Holders Germany are stunned as they are eliminated following just one win from their three group games.
We’ve seen a lot of drama in Russia with a few shocks already during the World Cup. Russia’s opening day victory over Saudi Arabia ensured the tournament got off to a flying start, the introduction of VAR has caused numerous talking points – some like it, others loathe it. We’ve seen a record number of penalties dished out at this World Cup, largely thanks to the new technology. Argentina’s dramatic late winner against Nigeria was enough to see them through having stared elimination in the face, but the biggest surprise of the group stage has to be the elimination of Germany. The World Cup holders finished bottom of Group F with South Korea putting the final nail in the coffin with a shock 2-0 result on Wednesday evening.
This is the first time since Euro 2004 that Germany won’t reach the semi-finals of an international tournament. That’s six straight tournaments where fourth-best was the worst it got. In Russia, they’ve finished bottom of a group that included Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea. With all due respect to those three sides, that’s unforgivable.
Much will be made of the fact that Germany have become the third straight World Cup holders to crash out at the group stage, and fourth straight champion from Europe to do so, after France in 2002, Italy in 2010, and Spain in 2014.
Comparisons to Spain are the most valid, simply for how clueless a side that had been dominant four years earlier looked as the world caught up to them. The sides are so similar stylistically – relentless possession, precision passing, and ruthless finishing – that the Germany of 2014-17 essentially looked like the next stage of evolution of Spain from 2008-13.
Instead it’s Mexico and Sweden who advance to the knockout stages from Germany’s group, in a World Cup, which will no doubt throw up a few more surprises en route to the final on July 15th.
Japan becoming the first side to progress via the fair play rule is the Hublot World Cup Moment of the Day
Coach Akira Nishino defended his negative tactics as his side qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup on their superior fair play record on Thursday, despite being defeated 1-0 by Poland.
On a hot afternoon that witnessed quite a lot twists, Japan somehow managed to secure a place in the knockout stages of the tournament where they will meet Belgium, thanks to Colombia defender Yerry Mina‘s goal in Samara and because they received two yellow cards fewer than Senegal.
Nishino’s instructions for his team were to take the 1-0 defeat and hang in there, once news of Mina’s 74th-minute goal for Colombia came through.
Nishino was happy to see his team over the line, and praised his players for listening to his negative orders.
“The players listened to me and were loyal and determined to keep the status quo,” Nishino said.
“It was just the situation that forced me to make the risky call and we decided not to go on the offence and rely on the other match.
“I’m not too happy about this but the World Cup is such that these things happen and we went through so it was perhaps the right decision.”
Japan have reached the knockout stage for the third time in their history but when Jan Bednarek scored in the 59th minute, his first international goal for the Polish, the scoreline between Colombia and Senegal was at 0-0, meaning Nishino’s team, also the last one left representing Asia, were heading home.
But Mina’s goal thickened the plot. Suddenly Colombia would top Group H and Japan were ahead of Senegal despite the same points, goal difference and goals scored – because of Senegal’s poorer fair play record in the tournament.
Nishino revealed that he brought on midfielder Makoto Hasebe for striker Yoshinori Muto in the 82nd minute in order to give negative orders to his teammates – to stop trying to score and get forward and not to commit any fouls.
“I did tell Hasebe to tell the team to stay put (at 1-0), not to concede any yellow cards and go to a defensive 4-1-4-1,” Nishino said.
Hey everyone, it’s Jay Asser here giving you a bitesize look at what’s going on this morning.
Belgium edged England in the battle of heavyweights to close out the group stage, winning 1-0 on Adnan Januzaj’s stunning goal to top Group G.
Both teams rested some of their top players as the sides entered the match-up with a berth in the Round of 16 already confirmed. They also came into the the game tied atop the group with six points apiece, while having an identical goal difference and the same number of goals scored.
Januzaj broke the deadlock in the second half with a superb finish to ensure Belgium will meet Japan on Monday, while England will take on Colombia on Tuesday.
Japan, meanwhile, pipped Senegal for the final qualification spot in their group despite falling to Poland 1-0, thanks to winning the fair play tiebreaker. Check out talking points from Japan’s clash, including Akira Nishino’s gamble to field a much-altered starting XI nearly backfiring.
In the MLS, Wayne Rooney revealed he’s not moving to America as a way to coast on the back end of his career. “Moving to America and MLS fulfills another career ambition for me. I have the hunger to be a success here and will give DC 100 per cent – as I have always done for every team I have ever played for,” Rooney said.
Steve Smith returned to the field for his first competitive game since the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa and smashed 61 for the Toronto Nationals in a Global T20 Canada competition against the Vancouver Knights. Smith hit eight fours and one six during a 41-ball innings before being stumped.
Elsewhere, Paul Farbrace said Joe Root will remain in England’s side for the Twenty20 internationals against India despite all-rounder Ben Stokes returning to the team.
FEATURE OF THE DAY
Our man Aditya Devavrat picked out the team of the tournament from the World Cup group stage, with familiar names like Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane leading the way. See who else made the team and why.
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