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Gavi and Pedri will emerge as leaders of a new generation for Spain, according to Lothar Matthaus, who is expecting a World Cup classic when La Roja take on Germany on Sunday.

The Barcelona youngsters starred as Spain began their campaign by hammering Costa Rica 7-0 on Wednesday, while Germany surrendered a half-time lead in a shock 2-1 defeat to Japan.

Should Die Nationalmannschaft slump to consecutive group-stage losses at a single World Cup for the first time on Sunday, it may be enough for them to replicate 2018's humiliating early exit.

With Gavi and Pedri pulling the strings for Spain and Germany having suffered an embarrassing 6-0 defeat when they last met La Roja two years ago in the Nations League, Matthaus is not overly confident.

Asked about the duo's potential impact against Germany, Matthaus told Marca: "They are going to lead this new generation and Luis Enrique is giving them a lot of confidence, and that is essential for them.

"La Roja always brings new values. If I go to the last game, I don't have a good feeling, but that is already past and tomorrow will be a new story. 

"They are the two favourites of the group, but Japan should not be neglected.

"We will have to fight for every metre of the pitch. I think the Germans respect Spain a lot, they have a great team. It will be one of the great matches of the tournament."


Having started just one of their previous 18 World Cup campaigns with a defeat, Germany have now done so at consecutive editions after losing to Mexico in Russia four years ago.

Having retired from international football after Germany's Euro 2020 exit against England, Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos is absent from his country's squad at a World Cup for the first time since 2006.

With Kroos helping his club win LaLiga and the Champions League last season, some have highlighted his absence as a reason for Germany's struggles, but Matthaus disagrees.

"We have [Ilkay] Gundogan, [Joshua] Kimmich, [Jamal] Musiala. Kroos made the difference, and he continues to do so with Real Madrid," Matthaus said.

"He is a fantastic player, but he decided to leave the national team a few years ago and we have to respect that. In his position, we have [Manchester] City's captain Gundogan. 

"We have two Bayern Munich stars, Kimmich and [Leon] Goretzka, but they are different from Kroos. Toni did incredible things for German football, but we already have others."


Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez will be hoping his direct approach pays off when his side take on Japan on Sunday.

Spain thrashed Costa Rica 7-0 on Wednesday in one of the standout results of the World Cup's early games.

Costa Rica conceded as many goals in that match as they had across their previous eight games at the tournament combined. They also failed to have a single shot against Spain, just the second instance of a side failing to have an attempt on goal in a World Cup match since 1966, after Costa Rica themselves against Brazil in 1990.

Japan, meanwhile, shocked Germany by winning 2-1 in the other Group E game. 

Costa Rica have never beaten Japan, losing three of their four previous meetings.

Asked what his side needed to do to address their defeat against Spain, Suarez's message was simple.

He told reporters: "I'll have to be very direct – we did a lot wrong, we made mistakes, and I think we should all be very clear about what our mistakes have been, starting with myself, my tactical responsibility.

"When we've done all this, we have to forget about the result. It will be very difficult. But we do have players who are good enough to play differently.

"We have to improve a great deal. We need to take on that responsibility and the blame, but also the way to move on is by focusing on positive results and to forget about [the Spain] defeat."

Suarez did, feel, however, that even though his side underperformed against Spain the result was a harsh reflection of their display.

"Spain were the much better team. But this was one of those games where everything happened in a completely different way than what you'd expect," he added.

"Yes, they were much better, but not by a difference of seven goals."

After beating Germany, Japan are looking to win back-to-back World Cup matches for the first time since 2002 (v Russia and Tunisia), while they have never won both of their first two fixtures of a single edition at the finals.

Indeed, victory on Sunday for Japan could see them through to the last 16, should Germany fail to beat Spain.


Japan – Takuma Asano

Takuma Asano scored a brilliant winner against Germany, sealing a famous victory for Japan.

Asano had five of Japan's 12 shots in the match – no other player had more than one.

Only Shinji Kagawa has ever had more attempts in a single World Cup match for Japan (six vs Colombia in 2014).

Costa Rica – Keylor Navas

Keylor Navas has been one of Europe's best goalkeepers over much of the past decade, but he had a shocker against Spain.

The Paris Saint-Germain shot-stopper will be determined to right those wrongs and help Costa Rica claim a clean sheet as the basis for a win to keep their hopes alive.

He is one of three Costa Rica players who could make their 10th World Cup appearance, along with Celso Borges and Bryan Ruiz.


Costa Rica's heavy defeat to Spain means they have been given just a 13.4 per cent chance of winning this game by Opta.

The likelihood of a Japan victory is rated at 66.6 per cent, with a 20 per cent chance of a draw.

The official line is that it doesn't matter. It's an irrelevance. In fact, why are we even talking about it?

"I don't think that it plays any role. It was two years ago," said Julian Brandt on Friday.

But Spain's 6-0 slicing and dicing of Germany in November 2020 looms large over Sunday's re-match at Al Bayt Stadium, however much any protagonists pretend to ignore its presence.

Germany's record defeat in a competitive international came in that Nations League contest played in Seville, and while Joachim Low hung on a little longer as coach, that was the night when his fate was as good as sealed.

So there's one thing that has changed since the humiliation at La Cartuja: Low has gone and Hansi Flick is pulling the strings for Germany, the former Bayern Munich boss entrusted with leading the team into the World Cup.

"We are in a different position now and have improved in a lot of areas – even if not everything is going smoothly," said Germany midfielder Brandt.

How's about that for understatement of the year?

Germany are positively reeling, on the brink of a second consecutive World Cup group-stage elimination after folding to a 2-1 defeat against Japan in their Group E opener.

Their hopes hinge, more than likely, on finding a way to beat Spain, a team who left scorched earth in their wake while crushing Costa Rica 7-0 on matchday one.

"At the end of the day, it is a chance to change the mood," reckoned Brandt. "A game like this can energise you a lot. The 6-0 doesn't play a part for any player."

To which one can only hold one's hands up and commend the focus of the modern-day player if they can genuinely freeze out memories of such dark nights.


Brandt was an unused substitute for that six-goal shellacking, so perhaps the scars genuinely have faded in his case.

As a bystander, he could hardly be held responsible, and Brandt was also a bench-warmer throughout Germany's capitulation against Japan, so he gets another free pass there.

Where is there accountability then? Perhaps German FA (DFB) technical director Oliver Bierhoff is the man to be looking at, having been in post for coming up to five years.

Bierhoff gave Low his backing after the Spain shambles two years ago, and bringing his involvement up to the present day, the former striker said Germany were "really, really angry" at themselves for folding against Japan.

The Euro 96 final match-winner described the upcoming Spain game as "the first final" for Germany at this World Cup.

He also told broadcaster ARD it was "a myth" the team needed to be friends and said "friction and conflict" could be positive.

So there might not be absolute love and harmony in the ranks, but Bierhoff insists Germany are fully focused on their mission.

"That's the most important thing," Bierhoff said, "that in the end, even though we are many different personalities and have different ideas, we all submit to one single goal: to play a successful World Cup."

Germany have never lost consecutive group games in a single edition of the World Cup, but this team doesn't let history stop them achieving firsts. After all, they had only lost their opening game at a World Cup once in their first 18 appearances at the finals, prior to 2018, but now they have surrendered openers at consecutive editions.

In World Cup games where Germany had scored at least once, they were unbeaten in 29 matches (W25 D4) before tossing away a first-half lead to hand over three points to Japan on Wednesday. Their last such defeat was the famous 2-1 quarter-final loss to Bulgaria at USA 94.

They've never lost three consecutive World Cup games, but their 2018 campaign ended with a painful defeat to South Korea, then came Japan, and now Spain stand in their way.

The good news for Germany is that Spain have not won their opening two games at a World Cup since 2006. In 2010, when they went on to lift the trophy, Spain lost to Switzerland in their opener, so mishaps can happen.

Rather more bleak for Flick and Co is that Germany have won just one their last seven games against Spain, a 1-0 friendly success in November 2014. They have drawn two and lost four in that span and have not beaten Spain in a competitive game since Euro 88, drawing two games and losing three.

Where should Germany look for positives?

Young midfielder Jamal Musiala has emerged in the two years since that dismal trip to Andalusia, but Germany sorely lack a world-class striker, the sort that might have put the Japan game to bed before the underdogs set about fighting back in the final quarter.

Arguably the same might be said of Spain, but Ferran Torres hit three in the 6-0 rout and netted twice against Costa Rica, so Germany must be watchful there.

Spain toppled Germany 1-0 in the 2010 World Cup semi-finals, the first and only time they have defeated the four-time champions in the tournament's history.

They have talent pouring through the ranks, with the likes of Pedri, Gavi and Dani Olmo impressing against the outclassed Costa Ricans, while Germany bring a familiar cast, star-studded but struggling to equal the sum of their parts.

After the Spain game in 2020, Flick, then with Bayern Munich, said of the national team: "I was disappointed with the way we played football. On the other hand, these things are possible in football, sometimes you get run over and, in the end, you have to draw the right conclusions."

He added: "But that's not my job."

Now, however, it emphatically is his job. Flick has to work out how to lift a group left shattered by Japan's comeback, while ignoring the elephant stomping around the room, trumpeting the message that the last time Germany encountered Spain, it went down as one of the national team's darkest days.

But it could get darker still. If Germany crumble again to La Roja, this time at the World Cup, prepare for a total eclipse of Die Mannschaft.

Adrien Rabiot believes that France's inexperienced midfield "can be a positive force", following an impressive showing in the opening fixture against Australia.

Didier Deschamps' defending champions were ravaged by injury issues in their build-up to the World Cup in Qatar, with midfield duo Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante among those being forced to watch on from home.

That pairing played an integral part in France's success in Russia four years ago, leaving a high bar to Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni, who started in the win against the Socceroos.

Both impressed with their performance, Rabiot scoring France's equaliser on the way to a 4-1 win, and he feels the youthfulness of the side can provide a boost.

"I don't listen or read what is being said. Our midfield is young and less experienced than in previous competitions, that's a fact. But it can be a positive force. Time and results will tell," he told ESPN.

"We also need to look at the quality of the players here, and our commitment. For us, even if there is less experience of these situations, there's still such a strong desire to do well.

"It is important to have players you can rely on, players you can 'rest' on. To know that some have more experience, more Champions League games, matters too.

"I like to be there for my teammates. I like to be advising, talking and listening. Helping my teammates to perform and be in the right conditions, physically and mentally, for what we face on the pitch is something I like doing."

France are among the favourites to go all the way in Qatar, with Rabiot making it clear that his intention is to win – which would see Les Bleus become only the third team to win back-to-back World Cup tournaments after Italy (1934, 1938) and Brazil (1958, 1962).

"When I play a tournament, my target is to win it. I want to win this World Cup," he declared.

"I don't know if I will ever play a World Cup again, so we have to go for it and bring the trophy back home.

"We have to give everything, without thinking about anything else. It is now. Otherwise, there is no point being here.

"We have to be serene and be confident in our abilities, but not take anything for granted, like we did against Australia."

France can secure their spot in the knockout stages with victory against Denmark on Saturday, then finishing the group stage against Tunisia on Wednesday.

Netherlands World Cup captain Virgil van Dijk hit back in the face of stiff criticism from Dutch great Marco van Basten, retorting: "I don't think he's ever positive."

A World Cup draw against Ecuador on Friday was not a result the Netherlands were looking for, with the 1-1 outcome meaning Louis van Gaal's team missed a chance to nail down a last-16 place with a game to spare.

Late goals earned them victory over Senegal on matchday one, and the Dutch should have no trouble in beating hosts Qatar next Tuesday to make sure of a spot in the knock-out rounds.

But letting Cody Gakpo's sixth-minute opener against Ecuador be cancelled out by Enner Valencia's leveller early in the second half left former striker Van Basten unimpressed, particularly with the Oranje skipper.

Euro 88 hero Van Basten told Dutch broadcaster NOS: "You go in front very quickly. And then I think a thought arises: okay, we are ahead, we have to defend. But that is something that does not help us. I think Virgil should play the leading role in that. He talks a lot, but says nothing.

"Who's the best player on the team? That's Virgil. When you see what he does in possession... It's just tapping a ball to the players next to him. He needs to pick up the pace. It just goes way too slow."

Reacting to the remarks, Liverpool centre-back Van Dijk told Voetbal International: "I don't think he is ever positive, so what do you do with it?

"It is easy to make an analysis from [NOS headquarters in] Hilversum. I don't want to say that I played a fantastic game, not at all. But the things that are said about me failing as a captain: what do you do with that?

"I'm always at the front, I lead the team in the best way possible."

Van Dijk made more defensive clearances (6) than anyone else in Friday's game. He was kept busy as Ecuador had 15 shots to the Netherlands' paltry two, the Dutch team's lowest total at a World Cup since at least 1966, the first tournament for which such data is available.

Gareth Southgate believes England showed a different side of their play against the United States, securing what he feels is a valuable point.

The Three Lions missed the chance to become the first side to book their spot in the knockout stages after being held to a goalless draw by the USA, in a game where England's creativity and threat in the final third was lacking.

Instead, it was the USA who had the better opportunities throughout, Christian Pulisic striking the frame of the goal, while England were forced to adopt a more conservative approach than they did in their demolition of Iran.

Southgate is adamant a successful team needs to be able to show variation in a tournament, and gave a positive assessment of the performance.

"I'm really pleased with the application of the players, it's a really tough opponent, they played incredibly well," he said in the post-match press conference.

"To come off the high of the performance the other day and find that same energy, level of quality, it was always going to be a challenge.

"Their front six make it so difficult to play through and get at their defence, I thought we controlled the game really well, our two centre-backs were absolutely outstanding with the ball.

"To play with that sort of composure under the pressure and angles that the USA press with is difficult and it's only when you have two players like we have where you begin to appreciate the strain of the game that they can take.

"We lacked zip and control in the final third, we didn't really create enough in the final third, but we had a chance to show another side of ourselves in terms of the resilience, the recovery runs, covering our box well.

"To be a successful team in a tournament, you have to show those different faces and I think we did that tonight. I'm sure there will be a lot of noise about the performance but not many teams go through the World Cup and get nine points in the group.

"We're in a good position, we've got a little bit to do to qualify still, but we also have the opportunity to win the group.

"The players were very down and disappointed after the game but I told them that isn't how it's going to be for the next few days because I thought they showed another side to what they are about and it's going to be important moving forward."

Kieran Trippier echoed Southgate's assessment of the point being an important one, highlighting how the likes of Germany and Argentina have suffered surprising defeats so far in Qatar.

"The USA are a good side. Every single team in our group is top 20. You can't underestimate any of them," he told Stats Perform.

"You have to give respect to them. We knew it was going to be a tough game. You see the past results, they're a good side, a very good side.

"You look at other results in the tournament, and there are some big results gone against them. We've got to take positives. It's a good point.

"We're not at all [concerned about creativity]. Of course, in the final third there were some moments where we could be better, of course, but it's the second game in, four points on the board in the group, it's only positive from myself and the team.

"I think the motivation's there. England-Wales is a massive game. All we can do now is recover, review the game where we could have done better, and get ready for the next battle."

Yunus Musah believes "the whole world will see" the United States' quality after they held England to a goalless draw at Al Bayt Stadium.

England are considered among the favourites for the World Cup, but they were on the back foot for long spells against the USMNT.

Neither team could forge a breakthrough, despite Christian Pulisic saying his side "showed dominance" at times.

Musah felt a draw was the fair result, but the teenager – who was eligible to play for England – was still enthused by the United States' performance.

Agreeing it was a game in which the team could send a message, the midfielder said: "I feel like the team played really well today, showed how great they are.

"Most of them are playing in great teams at a high level, and I feel like today the whole world will see the US can do good things.

"I guess time will tell. We can't just live for one game. We've got to do it consistently."

Playing England made for an extra special occasion for Musah, but the United States as a whole could take encouragement from taking the game to one of the world's leading sides.

"We said that numerous times. These guys are one of the favourites to win the tournament," Musah said. "They're so good.

"We knew that, and we had to work double hard today to make sure they didn't score. I'm proud of the team."

The USMNT's success in frustrating England was evident in the way the Three Lions were booed off at the final whistle, and Pulisic added: "I guess that's a positive sign when you play for the other team.

"It was a really good performance. There were stretches of the game where we had control and we had them pushed back in their own half.

"Of course, the opposing fans don't like to see that, especially when we're the 'underdogs', but we went toe-to-toe with them and put in a good performance."

But the United States remain winless and must now turn their attention to Iran, who beat Wales earlier on Friday.

"I feel like a constant theme that I'm seeing when we watch any game is it's about who wants it more," said Musah.

"You saw Iran, they were running and running and running, closing down and fighting for every single ball.

"At the end of the day, every team's got quality, so the team who wants it more comes out on top most of the time. That's what I saw.

"We have to be ready for that. We can't drop the intensity against them."

Harry Kane insisted England's drab performance against the United States was "not the end of the world for us" and kept the team in a strong position at Qatar 2022.

Captain Kane missed a late chance to make a breakthrough when he planted a header well wide as the game at Al Bayt Stadium finished goalless.

The USA were the better side for large parts of the game, but they passed up half-chances and England survived scares before improving in the closing stages.

"It wasn't our best performance, for sure," Kane told ITV. "We had some good spells with the ball and created some good positions, but we just didn't have the final product today.

"It's a great clean sheet, it puts us in a great position in the group."

After the 6-2 opening win against Iran, the expectations on England went up a level, but this will bring them in check.

"It was a complete contrast with the game against Iran, where we took our chances really well," Kane said, before complimenting the Americans.

"Look, overall they're a tough team, and we'll move on. They pressed us really well and made it difficult for us. I thought at times we dealt with it well, they're a good side and we have to respect that.

"A draw isn't the end of the world for us. We know we can play better than that, but it's a draw in the World Cup, no game is easy in the World Cup."

England had just eight shots, and they have only attempted fewer in two World Cup matches on record since 1966: six against the Republic of Ireland in 1990 and seven against Poland in 1986.

They have still never beaten the USA at the World Cup in three attempts, losing 1-0 in 1950 and drawing 1-1 in 2010 before this stalemate.

The Americans are now winless in their last 11 World Cup matches against European nations (D6 L5) since a 3-2 victory over Portugal in 2002. This was their first World Cup clean sheet against a European team since that famous win over England 72 years ago.

Kane was just happy England took a point, rather than subsiding to a dismal defeat, and they will round off their group campaign against Wales, looking to make sure of a last-16 place.

"I think after our first performance, people thought we were just going to landslide every team we play, but it's not the case, we played a well-organised team with quality players," Kane said.

"The clean sheet is really pleasing. A point's not what we came here for, but it leaves us in a really good position."

Louis van Gaal believes the Netherlands must improve considerably if they are to win the World Cup, acknowledging Ecuador were "much better" than the Oranje in Friday's 1-1 draw.

The Netherlands and Ecuador sit locked together on four points in Group A after Enner Valencia cancelled out Cody Gakpo's opener at the Khalifa International Stadium, with the stalemate condemning hosts Qatar to an early exit.

Van Gaal's side were fortunate to hold off a much-improved Ecuador team after Valencia's equaliser, having scored with the only shot they mustered before the interval.

The Netherlands will only need a draw against bottom side Qatar to claim their place in the last 16 on Tuesday, but Van Gaal believes they must do better with sterner tests to come.

"If you want to become world champions, we need to improve a lot, because the quality of the opponents we have yet to face is at a much higher level," Van Gaal said.

The Netherlands failed to win a World Cup match after opening the scoring for the first time since 1998 (v Mexico), as Ecuador managed 15 shots to their opponents' two – the lowest tally recorded by a European team at the tournament since such data became available in 1966.

However, the Oranje are now unbeaten in their last 15 World Cup group-stage games (W11 D4), and Van Gaal was relieved by the end of Friday to avoid defeat against impressive opponents.

"I think we did not play a good match," Van Gaal said. "We didn't play well in ball possession, that was our problem in the first match [a 2-0 win over Senegal].

"All the second balls, all the duels were for Ecuador. There you cannot win, I believe.

"We're working on possession, and we will continue to work on that. Whether we will make it, I can't guarantee that. But I think we have several options in the midfield and I can try them out.

"We have lost sight of the balance here, but we can find it. The clever thing today is that we played the match and have one point against a much better opponent, that's how I see it."

Having led the Netherlands to a third-placed finish at the 2014 World Cup during the second of his three spells with the team, Van Gaal has now avoided defeat in all nine of his games at the finals, excluding penalty shoot-outs.

No coach has taken charge of more matches without losing in the tournament's history, with two-time winner Vittorio Pozzo also remaining unbeaten across nine contests.

England's winless record against the United States at the World Cup stretched to three matches following a goalless draw at Al Bayt Stadium.

Gareth Southgate's side knew they would become the first side to book their spot in the knockout stages with a victory but were unimpressive, with the USA being the better side throughout.

Christian Pulisic came the closest to deciding the match by striking the crossbar in the first half, while England only tested Matt Turner on a single occasion.

Neither side managed to muster much of a threat in the second period, with both sides forced to settle for a point and having work to do in their final matches on Tuesday.

Opportunities were limited in the early exchanges, Harry Kane seeing an effort deflected wide after fine build-up play from the Three Lions, while Weston McKennie blazed over the bar after finding space in the England box.

The USA put themselves on the front foot as the game progressed, Pulisic coming closest to breaking the deadlock with a fierce drive from outside the area that rattled against the crossbar.

However, England finished the half with their best chance, Mason Mount forcing a diving save from Turner.

The USA continued to be the better side into the second half, though they were unable to create opportunities to truly test Jordan Pickford, with England equally impotent in attack.

The result leaves Group D delicately poised heading into the final round of fixtures, with England's display a far cry from their prolific showing against Iran.

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