Wednesday, February 8, 2023

WC: Croatia thrash Canada; Morocco stun Belgium; Costa Rica, Argentina win

Alphonso Davies netted Canada’s first goal at a men’s World Cup but it was Croatia, spearheaded by a brace from Andrej Kramaric, who came away with an impressive 4-1 Group F win on Sunday that ended any hope of the North Americans advancing while keeping their own alive.
After Davies had scored with a bullet header just over a minute into play, Croatia showed their class with Kramaric levelling in the 36th minute and Marko Livaja putting the 2018 finalists ahead just before the break.
Croatia got two more after the break, with Kramaric getting his second in the 70th minute and Lovro Majer scoring in stoppage time.
Croatia join Morocco at the top of the Group F standings on four points and now need only a draw in their final game against Belgium to progress. Canada, in the World Cup for just the second time, are bottom of the table and still looking for their first ever win.
Morocco 2-0 Belgium
In a FIFA World Cup which is turning up to be a bagful of surprises, it was the turn of Morocco to upset World No.2 side Belgium 2-0 in the Group F match of the football showpiece event at the Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday evening.
After a barren first half, substitutes Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal did the trick for Morocco, scoring in the 73rd minute and in the second minute of stoppage time.
For coach Walid Regragui, who took charge of Morocco in September the match against Belgium was his sixth game in charge and till now they have kept clean sheets in all six games with him at the helm of affairs.
This is Morocco’s finest World Cup moment as the Atlas Lions scripted their third-ever win at a World Cup and stood a great chance to qualify for the knockout stage.
For Morocco, ranked 22, the two other World Cup wins came in 1998 when they trounced Scotland 3-0 and in 1986 when they stunned the football world with a 3-1 win over Portugal and qualified for the knockout stage.
The win, the first one in 24 years, sends Morocco into first place in the group with four points after having drawn goalless with 2018 runner-up Croatia, who take on Canada in the last match on Sunday.
Costa Rica strike late to beat Japan
Costa Rica recovered from the 7-0 hammering they got at the hands of Spain to pull off a shocking 1-0 win over Japan to leave the Group E qualification race wide open in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In Sunday’s first of the four matches, Keysher Fuller took full advantage of a defensive lapse to score in the 81st minute and keep their dream of reaching the last 16 knockout stage alive.
Japan failed to maintain the same level of play that fetched them the stunning win over Germany, who face Spain later in the evening. Costa Rica’s win is another big shock at the World Cup and nobody had fancied the Central American country Costa Rica’s comeback after the hammering they got at the hands of Spain in the last match. Their comeback win is one of the many great stories of the World Cup.
Japan were the better team but were unable to break down Costa Rica, who scored through their only shot on target of the match and of the tournament. With Sunday’s result, Spain, Japan and Costa Rica have 3 points, while Japan and Costa Rica have played 2 matches each, Spain have played only one. Germany is yet to open their points tally having lost to Japan in their first Group league match.
Argentina 2-0 Mexico
Two-time winners Argentina kept their FIFA World Cup knockout stage qualification on course with a 2-0 win over Latin American rivals Mexico at Lusail Stadium in Qatar.
On Saturday, in the last match of the day, Argentina, which lost their first match to Saudi Arabia, scored in the 64th minute through Lionel Messi to register their first win and three points.
La Albiceleste struck a second time in the match through a gem of a goal from Endo Fernandez with three minutes left for the normal period of play to end.
Argentina now have three points after two matches and now are second in Group C with three points, tied with Saudi Arabia and one point behind leaders Poland, who beat the Saudis 2-0 in the earlier game.

MONDAY’S MATCHES
Cameroon vs Serbia– 3:30pm
South Korea vs Ghana–6:30pm
Brazil vs Switzerland–9:30pm
Portugal vs Uruguay 12:30am (Tuesday)

Costa Rica’s Keysher Fuller celebrates scoring their first goal with Yeltsin Tejeda against Japan. (Reuters)
Morocco’s Abdelhamid Sabiri (11) celebrates his goal with teammates Zakaria Aboukhlal and Yahya Jabrane.(AP/PTI)
Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the World Cup group C match. (AP/PTI)
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