Sunday saw a clash of two World Cup titans when Spain took on Germany, in a match that could have sent the Germans home from the tournament early had they suffered another defeat.
Two other European teams were also in action: Belgium against Morocco, while Croatia played Canada.
Here’s how it all unfolded:
Costa Rica 1—0 Japan
- A late, left-foot strike from Costa Rica’s Keysher Fuller from the edge of the penalty area following a defensive error was enough to secure victory for the Central American side.
- The win puts Costa Rica back into play in Group E and will be a massive morale boost following their 7-0 thrashing against Spain, the 2010 world champions, in their opening match.
- Japanese head coach Hajime Moriyasu warned his side to forget their historic 2-1 comeback win over Germany in their opening match. Japan struck twice in eight minutes late in the second half.
- 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.
- 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 0—2 Morocco
Abdelhamid Sabiri scores with under 20 minutes to go to put Morocco ahead.
With time virtually run out, Zakaria Aboukhlal makes it 2-0 for Morocco to confirm a major upset against the world’s 2nd ranked team.
Earlier, Morrocan joy at the Al Thumama Stadium was put on hold when Hakim Ziyech’s first-half goal was ruled out for offside.
Morocco held Croatia to a goalless draw in their Group F opener. But the team are still getting to know one another. Coach Walid Regragui was only hired at the end of August and in his first games in charge Morocco have yet to concede a goal.
The result poses serious questions about Belgium, seen as strong contenders in the tournament. But they only secured an underwhelming 1-0 win against Canada in their first group game.
The match had added spice as a number of players in the Morocco squad were either born in Belgium or play their club football there.
Belgium had been unbeaten in all four previous World Cup meetings with African teams.
Canada 1—4 Croatia (full-time)
Is another World Cup upset on the cards? Alphonso Davies heads Canada into the lead after just two minutes following a sweeping move.
Not so fast: Relief for Croatia as Andrej Kramaric equalises from a tight angle just after the half hour.
Tables turned: Strong work from Marko Livaja just before half-time, as the Croatian fires his side ahead with a low shot from the edge of the area.
Kramaric strikes again on 70 minutes to make it 3-1 for Croatia, before Lovro Majer scores an injury-time breakaway goal for 4-1.
Canada are now eliminated. But at least their goal against Croatia is their first ever in a World Cup finals. They had failed to score in their previous four games, including in the opening 1-0 defeat against Belgium.
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.
Germany 1—1 Spain
- Substitute Alvaro Morata opens the scoring for Spain in the second half.
- Niclas Füllkrug equalises with seven minutes left to keep Germany in the tournament. But they go into the final game against Costa Rica in last place.
- 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 meant the Germans would have been out if they had lost 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 previous match against Spain was an embarrassing 6-0 defeat in the Nations League two years ago.
- Spain went into the game looking to 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 2-1, while Japan beat Germany by the same score.
While others have shone… Spain’s youngsters have caught the eye after their demolition of Costa Rica, while France are once again seen as among the top favourites after becoming the first side to qualify for the knockout stage following two straight victories.
Records have fallen: Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo made history as the first male player to score at five World Cups.
Pre-match protests: Iranian players declined to sing their national anthem in the first game, a sign of support for the victims of the harshly repressed protests in their country. But they 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.
Meanwhile, German players held their hands over their mouths before kick-off of their first game, in what was seen as a silent protest against FIFA’s ban on team captains wearing anti-discrimination “One Love” armbands.
Off-pitch controversies: Seven European teams had planned for their captains to wear the armbands in a gesture of support for diversity and inclusion in a nation where homosexuality — as it is in dozens of countries — is illegal. But they backed down after FIFA said yellow cards would be issued to players who did so. Complaints have been lodged against the ban.
There was further fuss when two days before the tournament, FIFA announced that alcohol would no longer be sold to fans at stadiums.
The period in the run-up to the World Cup brought renewed scrutiny of both FIFA — plagued by corruption allegations in the era when Sepp Blatter was in charge — and Qatar over human rights. The country contests claims by campaign groups that thousands of migrant workers died after being hired to build stadiums and infrastructure.
Qatar also denies impropriety over its World Cup bid, while its defenders argue that the country has made significant progress over migrants’ rights.