The theme for day eight was set by Belgium head coach Roberto Martínez, who claimed that we wouldn’t see the teams’ true selves until a week or two into the competition and the end of the group stage, thanks to the short preparation time and hectic schedule of this winter World Cup.
But perhaps he was just talking about his own team, who escaped with a lucky win against Canada in their first game, but were not let off the hook by Morocco in their second. With the Wizard of AMS bringing his Ajax form as opposed to his Chelsea one, the second highest ranked qualifiers from Africa (behind Senegal) took a bit more shine off Belgium’s fading Golden Generation with a 2-0 win, both goals coming in the final 20 minutes. It was Morocco’s first win at the World Cup since 1998.
Ziyech’s lovely cutback assist for the clinching goal in added-on time is the type of play we have not seen with enough regularity in a Chelsea shirt from him.
Can we talk about jawad voice and the joy of Ziyech that we haven't seen before <<3 pic.twitter.com/dlE8yWWitv— N (@Nour_el_houda0) November 27, 2022
Ziyech was probably the best Chelsea performer on the day, though Mateo Kovačić wasn’t far behind as Croatia overcame an early goal to crush Canada’s hearts and hopes with a 4-1 win that turned into a romp after a slow start.
Alphonso Davies got Canada on the board inside of two minutes — their first ever World Cup goal! — but they ran out of steam and then belief as the first half wore on. Croatia took control through their expected midfield excellence, and then the lead on the stroke of halftime, and added two more in the second half for good measure.
Mateo Kovacic vs Canada:— London Is Blue Podcast ⭐️⭐️ (@LondonBluePod) November 27, 2022
— Most Tackles Won (5/5)
— Most Chances Created (4)
— 100% Long Passes Completed
— 100% Dribbles Completed
— 42/45 Passes Completed (93%)
— 9 Recoveries
— 7/10 Duels Won
— 1 Interception
Vintage Kova. #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/iScfYuNseM
While Canada are thus eliminated, they could yet be a factor in deciding who of the other three advance in Group F. Canada play Morocco on the final matchday, while group leaders Croatia take on a desperate Belgium, who will need a win to advance.
Things are even more open in Group E, where all four teams are still in play after Costa Rica eked out a 1-0 win against a lackluster Japan side, who could not build on their rousing win over Germany. The Ticos defended resolutely and made their one shot on goal count.
Costa Rica beat Japan 1-0 with their only shot on target in the World Cup so far pic.twitter.com/P7O32NLrCY— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 27, 2022
And in the late game, Germany staved off elimination with a late equalizer against Spain, who looked on course for a second win after Álvaro Morata gave them the lead just past the hour-mark. But Jamal Musiala decided it was truly his star turn today, and dragged Germany back to life, setting up the equalizer for Niclas Füllkrug, who was preferred ahead of Kai Havertz. Antonio Rüdiger saw a goal (correctly) chalked off for offside earlier in the game.
Germany still need Spain to beat Japan to advance, even if they do beat Costa Rica on the final matchday.