World Cup Daily: Canada heading home early; Brazil must cope without Neymar; Monday best bets
Sunday’s World Cup action saw the second team officially eliminated from knockout round contention, while all eyes are on presumed favorites Brazil and how they’ll fare in Group G without their superhero, Neymar. There was also a brilliant 1-1 draw for two more contenders, Spain and Germany, that means Group E will go down to the wire as all four countries still have a clear path to the last 16.
Be sure to check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Qatar. Here’s what you might have missed from the Sunday World Cup happenings, and a look ahead to what’s next on Monday.
Sunday was a day of mixed emotions for Canada fans.
On the good side, Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies scored the first World Cup goal ever in Canadian men’s history, thundering a header beyond Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic after just 67 seconds. On the bad side, Croatia quickly woke up, scoring four unanswered goals to win 4-1 and make Canada the second team to be eliminated from knockout round contention after host nation Qatar were the first Friday. All they have left to play for is pride when they take on Morocco on Thursday, though their opponents have a shot at the last 16 following their 2-1 win over Belgium earlier Sunday.
Yes, this was a chastening end to a tournament that offered a lot of promise for the side that finished above the US and Mexico in CONCACAF qualifying, but with many of their young players (including Davies, Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan) still with plenty of career ahead of them, this experience should stand them in better stead for when the expanded, 48-team World Cup comes to North America in 2026.
In both Group F games they’ve played to date, against Belgium and Croatia, John Herdman’s side were aggressive and quick on both sides of the ball, but were often too indecisive in key moments. Their savvier opponents exploited it to the fullest: While Belgium rode their luck and profited from one clinical finish to win 1-0, Croatia’s superb midfield — led by the ageless Luka Modric, 3, and Ivan Perisic, 33 — just had to be patient and pick the weak spots when they presented themselves.
One thing they may want to watch in the future, though, is what their coach says to the media. Much was made of his “F— Croatia!” remarks after Canada’s defeat to Belgium, and Croatia forward Andrej Kramaric certainly noticed. “I want to thank Canada’s coach for the motivation,” he said after scoring twice in the 4-1 win. “We demonstrated who f—ed whom.”
Germany get a draw vs. Spain, Group E remains wide open
Sunday’s fascinating 1-1 draw between the two European giants means there’s everything to play for when the final round of their group kicks off at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday. Luis Enrique’s side struck first early in the second half when forward Alvaro Morata beat defender Niklas Sule to a low cross and turned it beyond goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, but Germany fought their way back into the game from there. They forced a string of big saves from Spain stopper Unai Simon before 29-year-old Niclas Fullkrug, in just his third game for the national team, fired in an unstoppable shot from close range to share the spoils.
Thanks to Costa Rica’s upset 1-0 win over Japan, the group is neatly poised: A win or a draw for Spain against Japan puts them into the last 16, while Germany must beat Costa Rica and hope Spain loses in order to really have a shot. (Much more on the permutations here.) Yet all four teams have a clear path to the knockout stages, which is in some ways the beauty of the World Cup.
Germany’s issues up front weren’t resolved by Fullkrug’s emphatic finish and it’s clear they’ll need to rework their attack yet again if their World Cup stay is to be a lengthy one. As for Spain, they’re in control of their destiny. What more can you ask for in this most volatile of World Cups?
Will Brazil be OK without Neymar?
After days of concern and incremental updates on the state of Neymar’s ankle, it’s finally time for Brazil to take the field again for their second Group G game when they take on Switzerland at Stadium 974 (11 a.m. ET) and show just how much, or how little, they need their talisman in order to progress to the knockout stages.
This Selecao team is deep with talent, particularly along the forward line, and it was Tottenham striker Richarlison who scored their goals in the 2-0 win over Serbia to get their World Cup off to the best possible start. While Brazil coach Tite has been consistent that the PSG superstar will be ready in time for the knockout rounds, their path there is not yet secure — defeating the Swiss should take care of that if the likes of Richarlison, Vinicius Junior, Gabriel Jesus and Rodrygo remain focused.
Tim Vickery ran through Brazil’s options for ESPN and doesn’t feel like it’ll be that difficult; if anything, he predicts that the more balanced Swiss opponents will force a more conventional formation from Tite, one that bolsters the midfield in order to match their opponents where they are strongest. However, if Brazil get anything less than a dominant win, you can bet the fans will let Tite & Co. know just how they feel …
Today’s top reads
Time for Uruguay to bench Luis Suarez?
He’s the country’s all-time leading scorer, but at 36, his powers are waning. Given his poor performance against South Korea — 18 touches, no shots — should Uruguay manager Diego Alonso try something new?
Why all the biggest clubs want Rafael Leao
ESPN’s resident scout Tor-Kristian Karlsen profiles the Portugal and AC Milan forward, who’s arguably the most coveted attacking player in football right now.
Your best bets (odds via Caesars Sportsbook)
If you’re looking to bet on the World Cup, ESPN contributors Dan Thomas and Dalen Cuff are here to give you key tips on odds, options and futures. Here’s what we have for the Sunday matches.
Dan Thomas: It has been a crazy, crazy World Cup. Why would today be any different? I’m going to go with Cameroon for a shock win.
Dalen Cuff: Dan’s right, this World Cup has been wild. I’m going to play one of the trends here, namely first half 0-0 score lines. To that end, I’ll take under 0.5 first-half goals at 145.
Cuff: What makes this Brazil team special is their depth and not being reliant on Neymar. That depth is coupled with an elite defensive group that allowed only five goals over 17 World Cup qualifying matches. I like the Seleção to win to nil ( 121).
Thomas: I see this as a low-scoring affair, and I’m not really sure where South Korea’s goals are going to come from. I’ll take under 1.5 goals at 180.
Cuff: Ghana battled against Portugal, falling 3-2 in their opener. They had some mistakes in the back and had a questionable penalty call that provided their opponent with the first goal of the match. That said, I thought it was an inspired performance. South Korea’s ability to score is highly in question, so I like Ghana to win.
Portugal (-102) vs. Uruguay ( 310), Draw ( 220)
Thomas: I think this is going to be a feisty affair, so I’d take the over in bookings.
Cuff: I took Uruguay to win this group. They were unlucky in the opener, in which they hit a post and couldn’t muster a goal against South Korea. I think this will be a physical battle and their defense will frustrate Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. I like Uruguay 0.5 at -120.
News and notes
Ahead of England’s final Group B game against Wales on Tuesday, forward Marcus Rashford talked about how added intensity in training under Gareth Southgate has been the key to them finally playing up to their level in recent years. “There’s obviously been a clear change and a clear improvement,” Rashford said. “We’ve obviously done much better in the major tournaments, but even in the games that we’ve played throughout the year with England, we’ve played better, we’ve had better results. It is not often I come away with England and feel like we’re going to lose games. I think as a collective, we’re very strong.”
Even though the World Cup is the biggest event in soccer right now, there’s still plenty happening elsewhere in the sport: To wit, Manchester United are open to a loan move for U.S. and Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic, sources tell ESPN’s Mark Ogden, with the London club expected to allow him to leave during the January transfer window.
The USMNT’s preparations for a “win or go home” clash with Iran on Tuesday were made more complicated by a decision to scrub the Islamic Republic emblem from the Iran flag on social media posts hyping up the pivotal Group B clash. It was done, per US Soccer, to show support for protesters against the Iran government, but following a swift backlash, they reversed course hours later, removing all posts with the modified Iran flag. Jeff Carlisle has more background in today’s USMNT World Cup notebook.
In case you need a refresher, here’s an updated file making clear what every team needs to do in order to advance beyond the group stage at the World Cup. So far, just two teams — hosts Qatar and Canada — have officially been eliminated.
Riot police were called in to deploy tear gas and disperse a crowd in the streets of Brussels following Morocco’s stunning 2-0 win over Belgium on Sunday. There were additional reports of smaller disturbances in other Belgian cities, Antwerp and Liege. Said Belgian government official Annelies Verlinden: “It’s sad to see how a few individuals abuse a situation to run amok.”
What else caught our eye
In case you missed it — and we’re not sure how you could possibly miss this — Lionel Messi grabbed his second goal of the 2022 World Cup in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Mexico. And so we’ve recreated the goal via the magic medium that is Lego.
Argentinian stars Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernández’s goals against Mexico at the World Cup get recreated in Lego
Matches on tap for Monday
– Group G: Cameroon vs. Serbia (Al Janoub Stadium; 5 a.m. ET)
Both sides lost their opening game and therefore need a positive result here if they’re to have a chance of advancing to the last 16. Cameroon arguably deserved something from their 1-0 defeat to the Swiss and certainly have the ability to score, given the presence of Bayern Munich’s red-hot striker Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting, who has 11 goals in 16 appearances (all competitions), and Bryan Mbeumo, who has three goals for Brentford in the Premier League this season. Serbia need the best of star forward Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has 50 career goals for his country, if they’re to get back on track.
– Group H: South Korea vs. Ghana (Education City Stadium; 8 a.m. ET)
South Korea did little in their goal-less draw with Uruguay and face a much tougher challenge against the defending Africa Cup of Nations champions in their second game. Every team still has a shot at the last 16 right now, but South Korea need to get Tottenham playmaker Son Heung-Min more involved around goal. As for Ghana, they’ve proven they can score, but can they defend? This could be another high-scoring, frenetic affair given what’s at stake.
– Group G: Brazil vs. Switzerland (Stadium 974; 11 a.m. ET)
No Neymar, no problem for Brazil? The Selecao’s depth is unmatched at this World Cup, but losing their talisman to an ankle injury that projects to keep him off the pitch until the knockout stages isn’t historically something they’ve been able to handle. (Remember when Brazil paid tribute to him after an injury denied him the start in the 2014 semifinal against Germany? Yeah, that didn’t end well …)
– Group H: Portugal vs. Uruguay (Lusail Iconic Stadium; 2 p.m. ET)
All eyes are once again on Ronaldo to provide the fireworks for a Portugal team that had little trouble scoring against Ghana, but Uruguay project to be a much tougher test. Luis Suarez, Darwin Nunez and Edinson Cavani have scored a ton of goals for clubs and country over the years, but they offered little threat against South Korea. It’s not quite “win or go home” territory, but it’s close.
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