Hansi Flick’s Germany is still flickering and is yet to light up this World Cup and showcase its big-tournament pedigree that has often saw it through even when the team has played football that’s not the best.
The former Bayern Munich manager is still moulding this group to shape as Germany, again, looks to rebuild post a disappointing 2018 World Cup and EURO 2020.
With an all-woman referreeing team calling the game for the first time in the tournament, the Germans must beat Costa Rica, which has already humbled Japan – once part of the same Axis but now the German nemesis in its first group game.
“We have a lot of humility. We have one point and minus one goal difference so there is no reason to be really euphoric.
I think against Costa Rica we will be a lot of the time in the opponents’ box compared to our game against Spain and there it will come down to how we play in the box,” said Thomas Muller, still soldiering on in his fourth World Cup.
But his play has lacked that cutting edge and the goals that came in abundance in 2010 and 2014 are missing again like in the tournament in 2018.
Germany, then, was knocked out from the opening round and a similar fate would be disastrous for its national pride. Niclas Fullkrug and Leroy Sane, substitutes in the game against Spain, might get to start if Flick opts for a more direct approach to goal in this must-win game.
A draw or a win would be enough for Luis Enrique’s Spain while Japan’s run can continue with a win while a draw and a similar result between Costa Rica and Germany will also ensure progress.
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A Costa Rica win over Germany, however, will force Japan to get a positive result in this last group game.
Last year’s finalist, Croatia, and Morocco just need a draw to pass the challenges of the tough Group F.
But a defeat to Belgium, desperate for that win, would leave Croatia at the mercy of an improbable win for an eliminated Canada over Morocco, second in the group after a historic win over Belgium.
For Kevin De Bruyne and a fractured Belgian dressing room, a draw would bring goal difference into play if Walid Regragui’s African side loses to the North Americans.