a 36-year absence from the tournament against Belgium.
6:10 am – Canada fails early penalty
Canada missed a great opportunity to score the first goal against Belgium.
After the Canadians earned a penalty in the 10th minute from a Yannick Carrasco handball, Alphonso Davies missed a penalty, which was saved by Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
4:55 – Spain destroys Costa Rica
Spain thrashed Costa Rica 7-0 in a brutal rout in the first leg of Group E, kicking off their bid for a second World Cup.
Having escaped the fate of giants Argentina and group rivals Germany, who had previously lost 2-1 to Japan, Luis Enrique’s favorite team shone in Doha’s Al Tumama Stadium, dominating possession and ruthlessly exploiting their chances.
Ferran Torres scored twice and Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo, Gavi, Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata also scored against the Euro 2020 semi-finalists in a tight game.
The 2010 World Cup winners have paid the price for extravagance in the past, but all three strikers selected by Luis Enrique scored first-half goals to justify his confidence in them.
The coach placed Asensio in a false nine, surrounded by Olmo and Torres, starting with Morata and Ansu Fati on the bench.
The manager decided to use Manchester City midfielder Rodri Hernandez in central defence, along with teammate Aymeric Laporte, correctly anticipating that his side would monopolize the ball.
It took La Roja just 11 minutes to open the scoring as Gavi made a forward pass and Olmo got the ball in the box, while the RB Leipzig winger turned with one superb touch and slid the ball softly past Keylor Navas with another.
Costa Rica, who came as a surprise at the 2014 World Cup by beating Italy and Uruguay and drawing with England to top their group, was once again torn apart for a second goal 10 minutes later.
Real Madrid striker Asensio rammed a low, accurate cross from Jordi Alba past his former teammate Navas, who could have done more to stop it.
Torres fired from the spot after Oscar Duarte fouled Alba – a soft decision on a tough night for Los Ticos, who never played the game and failed to get a shot on goal.
Barcelona striker Torres took advantage of a weak defense to score a fourth wide of Navas early in the second half.
Luis Enrique was able to take out Pedri and Torres before the hour was up to give them a break before Sunday’s game against Germany and gave young Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde his debut.
The 19-year-old streaked across the pitch ahead of Spain’s fifth goal, substituting Morata, putting Gavi on an aplomb pass.
Kopa Trophy winner Gavi became the third youngest World Cup scorer at 18 years and 110 days behind Mexican Manuel Rosas and record holder Pelé.
Soler and Morata then stepped in with stoppage-time strikes to further deepen Costa Rica’s suffering and help Spain flex their muscles for a perfect opening match in Qatar.
1:55 am – Japan shocks Germany with giant boil
Japan stunned Germany 2-1 in the opening match of the World Cup on Wednesday, punishing the four-time champions for not using their chances after dominating the first half.
The German team covered their mouths for a team photo before the match in strong protest against FIFA’s decision to ban rainbow-themed armbands.
Germany came to Qatar under enormous pressure to avoid the disaster of 2018 when they failed to qualify from the group stage in Russia as World Cup winners.
Hansi Flick’s team took the lead after Ilkay Gündogan’s first-half penalty and should have been out of the picture after creating plenty of chances.
But Japan persevered and in the 75th minute leveled the score due to the substitute Ritsu Doan.
Eight minutes later, Takuma Asano pulled off an outstanding turn, hitting the ball and driving the Japanese bench and their rabid fans crazy.
To add to the storyline, both Doan and Asano play in the German Bundesliga. “The players united as one team, we prepared well and held out, which led to victory,” said Japanese manager Hajime Moriyasu.
“Many of our fans came to Doha and they supported us, pushing us forward. I want us to keep our cool after that and see what we can do better and hope to win the next match.” Germany’s future at the World Cup is once again at stake with Group E games ahead of Spain and Costa Rica.
“We made it too easy for Japan. I don’t know if an easier goal has ever been scored at the World Cup,” Gundogan said in an interview with the German network ARD.
“This shouldn’t happen to us.” Thomas Müller told Germany’s Magenta TV that “it’s ridiculous that we’re standing here in defeat.” Meanwhile, Japan are eyeing a playoff spot after a dramatic comeback that hardly looked possible at halftime.
“Here in Qatar, this is another outrageous result,” said commentator Martin Tyler, almost in disbelief as he heard the whistle of normal time. He wasn’t wrong.
22:55 — Morocco hosts 2018 runner-up Croatia.
Morocco beat Croatia 0-0 in the first leg of the World Cup on Wednesday, showing a spirited performance against 2018 runner-up Luka Modric.
Supported by Qatar’s large Moroccan community at Al Bayt Stadium, the Atlas Lions followed up a strong performance by North African rivals Tunisia against dark horses Denmark a day earlier to upset Croatia.
“It was an extremely difficult game,” said Croatia captain Modric. “I believe that as the tournament progresses we will improve and take a more active stance.” Modric said Croatia was capable of making another deep run despite a sluggish start in the late afternoon heat.
“We didn’t just come here to play and get out of the group,” Modric said. “Our ambitions are a little higher depending on our achievements in Russia, but we need to take it step by step.
“Even before the 2018 World Cup, we said that our main goal was to get out of the group. If we manage to do this, we can become a dangerous opponent for any team.” Coach Zlatko Dalic urged Croatia to exercise caution following Saudi Arabia’s surprise victory over Argentina, which Moroccan captain Romain Saissa said “opened the door” to lesser-known teams in the tournament.
Morocco outplayed a four-man Croatian team that reached the 2018 final but struggled to create real chances against a defense led by experienced Dejan Lovren.
Azzedine Unai oddly chose not to shoot when he was well placed in the penalty area and Hakim Ziyech and Ashraf Hakimi were heavily involved from the right but never threatened Croatia.
Ivan Perisic fired a long shot for Croatia after intercepting a terrible pass from Selim Amallah, with goalkeeper Jassin Bunu blocking the kick well to keep Nikole Vlašić at close range.
Modric, a former Ballon d’Or winner who appeared at his fourth World Cup at the age of 37, then knocked him off the edge of the penalty area.
Morocco lost Nussar Mazraoui early in the second half after his jump header was saved and the Bayern Munich defender was injured when he fell awkwardly to the ground.
Sofjan Amrabat cleared the ball out from under Lovren’s goal after a corner scramble, while Hakimi’s free-kick at the other end of the field was saved by Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
Only once did Morocco advance beyond the group stage, in 1986, but they will be assessing their chances of moving forward against aging Belgium and Group F outsiders Canada.
Croatia pushed for a belated winner but found the Moroccan defense in an unforgiving frame of mind as Walid Regraga’s team earned a valuable and well-deserved point.
“I think it’s a very good moment for us,” said Regragui, who was only appointed manager of Morocco at the end of August.
“It allows us to survive the next two games. I am very proud of my players. I think this game makes us more confident.”
– with AFP
Originally published as Qatar World Cup Day 4 Live: Japan stuns Germany, Spain sets record