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  • Writer's pictureBruno Asoka

Japan and Spain advance to last 16,Germany and Costa Rica crash out

Germany defeated Costa Rica 4-2 as Group E came to a thrilling conclusion, but they were eliminated from the FIFA World Cup (WC) group stage for the second consecutive tournament.

The pressure was on for Germany, who had only earned one point from their opening two games. Only a victory would do. From the opening minute, they controlled possession while applying tremendous pressure to their opponents, and by the time Serge Gnabry scored in the 10th, Jamal Musiala and Thomas Müller had missed good opportunities. Navas was left grasping at space by Gnabry's header, which was much more controlled than that of his Bayern Munich teammate.

Soon after, Alvaro Morata's goal gave Spain the lead in the group moving Germany into second place and putting them in a position to go to the Round of 16. However, Hansi Flick's team did not let up, as Leon Goretzka, Joshua Kimmich, Musiala, and Gnabry all had additional chances. Germany's one-goal lead was fragile despite their supremacy, as was nearly demonstrated right before halftime. Keysher Fuller's attempt was deflected over the bar by Manuel Neuer after a defensive blunder in his 19th World Cup appearance, the most of any goalkeeper in tournament history.

After the restart, Japan quickly outscored Spain twice to take the lead, putting Germany's campaign in jeopardy. Flick introduced Niclas Füllkrug because they needed six more shots, but Costa Rica instead scored, with Yeltsin Tejeda reacting first to Neuer's outstanding save on Joel Campbell. Musiala nearly gave Germany a fast answer, but his shot missed the post. Then, from less than six yards out, Antonio Rüdiger also tried to smash the woodwork. Amazingly, Musiala was once again rejected by the post as it seemed Germany's good fortune had run out. Juan Vargas scored from close range in an almost imaginable turn of events to give Los Ticos the lead and perhaps eliminate Germany and Spain as well.

The advantage only lasted a few seconds, as Navas was chipped over by substitute Kai Havertz to tie the game. As the game came to a close, Havertz scored his second goal, gently placing Gnabry's cross into the corner, and Füllkrug put the game out of reach with the game-winning goal in the final second of regulation. Ultimately, though, it wasn't enough, as Japan managed to win their match and take first place in the group, followed by Spain. In all three of their games, Germany played admirably, but a lack of a cutting edge and defensive mistakes cost them dearly.

Japan defeated Spain 2-1 and finished top of Group E and Spain took second place.

Despite Germany defeating Costa Rica 4-2, both teams were eliminated and finished third and fourth respectively.

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