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World Cup 2022 Daily Preview: Powerhouses Germany and Spain go toe to toe

Matchday 8 gives us potentially the game of the group stage with a desperate Germany facing a fully firing Spain

Matchday 8 of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar brings us one of the games of the group stage between two global powerhouses in Germany in Spain. Elsewhere in Group E, Japan is in the driver’s seat with a very winnable 3 points against Costa Rica that would get them at worst to the precipice of qualification for the knockout rounds.

Japan vs. Costa Rica —3:30PM

Japan and Costa Rica, the two teams who experienced contrasting fortunes in their opening matches of the FIFA World Cup 2022, are set to clash at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on Sunday.

Japan will be euphoric after they registered a come-from-behind win over European powerhouse and four-time champions Germany in their tournament opener. İlkay Gündoğan’s first-half penalty had given Germany command over Japan. But Ritsu Doan’s 75th-minute goal followed by Takuma Asano’s goal eight minutes later ensured that Japan registered a shock win over the 2014 champions.

A few hours later, Costa Rica, in their first match of this World Cup, were overpowered by Spain in a one-sided affair. A brace by Ferran Torres and goals also from Dani Olmo, Marco Asensio, Gavi, Carlos Soler, and Alvaro Morata, meant that Spain fired in seven goals. A battered and bruised Costa Rica failed to breach the Spanish defense even once. The two results left Japan in second place behind Spain in Group E while Costa Rica are reeling at the fourth spot.

Costa Rica bowed out from the 2018 FIFA World Cup after the group stage and the resounding defeat at the hands of Spain has meant that the team is again on the brink of another early exit. With Los Ticos bound to meet Germany in their final group-stage match, the fixture against Japan is crucial for their survival. But their form before the match against Japan is worrying. The team has failed to score in 5 of their last 7 FIFA World Cup matches and is on a seven-match winless streak in the competition.

Japan were the underdog against Germany but their surprise victory have now put them just a win away from a place in round-of-16. Blue Samurai are poised to meet Spain in their last Group D match. So Japan would be wanting nothing less than all 3 points against Costa Rica to avoid any last-minute jitters.

Belgium vs. Morocco — 6:30 PM

In the build-up to the tournament, Belgium were the clear favourites in this game, but their tepid performance against Canada on Wednesday will have given Moroccan fans real hope that their team could cause a World Cup upset.

Belgium struggled to contain a dynamic, well-organised Canadian team, which deserved at least a point from the match but ultimately let themselves down and finished with a 1-0 loss.

Despite being ranked second in the world by FIFA, the Red Devils have been in erratic form lately, racking up a huge 6-1 win against Poland in the Nations League but losing 4-1 to the Netherlands in the following fixture.

Belgium vs Morocco – 9:30 PM

Croatia and Canada will both feel they should have won their opening fixture.

The 2018 finalists were held to a frustrating nil-nil draw against Morocco as they struggled to find the cutting edge in a game where chances were at a premium.

Canada’s opening match, their first in a World Cup since 1986, proved to be more entertaining. The Maple Leafs’ performance belied their experience on this stage as their high press and sharp movement suffocated Belgium. The Belgians conceded a penalty in only the 10th minute of the game, but Canadian star Alphonso Davies had his attempt saved by Thibaut Courtois.

Canada’s verve didn’t wane. Despite having Belgium on the back foot for a majority of the first half, they conceded late in the first half. Their intensity fell off in the second half, and Belgium held on for a 1-0 win.

Canada manager John Herdman pulled the players into a huddle on the pitch after the final whistle, where he lauded their performance and, in rather colourful language, told them they’d defeat Croatia.

While Herdman’s rallying cry came in the heat of the moment, it isn’t a far-fetched prospect. While Mateo Kovacic, Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozovic are all excellent midfield technicians, they may struggle against a team as pacy as Canada. The Maple Leafs overran the Belgian midfield to such an extent in the first half that manager Roberto Martinez was forced to bring on two defensive midfielders at half-time.

Unsurprisingly, Modric still holds the key for Croatia. Against, Morocco, he dictated play and was judged man of the match for his performance. But the bluntness of his team’s strike force remains an issue: In their past eight games, Croatia have managed just 10 goals.

And while Canada’s fledgling group of youngsters is beginning to take flight, Croatia’s golden generation has begun its descent after spending the past few years flying high.

Germany vs Spain – 12:20 AM

Spain, absolutely flying from their remarkable 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica on Wednesday meet Germany who are still smarting from their defeat at the hands of Japan on the same day.

A new generation of Spanish youngsters directed by veteran midfield general Sergio Busquets, will star again delivering pin-point passes across the pitch.

The speed of 18-year-old Barcelona star Gavi matched with Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres out wide is just one devastating weapon in Luis Enrique’s armoury for this game.

Enrique also has a star-studded case in Yeremy Pino, Ansu Fati and Nico Williams and the more experienced Rodri, Marcos Llorente and Alvaro Morata to keep Spain buzzing. Together, they bring youth and experience to play.

Spain have lifted the World Cup once, and are among the favourites to do so again this year.

But while they are in truly imperious form, their opponents are desperate to put their defeat to Japan behind them and retake their place in world football.

The current German squad has Thomas Muller and Ilkay Gundogan who at aged 33 and 32 respectively, are veterans in this team. Its spine, meanwhile, is the Bayern Munich contingent who make up half the team, some of whom achieved Bundesliga and European glory with Hansi Flick before his appointment to lead the national team.

Bayern’s own wunderkind, 19-year-old Jamal Musiala, is expected to shine soon at this tournament. A former England youth international, Stuttgart-born Musiala can play on either wing and across midfield. Watch out for him popping up everywhere.

Apart from taking half the Munich team to Qatar, Flick has also brought Borussia Mönchengladbach’s mercurial midfielder Jonas Hofmann, whose versatility is key to Die Mannschaft’s plans for a reversal of fortunes. Behind them is Manuel Neuer, one of the world’s best goalkeepers – and in front of them is the talented Kai Havertz.