The second week of the Qatar World Cup gets underway with one of Australia’s Asian rivals a win away from a near-certain Round of 16 spot.
Meanwhile 2014 champions Germany face a virtual must-win clash with one of the tournament favourites in a Monday morning blockbuster.
Follow Matchday 8 at the FIFA World Cup including Japan v Costa Rica (9pm AEDT), Belgium v Morocco (12am AEDT), Croatia v Canada (3am AEDT), Spain v Germany (6am AEDT) in our live blogs below!
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JAPAN v COSTA RICA [9pm AEDT] – Preview (via AFP) and live blog
Costa Rica are “not dead” at the World Cup despite their 7-0 drubbing by Spain and will not give up on a place in the last 16 without a fight, coach Luis Fernando Suarez.
“Los Ticos” will try to pick up the pieces of their campaign in Qatar when they face Japan in their second match on Sunday and Suarez said they “still have a chance” of advancing from Group E.
The coach conceded though that Costa Rica will need to give a drastically improved performance after being played off the pitch by a rampant Spain.
“I know that every player is aware of what they didn’t do in the game, in physical terms, in football terms and even emotionally,” said a bullish Suarez.
“They are aware that they need to have a different performance tomorrow. “In the last three days we have been working and I can see that we are ready to have a different performance and not repeat the mistakes we had against Spain.”
Suarez said he may make changes to his starting line-up but stressed that “it’s not just about names – it’s about attitudes”.
The coach said there had been “not much that was positive” against Spain but he refused to lie down and be beaten.
“The message I need to send to my people is that we will keep fighting,” he said, amid a grilling from Costa Rican reporters.
Japan will come into the match fresh from their stunning 2-1 win over Germany in their opening game.
A win, as expected, would put them on six points and ensure a berth in the round of 16 as long as Germany does not beat Spain later in the day.
Costa Rica striker Joel Campbell said the Blue Samurai will be eager to take a step closer to the knockout round but he vowed to “leave everything out on the pitch”.
“We are ready to give everything but this is football and sometimes things don’t go as you expect,” said Campbell, one of five survivors from Costa Rica’s run to the quarter-finals in 2014 who started against Spain.
“We don’t know what will happen in the next match but we will bring our A game.”
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Szczesny’s amazing penalty double-save! | 00:29
BELGIUM v MOROCCO [12am AEDT] – Preview (via AFP) and live blog
Eden Hazard admitted that Belgium’s best chance to win the World Cup had come and gone but said they still have the quality and experience to lift the trophy in Qatar.
Belgium, who finished third at the tournament in Russia in 2018, are still ranked second in the world but many of the much-vaunted “Golden Generation” are now in their 30s.
“To be fair I think we had a better chance to win four years go,” admitted 31-year-old Hazard, speaking on the eve of Sunday’s match against Morocco.
“The team was better four years ago but still we have the quality to win games and to win the competition. We have a few guys, they are a bit older now but we have experience and the best goalkeeper in the world (Thibaut Courtois).
“We have one of the best midfields in the world, right now. We have good strikers. We have the team and I think it’s just the desire to want to win, and the mentality.”
He added: “Belgium can win the World Cup if we are in form. If we are not it will be tough.”
The Real Madrid forward said he was not over-worried by Belgium’s struggles in their opening Group F match against Canada, which they won 1-0, but he urged the team to play without fear.
“The first match you always have a bit of fear, you don’t always want the ball,” he said. “Now we need to get over that. We need to not be afraid to dribble, to play the killer pass. That’s what was missing in the first match.”
Hazard has struggled to repeat the form he showed at Chelsea since he moved to Spain in 2019 but he said he was able to brush off criticism over his performances.
“There has always been criticism,” he said. “Even when you play well you get criticised. I just try to focus on playing the best I can for my country and I’ll give everything I can.”
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was relaxed about his side’s form, highlighting the lack of preparation time before the tournament in Qatar.
“Slowly you’re going to see teams getting ready after three games in the tournament,” he said.
“So rather than having that preparation for a World Cup, for a major tournament where you have three friendlies and you have four weeks to get everybody in the optimal condition, the teams need to get ready while they are in the tournament and that’s dangerous because it can cost you points.”
Martinez gave an update on the fitness of leading striker Romelu Lukaku, who is recovering from a thigh injury.
The Spaniard said the forward was not expected to be available until the third group game against Croatia, in line with previous expectations.
“He’s ahead of what he should be,” said Martinez. “I don’t expect him to be involved tomorrow unless something goes extremely well today.”
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Mbappe brace sees France down Denmark | 01:02
CROATIA v CANADA [3am AEDT] – Preview (via AFP) and live blog
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic demanded respect for his 2018 World Cup finalists after Canada boss John Herdman pledged the North American side would beat them in Qatar.
Dalic’s men face Canada at the Khalifa International Stadium in their second Group F match, with both teams fighting to keep alive their hopes of reaching the knockout phase.
“I told them they belong here,” Herdman said during a TV interview when asked what he told his players in a post-match huddle following their opening 1-0 defeat to Belgium.
The Canada coach used offensive language to urge his players not to be overawed by the Croatians, featuring stars such as Real Madrid’s Luka Modric.
Croatia have been angered by Herdman’s provocative declaration of intent after Canada’s first match at a World Cup for 36 years.
Herdman insisted on Saturday that his rant was simply intended to get his players to focus on Croatia instead of dwelling on their spirited defeat against fancied Belgium.
“The statement I made was to remind these boys that there is another task ahead,” he said. “They have been buying into that mentality from day one.
“I don’t even think this group are listening to that stuff. The boys know we have goals here. We have to get after it, get on the front foot.”
But Croatia, who were held to a lacklustre 0-0 draw against Morocco in their opener, have not taken kindly to the 47-year-old Englishman’s comments.
Dalic said Croatia deserve more respect from Herdman as a result of their achievements.
“The Croatian team deserves respect from everyone,” he said. “We have proven that by the way we have played and our conduct during the World Cup.
“We respect everyone equally. We are worthy of respect. The Canadians must respect us. These words are not of respect. We are the runners-up in the World Cup.”
Responding to Herdman earlier this week, Croatia’s 24 Sata tabloid ran a full-page photo of a naked man below Herdman’s superimposed head, with maple leaf flags over his mouth and private parts and a headline that translated as “You have the mouth, but do you have the balls as well?” The controversy over the ebullient Herdman’s comment has raised the stakes.
“It’s a defining moment for Canada in the World Cup. It’s a do-or-die moment,” he said.
“We’ve been waiting 36 years to get here. There is no motivation needed. We are playing Croatia at the World Cup, against people like Luka Modric. What a moment.”
While Canada have little to lose after their surprise qualification for the World Cup, the Croatians are under far more pressure.
“This is an extremely important and difficult match for us. We have to be more prepared than in the last match,” Dalic said.
“I expect a better Croatia. Very often when we face adversity we have responded.”
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Duke celebrates special goal with son | 00:59
SPAIN v GERMANY [6am AEDT] – Preview (via AFP) and live blog
Germany coach Hansi Flick insisted his struggling team have the quality to defeat rampant Spain as they prepared for their do-or-die World Cup clash.
Flick and Germany were left reeling after crashing to a shock opening defeat to Japan in Group E, an upset that has left them staring down the barrel of a first round elimination for a second straight World Cup.
A loss to the Spaniards would see Germany eliminated if Japan avoid defeat against Costa Rica in Sunday’s other Group E game.
Flick however is confident that Germany have the talent to reignite their World Cup campaign against a Spanish side that destroyed Costa Rica 7-0 in their first game.
“We have a team that has quality, that can implement the things (we are working on), and we are very positive about it,” Flick said.
“We need to arrive with courage and with faith in our quality for this game against Spain.” Flick appeared at the press conference alone – a breach of FIFA regulations that requires teams to make a player available to speak to reporters on the eve of each game.
Flick said he appeared solo to avoid one of his players having to make a three-hour round trip from Germany’s seaside base camp to Doha.
“We just don’t want to expect any player to drive here for so long. It’s a total of almost three hours sitting in the car,” Flick said.
“We have a very important game tomorrow. I said I’ll do it (the press conference) alone because the players – from 1 to 26 – are all important.
“We are currently in a very important phase and they should prepare and train.”
Flick meanwhile rejected suggestions that Germany had been distracted ahead of the Japan game because of their decision to protest against FIFA’s “One Love” armband ban prior to the game.
“I am able to fade all of the background noise out,” Flick said.
“For me, the focus has always been on the football. I am completely convinced of what we are doing.”
Flick, who was named German coach after taking Bayern Munich to the sextuple in 2020 including a 1-0 Champions League final win over Paris Saint-Germain, called the match “our first final of this World Cup”.
Flick declined to speculate about whether a second consecutive early exit would mean the four-time World Cup winners were no longer part of football’s elite.
“The game on Sunday will answer that (whether Germany is still a world footballing power). Maybe we will have a different answer, a better answer, to that question.”
Leroy Sane, who missed the first match against Japan with a knee injury, trained again with the team on Saturday but Flick said he would need to check the former Manchester City winger’s fitness ahead of the game.
“With Leroy we need to wait and see how he goes,” Flick said. “Afterwards we can say more. He is happy that he can train with us again.”
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