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.
Morocco 2 – 0 Belgium
In the Moroccan clash against Belgium, the two teams were still jostling for a goal when Abdelhamid Sabiri’s strike hit the net with under 20 minutes to go. This put Morocco ahead but with time virtually up, Zakaria Aboukhlal stunned the crowd making it 2-0 for Morocco – causing a major upset against the world’s 2nd ranked team.
Earlier, Moroccan joy at the Al Thumama Stadium was put on hold when Hakim Ziyech’s first-half goal was ruled out for offside.
Morocco had held Croatia to a goalless draw in their Group F opener.
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.
Croatia 4 – 1 Canada
Alphonso Davies headed Canada into the lead after just two minutes following a sweeping move.
But relief for Croatia was on hand when Andrej Kramaric equalized from a tight angle just after the half hour.
Then, strong work from Marko Livaja just before half-time, saw him fire for the Croatians with a low shot from the edge of the area.
Kramaric struck again on 70 minutes to make it 3-1 for Croatia, before Lovro Majer scored an injury-time breakaway goal taking it to 4-1.
Canada is 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 opened the scoring for Spain in the second half but Niclas Füllkrug equalized 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.
However, 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 and 18-year-old Gavi became the youngest World Cup scorer since Pelé in 1958.
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.
Costa Rica meanwhile, which only has a population of just over five million, are appearing in their sixth World Cup. They reached the quarterfinals in 2014 in Brazil.
Where to watch
Afghan fans need not miss out on any of the excitement of this year’s tournament which is being broadcast exclusively by Ariana Television in Afghanistan.
For the full broadcast schedule CLICK HERE