After Saudi Arabia’s seismic result against Argentina on Tuesday, the shocks continued on Wednesday as Spain made a mark and Canada proved they belong.
Here are the key talking points from day four of the 2022 World Cup.
Japan shows class on and off the pitch
It might not have been quite as earth-shattering as Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina, but Japan caused an upset in Qatar by defeating Germany 2-1 and giving Asian football another boost.
There were also some curious similarities between both results: Saudi and Japan both went to penalties in the first half before scoring two quick goals in the second half to secure famous victories.
Japan, like Saudi, has been a perennial favorite of Asian football for quite some time, qualifying for each of the last seven World Cups and breaking out of the group three times, although they have yet to reach the quarter-finals.
Drawn in a difficult Group E, which also includes a Spanish side clearly in the mood (more on that in a moment), Japan have given themselves a great chance of another knockout game. Beat an unhappy looking Costa Rica in the next game and if Germany fail to beat Spain then Japan will be gone with a game to go.
After showing their quality on the pitch, Japan then showed their class. photos were taken a spotless dressing room after the team left while the fans continued one of the best traditions in football by staying behind and helping to pick up rubbish around the stadium.
Given their impact on the World Cup so far, few neutrals will cheer against Japan to play a good tournament.
Spain set an example
In the pre-tournament predictions as to which nation would win the World Cup, Spain wasn’t even in the conversation. Brazil and Argentina, sure. There were also solid arguments for England, Portugal, Germany and France, despite the latter’s injury crisis. But Spain? Forget it. They don’t even have a world-class striker and their form has been too patchy.
But Spain’s performance against Costa Rica on Wednesday, a 7-0 win at Al Thumama Stadium, showed that Luis Enrique and his players mean business. Admittedly, Costa Rica was shambolic, but Spain were superb, combining their clean finish with a passing game that left their opponents chasing shadows.
With the Barcelona trio of Pedri, Gavi and Sergio Busquets, Spain have one of the best midfielders in the competition, they have a talented and tricky attack with the likes of Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres and have underhanded strength at depth: under their substitutes at Wednesday were Ansu Fati, Koke, Alvaro Morata and Carlos Soler.
Spain face bigger tests than Costa Rica – no more than Germany in the next group game – but so far so good for La Roja.
Canada proves they belong
Canada played their first World Cup game in 36 years on Wednesday, meeting European giants Belgium in the Group F opener.
It should be a nice, gentle introduction to the tournament for a Belgium side who rank second in the world compared to Canada’s 39 and have some of the best players in the world led by midfield superstar Kevin De Bruyne.
Belgium eventually clinched victory and three valuable points, but things could have turned out very differently thanks to an impressive performance from Canada, who absolutely dominated the first half and saved a Thibaut Courtois penalty.
Were it not for some lavish finishing, Canada could easily have qualified alongside Saudi Arabia and Japan as surprise winners this week.
Despite the result, it was an encouraging performance that proved Canada deserved to mingle with the best teams in the world. With young stars like Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan – who was brilliant against Belgium – the future of Canadian football looks exciting.
But even looking ahead, Canada in a group with Morocco and Croatia, who both held a goalless draw, can give themselves a chance if they can repeat Wednesday’s performance for the remainder of the group stage.
Updated November 24, 2022 at 6:34 p.m