Expect the unexpected at this World Cup.
After their stunning upset win over Germany, Japan was brought crashing down to earth in a 1-0 defeat against Costa Rica on Sunday night.
But there was an even bigger shock in the second match of the night as European powerhouse Belgium fell 2-0 to Morocco, leaving their hopes of progression in major doubt.
Canada joined Qatar at the early departure lounge after falling to Croatia 4-1. Germany and Spain square off at 6am.
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5am — Canada out, Croatia moves top of Group F
Croatia got their World Cup campaign back on track as Andrej Kramaric’s double inspired a 4-1 win that eliminated Canada in a Group F grudge match in Doha.
Zlatko Dalic’s side were stunned by Alphonso Davies’s second-minute opener at the Khalifa International Stadium.
But Hoffenheim forward Kramaric equalised and Marko Livaja put the 2018 World Cup runners-up ahead just before half-time.
Second-half goals from Kramaric and Lovro Majer ensured Croatia could celebrate their first win of the tournament after a goalless draw with Morocco in their first match.
Croatia sit top of Group F, above Morocco on goal difference, and a draw in their final game against Belgium would guarantee they reach the last 16.
It was an especially sweet success for Croatia after Canada boss John Herdman irked Dalic’s men with his profane attempt to inspire his players after a 1-0 defeat against Belgium in their group opener.
In a television interview, Herdman told his players: “They belong here. And we’re going to go and F Croatia.”
Dalic had taken exception to Herdman’s rant, insisting on Saturday that his team deserved “respect” from their opponents.
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 Croatians let their football do the talking on Sunday, allowing them to seize control of a group blown wide open by Morocco’s shock 2-0 win against Belgium earlier in the afternoon.
Canada competed gamely but have now lost all five matches in their World Cup history, with their only previous appearance in 1986 also ending in group-stage elimination.
Herdman’s team took just 68 seconds to rock Croatia when Tajon Buchanan crossed into the Croatia area and Davies timed his run perfectly to power a header past Dominik Livakovic from 10 yards.
Canada’s first ever World Cup goal was welcome redemption for Davies after the Bayern Munich star’s penalty was saved by Thibaut Courtois in the Belgium defeat.
But the fastest goal so far in this World Cup served as a wake-up call for Croatia.
With Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic pulling the strings, Croatia’s clever passing and movement gradually took a toll on Canada and they drew level in the 36th minute.
Kramaric was picked out by Ivan Perisic’s deft reverse pass into the Canada area and he took a touch before drilling a fine finish into the far corner from an acute angle.
Croatia were hitting their stride and Hajduk Split forward Livaja, selected in place of Nikola Vlasic, repaid Dalic’s faith in the 44th minute.
Josip Juranovic’s run was halted just outside the Canada area, but Livaja pounced on the loose ball, nimbly shifting it out of his feet before sending a superb low strike past Milan Borjan.
Canada substitute Jonathan Osorio was inches away from equalising with a long-range blast that flashed just wide early in the second half.
Chances kept coming at both ends and Borjan plunged to his right to keep out Kramaric’s close-range shot before Jonathan David’s strike was 20 yards was tipped over by Livakovic.
The predatory Kramaric delivered the knockout blow in the 70th minute. Perisic’s cross reached Kramaric in the Canada area and he worked space for a left-foot finish that arrowed through Atiba Hutchinson’s legs into the bottom corner.
Majer’s tap-in completed the rout from Mislav Orsic’s pass in stoppage time.
2am (AEDT) – Another boilover as Europe’s top-ranked team loses
Morocco jeopardised Belgium’s World Cup hopes as Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal’s late goals secured a surprise 2-0 triumph in Doha.
Belgium, third in Russia four years ago, could have qualified for the last 16 with victory but instead produced another insipid display after their fortunate opening win over Canada.
Substitute Sabiri was the hero thanks to a 73rd-minute free-kick which Thibaut Courtois allowed to bounce in at his near post, before Aboukhlal grabbed a second in stoppage time.
The tens of thousands of Morocco supporters responded by cheering their team home at a raucous Al Thumama Stadium.
Morocco replace Belgium at the top of Goup F and know they will qualify for the knockout phase for the first time since 1986 if they can avoid defeat against Canada on Thursday.
“We can still be better,” said Morocco coach Walid Regragui. “I’m not happy with four points, I want more than that. I want to qualify.”
Belgium, the world’s second-ranked side, will have to beat 2018 runners-up Croatia to be sure of going through.
Roberto Martinez’s ageing team have reached at least the quarter-finals of each of the past four major tournaments.
Belgium, whose captain Eden Hazard has admitted are not as good as in 2018, lacked spark and were made to pay by inspired opposition.
“We’re not playing with joy. It’s maybe the weight on our shoulders,” said Martinez.
“In the last game we have to play to win it and as if we have nothing to lose.”
Morocco were dealt a blow after the national anthems when goalkeeper Yassine Bounou realised he had aggravated an injury, suffered late on against Croatia, in the warm-up.
The experienced Munir El Kajoui was sent out in his place.
The Atlas Lions fans vastly outnumbered their Belgian counterparts and breathed a sigh of relief when the Europeans almost grabbed a fourth-minute lead.
Hazard played in Michy Batshuayi whose effort from a tight angle was kept out by Munir.
Belgium dominated the early exchanges but Morocco did manage a shot at goal when Hakim Ziyech fired over from distance.
The African side continued to grow into the contest and Selim Amallah, who was born in Belgium, volleyed into the stands before Achraf Hakimi blazed a presentable chance off target.
The crowd erupted in raucous celebration when Ziyech’s free-kick flew all the way into the net in first-half injury time.
But the goal was ruled out after a VAR check, as Romain Saiss was leaning just offside and the former Wolves defender was in ‘keeper Courtois’ eyeline.
Both teams started the second period brightly, with Ziyech shooting straight at Courtois and Hazard bringing a save from Munir at his near post.
Sofiane Boufal almost broke the deadlock in the 57th minute after a jinking run but bent the ball narrowly wide of the far post.
Martinez made two changes on the hour mark, replacing the ineffective Hazard with Dries Mertens and bringing on Youri Tielemans for Amadou Onana in midfield.
Mertens almost made an immediate impact when his strike from just outside the area was beaten away by Munir.
The deadlock was finally broken with 17 minutes remaining as Sabiri’s free-kick from near the touchline, much like for Ziyech’s ruled out goal, caught out a flat-footed Courtois.
Martinez threw on Romelu Lukaku, expected to miss the game injured, in a desperate attempt to get back into the match.
But Belgium had long since run out of ideas and it was Morocco who scored the second goal of the game.
Brilliant play by Ziyech created space in the area for Aboukhlal to lash the Chelsea winger’s pull-back into the roof of the net.
Any tension in the stands was lifted and the Morocco fans were able to celebrate their first World Cup win in 24 years.
11pm (AEDT) – Astonishing eight-goal turnaround
Three days after losing 7-0 to Spain, Costa Rica completed one of the great World Cup turnarounds by beating Japan 1-0 to remain in contention for the knockout stages.
The winning goal came from Costa Rica’s only shot on target of the tournament so far.
The Japanese were fresh off a 2-1 victory over Germany in their first game, and controlled most of this one, but a lack of accuracy in the final third combined with determined defence from the Costa Ricans to hold them scoreless.
The match was relatively uneventful until the 70th minute, when Costa Rican defender Francisco Calvo blatantly pulled back Junya Ito, who was just about to explode into the box with the ball.
There was a hint of cover from other defenders, and the offence occurred just outside the box, so Calvo only copped a free kick and a yellow card instead of a red. The card nevertheless means he will be suspended for his team’s final group game against Germany.
From the free kick right on the edge of the area, Japan could not lift the ball over the wall, and the moment fizzled out.
Costa Rica took the lead against the run of play shortly after the 80-minute mark. Japan gave the ball away in their own territory, and it swiftly came to Keysher Fuller just inside the box, who curled a controlled left-footed shot past the keeper.
As mentioned, it was Costa Rica’s first shot on target of the entire tournament after almost two full matches. And it wasn’t a great moment for the keeper, who was too far off his line and jumped poorly before seeing the ball slip through his hands.
Japan came closest to equalising in the 88th minute, when a brilliant run down the left led to a chaotic goalmouth scramble. Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas eventually managed to grab hold of the ball.
From that moment onwards, Japan looked too frazzled to offer much in attack.
The result means Group E has been blown wide open. As things stand, Spain, Japan and Costa Rica are all on three points, with Germany on zero. The Spanish and Germans play each other later today.
Former Socceroo Mark Bosnich summed up the result in a word: “Unbelievable.”