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World Cup Day 4 – Spain’s teenage kicks, Japan thrill Brady, wasteful Canada

World Cup Day 4.

World Cup Day 4 is complete and like every other day in Qatar there was a mix of big shocks, big scorelines and big controversies.

The day started off with the third 0-0 draw of the tournament, as 2018 finalists Croatia were held by Morocco in Group F.

Croatia will need to be a little bit more clinical if they wish to enjoy another run to the final, particularly as Belgium are off and running in the group, despite a poor performance against Canada.

Canada rue missed chances.

Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was in fine form, saving a first half Alphonso Davies penalty to deny Canada a first-ever World Cup goal in their second appearance at the tournament.

It was the underdogs who were busier in front of goal as well, with Canada taking 14 shots in total to Belgium’s six, although poor finishing from John Herdman’s team denied them a famous result.

Afterwards, the Durham-born coach said that his team showed they belong at the World Cup, and both Croatia and Morocco will certainly be wary after watching their performance.

World Cup Group E.

Group E started with controversy as the Germany players covered their mouths during their pre-match team photo, in what was a strong message to Fifa.

Football’s governing body has come under scrutiny for banning the wearing of OneLove “rainbow” armbands among seven European nations who were planning on having their captains do so throughout the World Cup.

“We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect,” posted the German Football Association as the game against Japan was underway.

“Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard. It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable.

“That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”

Japan stun Germany.

While Germany took plenty of plaudits for their stance, it was Japan who took the praise for their performance on the pitch.

After falling behind to a first-half Ilkay Gundogan penalty, second-half strikes from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano sealed a 2-1 victory over the four-time champions.

Japan had RTE pundit Liam Brady fawning over them, saying it was one of the best performances he has seen at a World Cup and one of the best second-half performances in any game of football he had seen.

Brady is not normally one for hyperbole, so Japan will need to take those kind of compliments as they get them.

Spain earn big World Cup win.

To make matters worse for Germany, they then had to watch Spain, their main rivals for top spot in the group, lead Costa Rica on a merry dance in a 7-0 victory.

Tiki-taka was very much back in vogue as Luis Enrique’s side toyed with the Central Americans, but this time it wasn’t Xavi and Iniesta pulling the strings.

Rather it was Gavi and Pedri, a central midfield pairing whose combined age will reach 38 when the latter turns 20 on Friday.

Gavi’s goal, the fifth for Spain on the night, made him the youngest World Cup goalscorer since Pele in 1958, with the Barcelona boy being just 18 years and 110 days as he found the net in Qatar.

Spain’s overall performance was the most impressive at the World Cup so far, and it would now look very foolish to rule them out from becoming champions for a second time.

Thursday’s schedule.

Switzerland v Cameroon – Group G – RTE and ITV – 10am

Uruguay v South Korea – Group H – RTE and BBC – 1pm

Portugal v Ghana – Group H – RTE and ITV – 4pm

Brazil v Serbia – Group G – RTE and BBC – 7pm

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