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5 things on World Cup, Day 4: sun rises on Japan, Germans over the rainbow

After Saudi Arabia’s epic win over Argentina, Japan added an after-shock with their victory over Germany. (AP pic)

Here are five things from day four of the World Cup.

1. Joy for Japan as late goals shut out Germany

A day after the great shock came the great after-shock! And not a little awe.

The Group of Death lived up to its name with Japan giving the Richter Scale another spin after Saudi Arabia’s epic win over Argentina.

Another great result for Asian football that more than makes up for the debacles of Qatar and Iran.

Japan now have a great chance of maintaining its record of reaching the Round of 16 and perhaps a first quarter-final.

They more than matched the Germans in the second half and goals by Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano could herald a shiny new era for the Japanese game.

2. Fans blame Germans for playing politics

The German players covered their mouths before kick-off in a protest about the rainbow armband ban; as a result, everyone had their mouths open.

It’s another seismic shock that leaves the four-time winners with a mountain to climb to avoid another premature exit.

They crashed out at the group stage in Russia and need a result against a rampant Spain to survive.

German fans are blaming the players for playing politics instead of concentrating on the game.

By the time they meet whipping boys Costa Rica in the third game, it could be too late.

Never write off Germany, they say. This might be the moment.

3. Death by 1,000 passes as Spain dazzle

After the sun rose, Spain sizzled in it.

A magnificent seven goals from Jose Enrique’s young side obliterated Costa Rica and announced themselves as serious contenders.

It was death by 1,000 passes – 1,043 to be precise and a World Cup record – as teen wonders Pedri and Gavi ran the show.

Costa Rica never had a kick and rivalled Qatar as the worst team of the tournament as Spain hogged 82% possession.

Sterner tests await but Germany will be worried: they have won only once in their last eight games against Spain.

4. Modric still the man for Croatia

Luka Modric was not at his best but the former Ballon d’Or winner did enough to be man of the match in a 0-0 draw with Morocco.

At times the midfield maestro had to drop deep and cut a frustrated figure as the beaten 2018 finalists struggled to match a robust Morocco.

But most of Croatia’s attacks stemmed from his passing and probing. At 37, he still oozes class.

The North Africans will take heart from a fighting performance where steadier finishing could have snatched an unexpected win.

5. Belgium turn over the Maple Leafs – but only just

Canada had waited 36 years to play in a World Cup again but it looked like they’d never been away.

Unlucky to lose to a moment of Michy Batshuayi opportunism, the Maple Leafs gave their fans a taste of what to expect when they co-host the 2026 event.

An energetic pressing game made Belgium look their age and it could have been so different if Canada’s lone superstar, Alphonso Davies, had converted his penalty.

As it is, the Golden Generation maintain their run of winning group games – it’s now eight in a row since 1994.

But the elusive crown may still be beyond them.


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