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Shock And Awe At Qatar 2022

By LAXMI NEGI
December 03, 2022 12:24 IST
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The 2022 Qatar World Cup has produced some very odd results, which is why it has been so much fun.

Germany and Belgium have been eliminated from the 2022 World Cup, adding to the list of shock group stage exits.

That makes two World Cups in a row that Germany have exited at the earliest opportunity.

Belgium's departure means the end of Coach Roberto Martinez's tenure and the 'golden generation's' chances of winning an international tournament.

Germany

Germany

IMAGE: Four-time champions Germany sensationally crashed out of the World Cup. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Germany were considered one of the favourites to lift the trophy in Qatar, but fell to a surprising 2-1 defeat to Japan in their opening game of the tournament.

Then, having drawn with Spain in their second game, they needed to beat Costa Rica in their final match and for Spain to beat Japan -- a realistic turn of events.

But Japan came from behind to beat the 2010 winners, meaning Die Mannschaft's 4-2 win over Costa Rica meant nothing.

The Germans were the reigning champions when they crashed out in the first round four years ago in Russia and they were eliminated in repeat fashion in Qatar despite beating Costa Rica 4-2.

The Germans were also knocked out in the last 16 at Euro 2020.

The four-time champions finished third in Group E behind Spain on goal difference.

'It is unbelievably bitter for us,' forward Thomas Mueller said. 'It's a feeling of powerlessness.'

Bild, Germany's top-selling daily newspaper, offered a scathing assessment of the team's latest failure:

'How embarrassing! We are out', read the Bild headline.

'Three tournaments in a row in which we didn't get anything done.'

'The soccer world used to tremble before us. We were praised as a 'tournament team'. Now Germany is just a soccer dwarf.'

 

Belgium

Belgium

IMAGE: Belgium's 2022 World Cup campaign never got off the ground as their star footballers like Kevin de Bruyne, above, were unable to find the spark. Photograph: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Belgium, the national team ranked second in the world, were also sent packing after a goalless draw with Croatia.

Having been one of the favourites to win the 2018 World Cup -- and the European Championships in 2016 and 2020 -- Belgium were not expected to win the tournament in Qatar.

The likes of Eden Hazard, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are past their prime, but going out in the group stage remained unthinkable.

The Red Devils pinned their hopes on Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne who failed to show why he is considered one of the world's best footballers.

Belgium's exit was painful too, with their players slumping to the turf after substitute Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku failed to capitalise on a string of chances.

The Belgians, knowing victory would take them through, poured forward in the second half in frantic search of a winner but fell agonisingly short.

In the aftermath of their exit, Coach Roberto Martinez announced he was leaving his job.

'That was my last game with the national team, I can't carry on,' Martinez said.

There were some surprise entrants too in the round of 16.

Morocco

Morocco

IMAGE: Morocco clinched a spot in the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Morocco became the first African team to top a World Cup group for 24 years after beating Canada 2-1.

The Moroccans' only other trip past the group stage came in World Cup 1986 in Mexico.

In 2022, Morocco began its campaign with a morale-boosting draw against Croatia and then beat Belgium 2-0 for arguably its best result in international soccer.

Croatia, who reached the World Cup final in 2018, and Belgium finished third. Morocco towered above them both in the group.

Hosts Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are all out, leaving the Atlas Lions to fly the flag for Arab pride.

 

Australia

Australia

IMAGE: Australia reached the World Cup last 16 for the first time since 2006. Photograph: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Victory over Tunisia had given Australia an unlikely chance of progressing to the knockout stages and, despite its underwhelming start to the World Cup, Denmark could have also qualified in this winner-takes-all match.

Every chance, however, went unfinished and the two sides went into the break tied 0-0.

Then came Wahbi Khazri's goal for Tunisia in the other Group D match against France, shortly followed by Mathew Leckie's strike, turning the group on its head twice in five minutes.

Leckie's goal stunned Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark 1-0 in Qatar for Australia to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time in 16 years.

While the 2006 Socceroos side was filled with generational Australian talent playing for top European clubs, the team at Qatar 2022 has no Premier League footballers, and eight from the comparatively less well-regarded A-League compared to three domestic-based players in 2006.

But they stood up to be counted. Leckie, 31, scored his 14th international goal -- six more than the next highest.

The star of the show was Stoke defender Harry Souttar. With him, Australia kept a second consecutive World Cup clean sheet, having had only one in 17 finals matches previously.

It is quite the turnaround for Aussie Manager Graham Arnold, after an unimpressive qualification campaign in which they scraped through an inter-confederation play-off against Peru on penalties to secure their spot in World Cup.

 

Japan

Japan

IMAGE: Japan staged their second stunning turnaround of the World Cup by beating Spain 2-1 to surge into the last 16. Photograph: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Japan surprisingly advanced by winning first place in the group with six points after coming from behind to topple Spain.

After a tense 90-plus minutes at the Khalifa international stadium in Rayyan, Qatar -- and with a big helping hand from the result of the other Group E match happening just across town -- Japan and Spain both lived to see another day at this World Cup.

It is the fourth time Japan has reached the last 16, but they have never progressed beyond that stage.

'The players are showing us a different and new view of being able to fight on the world stage,' said Japan Coach Hajime Moriyasu. 'I would like to set a new record of the last eight or better.'

 
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