Mandatory Credit: Photo by Xinhua/Shutterstock (13645482q) Players of Japan celebrate after the Group E match between Japan and Spain at the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 1, 2022. Qatar Doha 2022 World Cup Group E Jpn vs Esp - 01 Dec 2022

World Cup Thursday Recap: Japan pulls off second stunner, while Germany and Belgium suffer heartbreaking early exits

2022 World Cup Groups:

Recapping the Thursday action:


Morocco scored twice in the first half and held on late against Canada en route to a 2-1 win and its first berth in the Round of 16 since 1986. The Moroccans needed either a win or a draw to advance from Group F, and they showed the urgency they needed early in the match when Hakim Ziyech scored in the fourth minute of play to make it 1-0. Yousseff En-Nesyri added a second goal in the 23rd minute for the Atlas Lions, who finished atop the Group F standings despite being in the same pool against both No. 12-ranked Croatia and No. 2-ranked Belgium. Morocco’s 2-0 victory over Belgium on Matchday 2, coupled with its victory on Thursday, gave the North African side a clean, unbeaten sheet through its first three matches, along with a shutout of sorts. While technically Canada scored in the 40th minute, the final result was tallied as an own goal in the box score by Morocco’s Nayef Aguerd. The No. 22-ranked Moroccans will now enter the knockout stage as the only team other than Brazil to have not allowed its opponent to score a goal during group play. Brazil still needs to play Cameroon on Friday’s Matchday 3 contest, however, so either way, Morocco will be in quite the exclusive club no matter how the 2022 World Cup ends for its upstart national team. Morocco remained efficient with its offensive chances yet again on Thursday at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, losing the battle on time of possession to Canada (59% to 41%) but still finishing with more total shots (six to five) and shots on goal (two to zero). The already-eliminated Canadians exit Qatar with zero wins and zero points through three matches of Group F play despite winning the CONCACAF qualifiers over the likes of both Mexico and the USA. Alphonso Davis scored the lone offensive goal of the tournament for No. 41-ranked Canada in its 4-1 loss to Croatia on Matchday 2, although a bevy of young talent patiently awaits a bright future with the North American squad. Morocco hasn’t lost an international match since a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the USA on June 1, 2022, and since then, the Lions of Atlas have reeled off an impressive record of seven wins, zero losses, and three ties through the end of group play. The Canadian national team will now have its sights set on the 2026 World Cup as one of three co-host nations and automatic qualifiers alongside CONCACAF members USA and Mexico. Morocco will play against 2010 World Cup champion Spain on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Education City Stadium in Doha, Qatar, in the Round of 16. It will be the fourth-ever World Cup meeting between Spain and Morocco, with the most recent match resulting in a 2-2 draw in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Morocco has never beaten Spain in its nation’s history, going 0-1-2.


Croatia and Belgium played to an underwhelming 0-0 draw on Thursday at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar. The No. 2-ranked Belgians, who needed a win to advance, were officially eliminated from knockout stage contention and are now at the official end of its golden era generation, which reached the quarterfinals in 2014 and then finished third in 2018 after losing to eventual champion France 1-0 in the semifinals. Croatia, only a FIFA member since 1998, has now qualified for the knockout stage for the third time in six official World Cup appearances. The last two times resulted in the Croatians finishing runner-up in 2018 and third place in 1998 in its first-ever appearance. The “Fiery Boys” of Croatia finished Group F play with four goals scored and only one goal allowed, having played an unbeaten sheet with two draws and one victory in a 4-1 throttling of Canada on Matchday 2. Belgium didn’t go out for lack of trying on Matchday 3, but it was too little too late as a lethargic first-half effort turned into a frenzied, desperate second-half, where a handful of realistic scoring chances were never able to find the back of the net. The Red Devils of Belgium finished the match with a slight edge over Croatia in time of possession (52% to 48%), total shots (16 to 11), and corner kicks (four to two), although Croatia managed four shots on goal to just three officially for the now eliminated Belgian side. Croatia will face off against Group E winner Japan at 9 a.m. CT on Monday, Dec. 4, at Al Janoub Stadium in Wakrah, Qatar. It will be the third time Japan and Croatia have played against each other in World Cup history. The two nations played to a 0-0 draw in 2006, while Croatia won 1-0 in 1998. Japan did defeat Croatian 4-3, however, in the two nations’ other match at the Kirin Japan Cup in June of 1997.


An impressive 4-2 victory for Germany over Costa Rica proved to be all for naught, as the Germans were eliminated from World Cup group play for the second straight time following its Matchday 3 contest at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. Germany did all it needed to do to qualify for the knockout stage, but a win wasn’t enough in the end. The Germans also required help from Group E counterpart Spain, which lost a 2-1 shocker to Japan in the group’s other Thursday contest. It was a historic day of sorts during the match as referees Stephanie Frappart, Neuza Back, and Karen Diaz became the first-ever all-women crew to officiate a game at a men’s World Cup match. Germany’s first win at the 2022 World Cup didn’t end up on the right side of history, however, despite erupting for three second-half goals and overcoming a 2-1 deficit in the process. A Serge Gnabry header gave the Germans an early 1-0 lead in the 10th minute, and the two sides headed into the halftime break with the same score. But Costa Rica responded with a fiery effort in the second half. Yeltsin Tejeda broke free for a goal in the 58th minute to even the score at 1-1 and took an improbable 2-1 lead with a Manuel Neuer score in the 70th minute. A win by Costa Rica would’ve actually given Los Ticos a ticket to the knockout stage, given Japan’s upset of Spain, but Germany responded swiftly to erase any hopes of another Costa Rican upset. Kai Havertz scored twice in a 12-minute span, once in the 73rd minute and another in the 85th minute, to regain the lead for Germany at 3-2. Niclas Füllkrug put the finishing touches on Germany’s second-half scoring barrage with a goal in the 89th, but it wasn’t enough to avoid elimination for Germany’s “National Eleven” squad as Spain could never force an equalizing goal against Japan in the other Group E Matchday 3 contest.


Japan made history yet again on Thursday with its second victory in three matches against former World Cup champions. With its 2-1 upset over Spain, the Samurai Blues became the first-ever team out of Asia, Africa, or Oceania to register multiple wins against former World Cup champs at the World Cup in those continents’ history. Japan miraculously accomplished that feat in the same World Cup, and within three matches of group play, no less. Álvaro Morata scored his second 2022 World Cup goal for Spain, this time in the 10th minute of action, to give the Spanish a 1-0 lead early in the match at Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar. However, the early-match joy didn’t last long for La Furia Roja, as a desperate Japanese side rallied for two goals in a four-minute span to open the second half. Ritsu Doan leveled the score at 1-1 in the 48th minute before Ao Tanaka scored in the 51st minute to give Japan an improbable 2-1 lead and put pressure on Spain to find the equalizing goal, which it never did despite a late pressing attack on Japan’s half of the pitch. Spain held a commanding 82% to 18% time of possession advantage throughout the contest and doubled up Japan in total shots (12 to six), as well finishing with an edge in shots on goal (five to three) and corner kicks (two to zero). Japan didn’t muster a single corner-kick opportunity for the entire game, but it didn’t matter in the end. Spain still advances to the knockout stage with a tiebreaker advantage over Germany in goal differential, while Japan officially won Group E and will face Group F runner-up Croatia in the Round of 16. Spain will face Group F winner Morocco in its next match.

Friday’s Schedule (Dec. 2, 2022): Matchday 3 of 3

Rd of 16: Saturday, Dec. 3

Rd of 16: Sunday, Dec. 4

Rd of 16: Monday, Dec. 5

Rd of 16: Tuesday, Dec. 6

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