FIFA World Cup 2022: After Saudi Arabia, Japan too tumbles at the second hurdle

Both Saudi Arabia and Japan, who were giant killers in round one of the group matches, were unable to continue their winning spree in round two

The FIFA World Cup 2022 continues to sprinkle surprises. Both Saudi Arabia and Japan, who were giant killers in round one of the group matches, were unable to continue their winning spree in round two. While Saudi Arabia lost to Poland 0-2 yesterday, it was turn to go down fighting to Costa Rica in its round two match of the group.

It may be pertinent to recall that while Saudi Arabia had upset the applecart of Argentina 1-2 in the opener, Japan had beaten four times FIFA World Cup champions Germany  by an identical 1-2 margin. Both Saudi Arabia and Japan, however, continue to be in the run for the knockout stage with a match to go.

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It was Keysher Fuller  who scored in the 81st minute to lift Costa Rica to a 1-0 victory over Japan on Sunday, leaving both teams with three points after two games in Group E of the World Cup. Fuller, who took advantage of a defensive error when Japan failed to clear a goalbound move  in time . It ended up hitting the net from 18 meters just off the fingertips of leaping Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.

Japan has one Group E game remaining with Spain, and Costa Rica faces Germany in its final group match. With a victory, Japan could have all but wrapped up a place in the knockout stage after a 2-1 upset of Germany in its opener. Costa Rica was pounded by Spain 7-0 in its first game and just trying to survive. Japanese fans, who  hawked media headlines by collecting garbage from stands after their team’s surprise win over Germany the other day, were visibly upset at today’s defeat. Now they are pinning their hopes on the last group match for a place in the knockout stage.

In other games, Argentina stormed back into the contention with a convincing 2-0 win over Mexico, thanks to some splendid soccer by their star Lionel Mess. After losing the opener to Saudi Arabia, the South Americans now need a win in the last group match to advance to the pre quarter-final;s.

Defending champions France became the first team to assure itself with a place in the round of 16. France won its second successive group game. Yesterday, France beat Denmark  2-1. In the last World Cup in Russia, France and Denmark had played a goalless draw. with a defeat in its second game after a goalless draw against Tunisia in the opener, Denmark is virtually out of contention for the knockout round.

          Prabhjot Paul Singh

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