clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

World Cup 2022 Preview: Can Costa Rica and Japan Squeak Through Past Classic World Cup Heavyweights?

Can another set of underdogs continue a common theme in this World Cup?

FBL-WC-2022-TRAINING-CRC Photo by RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP via Getty Images

Poor Mexico, they almost squeaked through. Group C of this World Cup was about as chaotic as we predicted, and slowly but surely the Round of 16 bracket is filling. Next up on December 1st are Groups E and F, both of which have already seen their fair share of upsets and disappointments. Canada has already been heartbreakingly eliminated, while both Costa Rica and Japan have pulled off some positive results. Meanwhile, Belgium has looked dismal and are preparing to face a Croatian squad that finally seemed to start clicking like they did in 2018 when they made it to the finals.

Perennial heavyweights Germany sit dead last in Group E (who saw that coming?) while Spain has admittedly been a solid contender in their first two matches. The chaos and adrenaline of whether Mexico or Poland would make it through alongside Argentina has finally ebbed, and now our fellow Concacaf buddies Costa Rica will be looking to be the only other representative alongside the USMNT to advance out of the groups.

Here’s a detailed look ahead at the final match day for Groups E and F of the 2022 World Cup:

Canada vs Morocco — 10 a.m.

How to Watch

FS1, Telemundo, Peacock (premium)

The Matchup

Canada is looking to play spoiler in this matchup, but don’t count out the benefits of playing a game in the World Cup, even if it’s a meaningless one. Our northern neighbors will likely send out a solid choice starting XI because many of the same guys will be right back in the mix in 2026. The only thing to truly prepare them for when the tournament comes to North America in four years is to spend as many minutes as possible on the pitch. Morocco, on the other hand, will be fighting tooth and nail to either keep hold of their second place spot or shoot up to first, depending on how the other group matchup goes. And let’s be honest, Morocco has legitimately been a fun team to watch, so what may seem like a bummer of a match could truly turn out to be a fun neutral watch.

Player to Watch: Tajon Buchanan

Croatia v Canada: Group F - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Mohammad Karamali/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

What happened to Christian Pulisic in 2018 when the U.S. didn’t qualify for the World Cup may be a parallel for Tajon Buchanan after Canada’s elimination in game two. Canada did well to make it to Qatar, but they’re not done. Like the United States, they have a ton of talent that will be hitting their prime in 2026, and if you’ve ever read about or followed Tajon, you know he takes adversity like a Saiyan (Dragonball reference for the OG’s); it just makes him stronger. He may not play a full 90, but when he does hit the pitch he’s one to keep an eye on.

Croatia vs Belgium — 10 a.m.

How to Watch

FS1, Telemundo, Peacock (premium)

The Matchup

Let’s be honest, Belgium have looked like outright garbage. Not because they’re failing to live up to expectations as FIFA’s number two ranked team, which they are, but because they just simply look bad. They currently sit in third after having having barely beaten Canada and getting popped by Morocco. Croatia, on the other hand, seem to have finally found a portion of what made them so special in 2018. They went down 1-0 against Canada within three minutes in match two but rallied back to an old fashioned mollywhopping against the northerners to send them home. Expect Croatia to continue their stride and send a limping Belgium home to figure out their life.

Player to Watch: Luka Modric

Croatia v Canada: Group F - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

It’s simple here, really. Luka Modric is one of the best midfielders of all time, and even on his worst days he’s a frustrating player to play against. For a position that has so many subtle, unnoticed qualities, he performs them all incredibly well. Croatia will look to him to keep the tempo of the match in their hands, and if they score early in this one expect Modric to then lock the midfield down like Fort Knox.

Japan vs Spain — 2 P.M.

How to Watch

FOX, Telemundo, Peacock (premium)

The Matchup

This one should be fun. Japan has shown they can hang, having already pulled off an early upset of their own against the German giants. They then gave away a match against Costa Rica, largely due to some poor sub choices. They’re incredibly disciplined, though, and they adapt very well. Spain is...well, Spain. They’ve played well, and like Brazil, have a myriad of quality subs to choose from. But the Japanese won’t make it easy for them to keep a grasp of the top of the table, and this one almost seems primed to play out like a true chess match. Japan needs a win and they’re in, but a draw wouldn’t be bad depending on how the Costa Rica/Germany match plays out. Spain will try and pick apart, slow down, and frustrate the Samurai Blue, but that aforementioned Japanese discipline could very easily turn the tables. They strike on the counter like a lightning bolt.

Player to Watch: Kaoru Mitoma

Japan v Costa Rica: Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Mohammad Karamali/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Here’s a fairly prolific winger who also scored in September’s friendly against the USMNT. Japan’s substitutes were the reason they won against Germany and the reason they lost against Costa Rica, so it’s prime time for Kaoru to add to his impressive goal tally he racked up in qualifiers.

Germany vs Costa Rica — 2 p.m.

How to Watch

FOX, Telemundo, Peacock (premium)

The Matchup

Talk about two teams that are going to be throwing everything at this match including the kitchen sink. Germany shouldn’t even be in this position, but they didn’t take advantage of Japan when they had the chance, and Spain was always going to be tough. Admittedly, they’re lucky to even still be in this tournament. Costa Rica, on the other hand, is a true underdog story. They would need a win and a bit of help to move forward, but Germany got caught sleeping a few too many times already. This would be the perfect time for Costa Rica to bust out the Concacaf playbook and dark arts this one into oblivion, so no matter how you look at it, this one should be chaotic fun.

Player to Watch: İlkay Gündoğan

Spain v Germany: Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Pablo Morano/BSR Agency/Getty Images

This guy needs to have a big game, and he knows it. He’s scored Germany’s lone goal of the tournament, which came from a penalty kick against Japan. He’s still one of the top midfielders around, though, and plays for a club that values perfection in Manchester City. Costa Rica haven’t exactly been stout on defense, giving up a cornucopia of goals against Spain, and I would expect Gündoğan to already have that in the back of his mind.