Germany 1-2 Japan
Jamie Jackson had the pleasure of being at Khalifa International Stadium today. Here is the report.
Luis Fernandez Suarez about to coach his third team at the World Cup: Ecuador 2006, Honduras 2014 and now Costa Rica.
Swot up will be a point test before the game
The first match in the death group was a cracker: Japan came from behind to win 2-1, and Germany is ahead of Argentina in the final chance. Already. The amazing Scott Murray was watching.
Rodri starts at Spain’s centre-back and Marco Asensio plays as a false nine.
Costa Rica’s team includes the exciting young Jewison Bennette, as well as a few other familiar faces: Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell and Celso Borges.
Spain (4-1-2-3) Simon; Azpilicueta, Rodri, Laporte, Albi; buses; Gavi, Pedri; Torres, Asensio, Olmo.
Subs: Balde, Carvajal, Fati, Eric Garcia, Guillamon, Koke, Llorente, Morata, Pino, Raya, Sanchez, Sarabia, Soler, Torres, Williams.
Costa Rica (possible 5-4-1) navas; Martinez, Fuller, Duarte, Calvo, Oviedo; Campbell, Borges, Tejeda, Bennette; Opposites.
Subs: Alvarado, Chacon, Hernandez, Lopez, Matarrita, Ruiz, Salas, Sequeira, Torres, Vargas, Venegas, Waston, Wilson, Zamora.
Judge Mohammed Abdullah (UAE)
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Manchester City’s Rodri, who started his defense today, also spoke with Our Sid.
Sid Lowe’s interviews are consistently terrific. Here he chats with Spain’s high-wire goalkeeper Unai Simon.
For most teams, the opening game of a World Cup is often a cunning and forgettable affair. Ask Denmark, Tunisia, Morocco, Croatia, Mexico and Poland. The Spanish national team does things differently; of course they do. In the modern era, they started their World Cup campaign with all sorts of memorable games: generations (Nigeria 98, Portugal 18), stunning defeats (Nigeria 98, Switzerland 10, Netherlands 14), spectacular false dawns (Ukraine 06), late turns (South Korea 94, Nigeria) 98 yetabloodygain) controversial defeats (Brazil 86) – and okay, a few shrewd, forgettable events (Honduras 82, Uruguay 90, and yes Ruben Sosa’s penalty still occasionally pops up on air traffic control maps).
What will happen today? While we’ve made this mistake before, it’s tempting to expect a comfortable win like it was against Slovenia in 2002. It’s probably safer to dwell on Spain’s style rather than its essence. They are a unique team, fearless tightrope walkers who can handle the ball better than anyone else in the world. But at the same time – they drink! – lack of a reliable striker.
Alvaro Morata’s record is better than you might think, 27 in 57 games (including 15 as a reserve) – but while he’s really brilliant, I doubt he’ll ever describe himself as ‘reliable’. And the probability that it will not start today is quite high.
Morata scored a late goal against Sweden, which clinched Spain’s place in Qatar. Their last game in Seville they had to draw mainly due to a slow start in the group – but they are one of the favorites that legitimately won the competition. Since you asked, they are my tip and I gambled responsibly by putting £0.00 on them. They were arguably the best team of Euro 2020, losing on penalties to Italy in the semi-finals, and anyone who beats them will have to do a lot of work without the ball.
Costa Rica rebounded after an even worse start to qualify with a playoff against New Zealand. Their charismatic Colombian coach, Luis Fernando Suarez, has used 77 players, 22 of whom are first-time players, since he took office last year – and you’re going to like it. But he has developed a team with an interesting age profile, from Keylor Navas, 35, to Jewison Bennette, 18.
And why not. Costa Rica was last in the death group with Italy, Uruguay and England in 2014, when they took a bloody win and were penalty shootouts away from reaching the semi-finals.
To start 16:00 GMT, 17:00 Madrid, 08:00 San Jose, 19:00 Doha.