Four times world champion, Germany plays against Costa Rica its future in the Qatar Cup. This Thursday’s match (1st) is at the Al Bayt stadium, in Al Khor, at 4 pm (Brasília time).
To avoid the embarrassment of the second elimination in a row in the most important competition in football – they fell in 2018, in Russia, with defeats to Mexico and South Korea –, the Germans have to defeat the Central Americans and wait for the result of the other Group game AND.
At the same time, Spain and Japan will face off at Khalifa Stadium, in Doha.
Last in the group, with 1 point, Germany overtakes Costa Rica (3 points, from the victory over Japan) if they win. And she is in the crowd so that the Japanese, who defeated her in the opening match, 2-1, are beaten by Spain (leader of the group, with 4 points).
That happening, Hansi Flick’s charges ensure passage to the round of 16.
If Japan wins, Germany’s ranking becomes unlikely, as it will tie on points with Spain, which has an excellent goal difference (first tiebreaker) of seven, resulting from the 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica in the first round.
Germany, by the way, should thank this Thursday’s opponent. Costa Rica’s victory against Japan (1-0) was vital for the Germans, who escaped elimination in the second round by pulling out a tie (1-1) in the confrontation with Spain, to remain with a reasonable chance of qualifying.
Flick’s team winning, and with a tie in the other game, whoever has the best goal difference between Germans (currently a negative goal) and Japanese (currently zero) takes the second place in the group.
Equal goal difference leads to other tiebreakers such as pro goals and head-to-head, in that order.
Mathematics aside, in case of a tie on points –it could happen with Spain too–, Germany needs to leak goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
With an inefficient attack (only two goals in two games), there is the possibility that Flick will give Niclas Füllkrug, 29, a chance from the start, who, coming from the bench, scored the saving goal against the Spaniards.
If he enters, the most likely to leave the team is Thomas Müller, 33, world champion in Brazil, in 2014, and author of ten goals in three participations in World Cups.
Far from having the tradition and achievements of Germany, Costa Rica is in a better situation than the opponent. He is the underdog of the game, however, and if he wins, he advances without having to depend on anyone else.
With a much inferior team on paper, they will try to surprise in a counterattack or in a dead ball.
Costa Rica’s ranking in a group of world champions would not be unprecedented.
In the 2014 Cup, played against England, Italy and Uruguay, it was considered eliminated before the Cup even started.
When it started, it won two games, drew one, saw England and Italy eliminated and still advanced to the quarterfinals.
One more attraction in Germany v Costa Rica is the refereeing.
It is the first time that a women’s trio has been selected for a men’s World Cup game.
A Brazilian will participate in this milestone. The Santa Catarina native Neuza Back, who was inspired by the linesman Ana Paula Oliveira to pursue a career in the role, will be one of the assistants of the French Stéphanie Frappart.
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