Japan, Spain advance as Germany ousted

Just when you thought we were at the height of World Cup chaos on Wednesday, we had our ups and downs on Thursday. All four teams in Group E — Costa Rica, Germany, Japan and Spain — have either reached the round of 16 at some point or been eliminated outright.

Be sure to check back 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 back at what’s to come on Friday.

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Group E chaos: Japan, Spain; Germany is about to reboot

Halfway through both of Thursday’s matches, one of the World Cup’s most intriguing groups appeared to line up as predicted: past winners Spain and Germany advance, while Japan and Costa Rica go home.

When the final whistle blew, Japan beat Spain to top Group E, with Germany (yes, the team with four World Cup trophies) joined by Costa Rica on the outside.

Spain initially took control of Japan after Alvaro Morata’s opening goal, while Germany also edged past Costa Rica thanks to Serge Gnabry’s 10th-minute goal. But as we always expect, tables are turned, scripts are flipped, and chaos ensues at these tournaments.

Both Costa Rica and Japan came out of their dressing rooms after half-time with each side having scored two goals in their respective games and suddenly ready to beat it all. Costa Rica also qualified for the driver’s seat after losing 7-0 to Spain in a brief two minutes and 55 seconds, but then beating Japan.

When the dust settled, it was Japan who beat Spain 2-1 thanks to a controversial VAR decision. Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Spain’s goal difference.

What about this goal of Japan?

Japan’s second and ultimately decisive goal drew particular attention. In the 51st minute, Ao Tanaka put the ball into the net after Kaoru Mitoma cut it in from the goal. At first, when the assistant’s flag was raised, VAR, who ruled over the line, ruled that the ball had not been fully crossed and remained in play.

Can you see it? Don’t you believe? Check out the details of the VAR decision here or watch ESPN rules expert Dale Johnson as the goal that decided Germany’s World Cup fate.

End of an era for Germany?

Technically, Germany did what it had to do. They beat Costa Rica despite being a little behind Los Ticos Thanks to Kai Havertz’s brace in the second half and Niklas Fulkrug’s late strike. But Japan’s controversial goal came at a cost, the difference from Spain’s big win against Costa Rica last week.

It’s a bitter way to exit the World Cup stage, especially for a traditional powerhouse like Germany. After winning the World Cup in 2014, it is two straight group stage exits for the four-time winners.

The result could lead to major reform in German football, with coach Hansi Flick’s position as coach now vulnerable. Long-serving players such as Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Antonio Rüdiger, Mario Gotze and Ilkay Gundogan could also be coming to the end of the line on the international stage.

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ESPN FC’s Archie Rind-Tutt describes Germany’s World Cup exit as a disaster.


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Your Best Bets (Odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

If you’re looking to bet on the World Cup, ESPN contributors Paul Carr, Dan Thomas and Dalen Cuff are here to give you top tips on odds, options and futures. Here’s what we have for Friday’s matches.

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

Dalen Cuff: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is the third time I’ve paid cash. Brazil will dominate the ball and this game. Take it A Seleção win to zero (+114).

Paul Carr: Through two group games, Brazil has allowed just 11 shots and 0.5 expected goals, both among the top three defenses in the tournament. Given Brazil’s depth, I have line-up concerns here as well. I really like winning. I want to see who starts first.

Daniel Thomas: Brazil has been the best team in the tournament so far. Even if the key players are rested, they still have quality. I would have Brazil win 3-0.

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

Cuff: The Swiss will need a draw to advance. They are a determined defensive team and Yann Sommer is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Serbia have been all over the place in this tournament and they need three points to advance. I think the Swiss will manage this game well and get the right draw (+225).

Carr: If Cameroon can’t beat Brazil, Switzerland need a draw and they’re just a veteran team who do what they need to do. They went unbeaten in the qualifiers, outscoring their opponents 15-2, and drew 1-1 and 0-0 with Italy. Serbia’s attack isn’t very good (2.1 expected goals per two games) and Switzerland will continue that trend in a low-scoring game. Give me under 2.5 goals at -130.

Thomas: Achieve goals. It won’t be fun to watch.

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

Cuff: Ghana’s matches have been interesting due to their ability to put the ball in the net (scored 5 goals) as well as their ability to get into the net (conceived 5 goals). The Black Stars can advance with just a draw (unless South Korea beat Portugal), while Uruguay need a win to have any chance. Uruguay were unlucky, scoring three times in two games. I think they will take advantage from the start. The Black Stars may also be on the board. So I like over 2.5 goals at -105.

Carr: I’m on the same page, Uruguay should have a goal or two given their 1.9 expected goals. Furthermore, there were plenty of chances in both games for Ghana, with each team getting at least 1.0 expected goals per game. I have both teams -110 points.

Thomas: I like Ghana here. They have a great value of +390. Uruguay has yet to impress.

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

Cuff: South Korea should win and created many chances against Ghana. The already qualified Portugal team will be interesting. I’m not sure I’ll be playing this game and I’ll wait to see the starting 11. If this is the group with Portugal winning first, I like both teams to score (-115).

Carr: After what happened with France’s sub-optimal squad on Wednesday, I won’t touch this game until I see Portugal’s starters.

Thomas: I like both teams to score and I think it will be a very interesting event.


News and Alerts

  • United States midfielder Christian Pulisic said Thursday he will “do everything I can” to play in Saturday’s World Cup round of 16 against the Netherlands. Pulisic’s official status remains day-to-day with a hip contusion, according to a U.S. Soccer spokesperson.

  • Brazilian soccer legend Pele was diagnosed with bronchopneumonia after new tests at a Sao Paulo hospital on Thursday, sources told ESPN Brasil. The three-time world champion was initially hospitalized on Tuesday to adjust medication for a colon tumor, his daughter Keli Nascimento said. She added that her 82-year-old father had “no medical emergency”.

  • Mexico national team director Jaime Ordiales said he felt “professional embarrassment” over the national team’s early exit from the 2022 World Cup group stage and vowed to rebuild for the next World Cup cycle. It was Mexico’s worst World Cup in 40 years El Tri He has passed the first round of the previous seven World Cups in a row.

  • Merritt Paulson has announced his intention to sell NWSL club Portland Thorns after former Thorns manager Paul Riley was fired in 2015 over allegations of sexual harassment and coercion. — increased after the release of the Yates Report, which detailed systemic sexual and emotional abuse across the league. Paulson, who also owns the Portland Timbers, is not looking to sell the MLS club.


What else caught our eye

Fans in Morocco are celebrating after finishing Group F unbeaten in a thrilling round of 16 clash with neighbors Spain.

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Tom Hamilton reported from downtown Doha that Moroccan fans were taking to the streets to celebrate their country’s World Cup win over Canada.

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

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ESPN FC’s Gabe Marcotti defends Morocco as Spain finish second in their group and face them in the round of 16.


Matches taped on Friday

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

All Portugal need to do is stay healthy and avoid humiliation, and they could use Son Heung-min’s spark to have a chance to advance past South Korea. Will we see Cristiano Ronaldo or will he rest?

Group H: Ghana vs. Uruguay (Al South Stadium, 10:00 a.m. ET)

It’s a seismic revenge match — remember Luis Suarez’s handball that knocked Uruguay’s Black Stars out of the 2010 World Cup — and both could advance. With only a win or draw (if South Korea loses), Uruguay must win (and South Korea lose) to progress. Skip some appointments.

Group G: Serbia vs. Switzerland (Stadium 974, 2 p.m. ET)

There’s plenty of animosity here after a whirlwind encounter at the 2018 World Cup, but a win for either side will secure a Round of 16 spot.

Group G: Cameroon vs. Brazil (Lusail Iconic Stadium, 2 p.m. ET)

Brazil’s loss is unlikely, but given the chaos in Groups C and E this week, it means anything is possible. A win over Cameroon with the help of Serbia/Switzerland will put them in the 1/8 finals.

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