First up is a recap of match day 3 and which was mostly a day of upsets.
Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia
Right out of the gate with the early game was a huge upset. Messi and the 3rd ranked overall team fell to the 51st ranked Saudi Arabia. Argentina was, (still?) one of the favorites to win it all. Messi did put Argentina up on a penalty in the 10th minute but despite all the possession and shots, the South American side could not add more. Saudi Arabia on the other hand did. Saleh Al Shehri in the 48th and Salem Al Dawsari in the 53rd and suddenly Group C is anybody’s game.
Denmark vs. Tunisia
Number 10 Denmark vs 30th ranked Tunisia ended up in a rather disappointing 0-0 draw. The main highlight was seeing Christian Eriksen on the pitch.
Mexico vs. Poland
El Tri dominated stats but could not find the net. The high point for Mexico in this 0-0 draw was 37-year-old goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa stopping Robert Lewandowski’s penalty attempt.
France vs. Australia
This seemed like another upset brewing when Craig Goodwin scored in the 9th minute but France leapt back into the game winning 4-1 with two goals by Olivier Giroud.
Group C is shockingly led by Saudi Arabia with three points followed by Poland and Mexico with one point and Argentina in 4th with no points. This group could easily change but still a surprise for now.
Group D has France on top with three points followed by Tunisia and Denmark with one each. Australia in fourth with zero.
Wednesday, Nov. 23
Morocco vs. Croatia, 4 a.m. on FS1 and Telemundo
Morocco FIFA rank – 22nd
A bit of an unknown since the coach is new and they were not tested hard in qualifying. They went 6-0-0 with a +19 differential over some small countries and then faced the Democratic Republic of Congo and beat them 5-2. They have some players at top clubs and are known for talented dribblers but will need to find goal scorers.
Croatia FIFA rank - 12th
Zlatko Dalic led Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final but fell to France 4-2 in Russia. They may have an even more talented team with a decent mix of youth and experience but now the pressure of expectations may come into play.
Croatia 1-0 Morocco
Germany vs. Japan, 7 a.m. on FS1 and Telemundo
Germany FIFA rank – 11th
Hansi Flick normally runs his squad out in a 4-2-3-1 system that likes to press high and dominate control of the ball.
Japan FIFA rank – 24th
The Samurai Blue are in their seventh straight World Cup. Always focused on the collective more than the individual may be needed even more since their highest scoring striker (2 goals) was left off the roster. Japan is always technical and fast and talented.
A match of two teams that have a lot of talent in the midfield…..
Germany 1-1 Japan
Spain vs. Costa Rica, 10 a.m. on Fox and Telemundo
Spain FIFA rank – 7th
Luis Enrique’s team will be typically Spanish, good on the ball, lots of possession and create chances galore, even if they don’t score a lot. Look for Barcelona’s Gavi and Pedri to make an impact and they could go far.
Costa Rica FIFA rank – 31st
The Ticos made a good run to finish fourth in qualifying and then beat New Zealand in the Inter-Confederation play-off to earn the right be in a group with Spain and Germany and Japan. Not the greatest of prizes but Costa Rica will battle and use every dark art available to them to squeeze out a result.
Costa Rica will be under pressure all game but will put of a great fight.
Spain 2-0 Costa Rica
Belgium vs. Canada, 1 p.m. on Fox and Telemundo
Belgium FIFA rank – 2nd
Belgium will be one of the more experienced teams with almost half of their players 30 years-old or older. The “Golden Generation” has one more chance to win it all before they retire.
Canada FIFA rank – 41st
Canadian soccer is relevant again, well the men, since the women’s side has been good for a long time. Back in the World Cup for the first time since 1986, John Herdman has convinced the Canucks that they can be good and that led to them winning the CONCACAF qualifying much to the chagrin of everyone to the south.
This is not CONCACAF and Canada starts off by facing the number 2 team in the world. If they can get a result versus Belgium, it could give them the confidence to go on a run.
Belgium 2-2 Canada.