‘Abject failure’ hanging over World Cup heavyweights

The World Cup represents different things depending on which nation you are; for some a fear of failure is almost greater than dreams of glory, while for others simply winning a game is considered a success.

For the likes of Germany and Spain, it’s certainly the former – and Qatar represents a chance for them both to re-gain their seats among the top teams in world football.

Football can be unforgiving with its cyclical nature, and both of these juggernauts were bundled out in the group stage just one tournament after lifting the trophy.

READ MORE: ‘Gobbing off’ Luai braces for awkward World Cup battle

READ MORE: Warner gives clues on brewing retirement plan

READ MORE: AFLW premiership player dead at 28

Both teams helped define recent eras of football. Spain’s suffocating possession-based football was at the forefront of a tactical revolution in the late 2000s and early 2010s, before Germany took over and won the 2014 World Cup with a serious of controlled performances (and one ruthless semi-final win over Brazil).

The focus will be towards the top, but there are no easy games at a World Cup, and certainly not in a group that features two other teams that have also navigated their way out of the group stage in recent tournaments.

Costa Rica made it to the last eight in 2014, only falling on penalties to the Netherlands, while Japan have reached the knockouts in three of the last six World Cups.

World Cup previews: All 32 squads | Group A | Group B| Group C| Group D

2018 represented a stark wake-up call for both Germany and Spain – it was the first World Cup since 1962 where neither won a knockout game, and the first time ever that Germany were eliminated in the group stage.

If they’re not careful, the other two teams in this group are more than capable of springing upsets – but assuming these matches play out as expected, it would be foolish to write either former champion off in the knockout stages.

Both have hit the reset button, Hansi Flick losing just one game in 16 since taking over as Germany manager in 2021, while Luis Enrique’s most-recent reign with Spain has seen four losses in 34 games, and a run to the semi-finals at last year’s Euros, which ended in penalty shootout heartbreak.

Teams (FIFA World Ranking):

Spain (7)

Spain’s final game of qualifying against Sweden served as a de facto play-off match, with the Swedes able to leapfrog their opponents into top spot with a win. Instead, Spain came away with a late Alvaro Morata goal to claim a 1-0 win and a place at the World Cup.

Costa Rican (31)

The central American nation secured their spot a day after Australia did, beating New Zealand in a sudden death play-off game, an early Joel Campbell goal proving the difference.

Germany (11)

The Germans were as dominant as you’d expect in qualifying, winning nine out of their ten games and finishing nine points ahead of North Macedonia in second place.

Japanese (24)

Japan’s big win in Sydney over Australia back in March punched their ticket to Qatar, eventually finishing second in the group behind Saudi Arabia, with the Socceroos relegated to the play-offs.

Fixtures:

Germany vs Japan – Thursday November 24, 12am

Spain vs Costa Rica – Thursday November 24, 3am

Japan vs Costa Rica – Sunday November 27, 9pm

Spain v Germany – Monday November 28, 6am

Japan vs Spain – Friday December 2, 6am

Costa Rica vs Germany – Friday December 2, 6am

Prediction:

There’s not a bad fixture among these – obviously you’ve got two heavyweights, while Japan always hold their own at World Cups, and the surprise packet in Costa Rica.

Nobody in Germany will have forgotten the abject failure of 2018 in the five years since, and they’ll be motivated to be far better.

1st: Germany

2nd: Spain

3rd: Japan

4th: Costa Rican

For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here

#Abject #failure #hanging #World #Cup #heavyweights

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *