FIFA World Cup: Germany finally performed with elan, but it was too late

The Germans finally found their feet in the FIFA World Cup, beating Costa Rica 4-2 on Thursday night. But it wasn’t enough to prevent a group-stage exit.

Hard blow: German players react to their exit from the FIFA World Cup after beating Costa Rica.

Hard blow: German players react to their exit from the FIFA World Cup after beating Costa Rica. | Photo Credit: AFP

The Germans finally found their feet in the FIFA World Cup, beating Costa Rica 4-2 on Thursday night. But it wasn’t enough to prevent a group-stage exit.

Germany at last sparkled, albeit a little too late, on a rare chilly night in Al Bayt’s desert tent. With an eye always on the other game, where Japan was once more messing with the German fate.

Two late goals from Kai Havertz and Niclas Fullkrug brought in Deutschland’s first win (4-2) of the World Cup but Germany required five more as Spain lost to a controversial Japan goal.

With all four teams still in the contest, the Germans were imperious, and Serge Gnabry redirected a David Raum cross with a glancing header to get the initial advantage. The Costa Ricans were no threat and only Keylor Navas, brave as ever, was keeping it in the game. Spain, too, had scored and Germany was happy in the knowledge of finally booking a last-16 berth.

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But then disaster struck, the giant screens on the sides a momentary distraction as Japan had equalised and Germany wanted another to sneak ahead on goal difference. Minutes later, Japan was winning, and this was getting all over.

Unless Spain did Germany a favour.

But wait, Costa Rica was not over yet. Yeltsin Tejeda opened his international account after Manuel Neuer fumbled a header and emotions were flowing all around. A child was crying on his father’s shoulders and Navas was thanking the lord upstairs, and Costa Rica, despite the 7-0 opening day loss, had made it a four-horse race.

Spain on the edge

And in 20 second half minutes, Germany was down from two to three and then four as Costa Rica once again scored. Joel Campbell’s first header created a melee inside the box and the ball off Ruben Vargas’s lifted boot nudged past Neuer and referee Stephanie Frappart was assured by VAR that her call was right.

Spain, too, was now on the edge as Costa Rica was ending its run.

Germany was there to save the Spaniards but, alas, not itself. A clearance from Bryan Oviedo fell to Fullkrug who flicked it to Havertz. The Chelsea youngster shuffled the ball from his left feet to right and buried it past Navas.

Germany, however, needed more and Navas twice saved from point-blank range to deny Fullkrug. But Havertz got the third with five minutes (+10 stoppage time) left in play, stabbing in Gnabry’s pass after running past his marker. Fullkrug’s first and Germany’s fourth was initially ruled out for offside. The saviour against Spain was off when Kimmich lofted the first ball to Leroy Sane, but he was not when the latter played it to him in front of the goalkeeper. His finish was powerful as usual.

Germany nonetheless needed Spain to score and even before the final whistle was blown, its destiny was known. Sections of the crowd cheered for the 2-1 Japanese win and Germany’s second early ride home.

For the others, the mood was sombre but there was no shame after this spirited fightback, but Hansi Flick’s men had flickered a little too late.

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