Fri, 03 Feb 2023

Croatia stick it to the potty-mouthed Canada boss while Belgium appear stuck. But at least they have a chance to flow again as do the Germans.

Football, eh? Bloody hell.

Feels like the right moment to wheel out Sir Alex Ferguson's famous response to his Manchester United side scoring two goals in second-half stoppage time to rip the Champions League trophy out of Bayern Munich's grasp in 1999. The eighth day brought a thud back to earth for Japan who, after seeing off the Germans in their opening round match, would have fancied their chances against Costa Rica who had been pulverized 7-0 by Spain. But no, Costa Rica won 1-0 to give themselves a lifeline in Group E. Morocco reinvigorated their campaign with a 2-0 victory over Belgium in Group F.

Possession in vain

Post-match stats showed that Belgium enjoyed 56 percent of the possession compared with Morocco's 33 percent. Yes, but what do you do with it once you have the ball? Clearly in Belgium's case not score. Actually, for all this playing on the deck mullarkey, Morocco's goal was refreshing retro. Goalkeeer Munir hoofed a goal kick long - none of this playing out from the back - Abderrazak Hamdallah headed it on towards Zakaria Aboukhlal who couldn't quite control the ball which hit Axel Witsel and came back to him. Aboukhlal laid it off to Hakim Ziyech who bedazzled Thomas Castagne along the right hand side of the Belgium penalty area and cut back for Aboukhlal who swept the ball into the top left hand corner of Thibaut Courtois' goal. Cue invasion of Morocco substitutes to celebrate and Belgian faces as red as their shirts.

Lost in Croatian, perhaps

There was a bit of edge in the game between Croatia and Canada because of a motivational huddle following Canada's loss to Belgium on Day 4. Canada boss John Herdman used language which wasn't appreciated by the Croatians. They vowed to make Herdman eat his words. And lo, at the Khalifa International Stadium, did they smite down the Herdman of unclean mouth. And his pack. Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic was offended anew after the 4-1 annihilation of the Herdmen. "I went on the pitch to see my players. I did not see the other head coach. Whether I lose or win, I always see the other coach." Zlatko Puritanic added: "He was not there and that's his way of doing things, He is a good coach, he is a quality professional. It will take some time for him to learn some things."

Dial E for exciting

Germany were about 10 minutes from elimination when Niclas Fullkrug scored an equaliser against Spain. Wunderbar. That saved a few blushes - desperate as the Germans are to avoid back-to-back first round exits at the World Cup. The 1-1 stalemate - coupled with Costa Rica's 1-0 feat against Japan - sets up Group E group for a final round of Day 12 Sturm und Drang because everyone can qualify when Germany play Costa Rica and Japan face Spain.

Back home

England's football team from 1970 released a song to go with their Mexico 1970 campaign. "Back home they'll be watching and waiting and cheering every move," went one of the lines. How quaint it seems after reports emerged of riots breaking out in several Belgian and Dutch cities after Morocco's 2-0 win over Belgium. Police used water cannons and had to fire tear gas to break up crowds in Brussels and Antwerp. Anti-riot brigades were called in to disperse a group of 500 people who bombarded police with fireworks and glass in Rotterdam. "Sad to see how a few individuals abuse a situation to run amok," said Belgium's interior minister Annelies Verlinden. Well, at least the supporters didn't try a similar stunt in Doha.

Originally published on RFI

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