Three reasons to watch Fiorentina vs West Ham on BT SportJun 1 | 2 min read
After yesterday's big shock of Argentina losing to Saudi Arabia, today saw more World Cup favourites kick-off their campaigns against teams they'd be expected to beat.
How would they fare?
2018's World Cup finalists Croatia faced a highly-rated Morocco side. Could this be the last hurrah for Croatia's elite - the likes of Modric and Perisic? Five starters against Morocco played in that '18 final.
Perennial World Cup challengers and 2014 winners Germany met an exciting Japanese side, while 2010 winners Spain played Costa Rica. There was lots of young talent on show with the likes of Musiala, Pedri and Gavi making their World Cup debuts.
And this could be the last chance for Belgium's golden generation to make its mark as De Bruyne, Lukaku and co took on Canada, who appeared in their first World Cup since 1986.
The day's results
Morocco 0-0 Croatia
Germany 1-2 Japan
Spain 7-0 Costa Rica
Belgium 1-0 Canada
Morocco vs Croatia
The majority of the crowd inside the Al Bayt stadium were rooting for Morocco, which meant everytime a Croatian player touched the ball it was met with a chorus of boos. Cheers greeted the Moroccan players whenever they gained possession.
Many of the opening minutes were played in the midfield, but when Selim Amallah sloppily gave the ball away to Ivan Perisic the Tottenham man took the opportunity to strike from distance - his shot sailing over the bar.
For Morocco, Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech proved a constant danger with his crossing ability. One ball into the box was narrowly missed by Youssef En-Nesryi.
Then just before the break Croatia carved open their best chance, with Borna Sosa crossing low into the box for Nikola Vlasic. Morocco's keeper Yassine Bounou was brave and blocked the shot. Then moments later Modric blazed over from the edge of the box.
Morocco started the second half on the front foot and saw Noussair Mazraoui's diving header saved by Croatia keeper Dominik Livaković.
PSG's Achraf Hakimi hit a freekick from 30 yards which stung the palms of Livaković in the 65th-minute. But there was little else of any significance before the final whistle.
Both teams tried to make things happen, but the two sides cancelled each other out in this bitty, relatively uneventful stalemate.
Germany vs Japan
Japan didn't give Germany any time to settle into this game and early on Ilkay Gundogan was robbed of the ball in the middle of the pitch before Junya Ito whipped in a cross for Daizen Maeda to dispatch. However, the Celtic man timed his run all wrong and was called offside.
Germany's first half-chance came after 15 minutes when Antonio Rudiger headed wide from a corner. Then five minutes later Joshua Kimmich saw his long-range effort well parried by Japan's keeper Shuichi Gonda.
Gundogan caused a nuisance to Japan's defence in the first half, seeing his shot blocked after David Raum's cross was parried in the box.
Then moments later Gonda brought down Rahm in the box to give Germany a penalty.
The keeper made an initial attempt to claim the ball before stumbling into the back of the RB Leipzig left-back. Gundogan stepped forward and found the bottom corner from 12 yards.
Youngster Jamal Musiala had a half-chance to add another goal before the break, but blazed over from the edge of the box.
Kai Hevertz did stick the ball in the net a few minutes later after Joshua Kimmich had his shot saved and Serge Gnabry flashed the ball back across the goal for the Chelsea man to prod home, but he was rightly called offside.
Japan responded by going up the other end and nearly scoring from a Maeda header, which drifted wide.
Germany started the second half as they finished the first, with Gnabry clipping the bar in the opening minute.
Musiala almost scored a memorable World Cup goal moments later, but blazed over the bar at the end of a mazy dribble inside the box.
Then the 19-year-old Musiala combined with Gundogan again, but the Man City midfielder curled his shot against the post.
With 20 minutes left Germany should've given themselves a two-goal cushion. Musiala was again the instigator, finding Gnabry in the box. The Bayern Munich forward cleverly found Thomas Muller, but Japan's keeper made a great save when the goal beckoned.
Two more great saves followed from Gonda - first from a Gnabry header and then from his follow up shot.
And the Germans almost paid the price for not being clinical enough, as Manuel Neuer saved well from Junya Ito's close range effort. Hiroki Sakai blazed the rebound over.
It wasn't to matter though, as minutes later Japan got their goal. Neuer parried a Takumi Minamino cross and Ritsu Doan tucked the rebound home from close range.
And Japan weren't done. With under 10 minutes to go Takuma Asano beautifully brought down a long ball before carrying it into the box and smashing it past Neuer from close range.
Spain vs Costa Rica
Despite illness within the squad and Manchester City's Rodri starting at centre-back, Spain took no time at all to get a grip on their opening World Cup match against Costa Rica.
Wonderkids Pedri and Gavi put on a passing masterclass which left the South Americans chasing shadows for the entire first half.
With Pedri in particular pulling the strings for Spain, it took just five minutes for the Barca star to find Dani Olmo in space in the box. The RB Leipzig striker looked odds on to open the scoring but flashed his shot wide of the post.
Then Pedri found Marco Asensio with a delighful pass that the Madrid midfielder fired past the post.
But it was just a matter of time before Spain did find the back of the net when, after 11 minutes, Gavi poked a lovely ball through to Olmo who showed wonderful control to spin and deftly dink the ball over the advancing Keylor Navas.
Jordi Alba proved a constant menace on the left-hand side and ten minutes after Spain's first goal he passed a ball into the box for Asensio to sweep home first time into the bottom corner.
And Spain effectively ended the match as a contest after half-an-hour when Alba made his way into the box and was hacked down by Óscar Duarte. Ferran Torres stepped forward to cooly convert the spot kick.
Costa Rica just couldn't get close to the Spanish players or keep control of the football. Spain ended the half with 85% possession.
Spain didn't need to over-exert themselves in the second half, but still added to their total after just eight second-half minutes.
Torres showed persistence in the box to bully the Costa Rica defence, and goalkeeper, and score his second of the match. After scoring, the Barca striker was subbed off for Alvaro Morata. How's your luck?!
While Morata was clearly keen to get on the goalsheet, it looked as it Costa Rica could keep it to 4-0... until the 75th-minute when Morata chipped a ball across to Gavi who volleyed the ball in off the post from just inside the box, becoming Spain's youngest ever goalscorer at a World Cup.
With one-minute left Spain completed the rout, with substitute Carlos Soler burying the loose ball after Navas palmed away a Nico Williams cross.
And with another eight minutes of injury time still to play, Morata joined the goalscoring party. Shooting on the turn from an Olmo assist to make it 7-0.
Spain play Germany next. On this evidence, Germany could be heading home early.
Belgium vs Canada
Canada showed their attacking intent from the start and found success crossing from the right side.
One of those crosses led to a corner from which Canada were awarded a penalty after Yannick Carrasco blocked Tajon Buchanan's shot with his arm.
Alphonso Davies stepped up, but Thibaut Courtois guessed the right way and saved down low.
The penalty miss was a big blow, but Canada continued to push forward with wave after wave of attack.
Belgium just couldn't get a foothold in the match. Their only real half-chance coming via a Michy Batshuayi effort he put over the bar.
Approaching half-time Canada had another strong penalty appeal when Richie Laryea went down under a Axel Witsel challenge, but this time VAR didn't intervene and Belgium escaped.
Then, totally against the run of play, Michy Batshuayi latched onto a long ball and fired home from inside the box.
Belgium were better in the second half, but that didn't stop Canada from attacking.
Neither side created any real clear cut chances, though Batshuayi and Jonathan David had shots blocked, while Cyle Larin saw his header saved comfortably by Courtois.
The match became increasingly stretched and gaps opened up for either side to grab a goal. But the finishing was poor and despite having 21 attempts on goal - only three of them on target - Canada were unable to score their first-ever World Cup goal.
Belgium will be pleased with the points but not the performance. Canada will be pleased with the performance but not the result.
Goal of the day
The substitute showed exquisite control to take down a long ball played from inside his own half. The forward, who plays for German side VfL Bochum in the Bundesliga, continued his run into the box and buried his shot high and hard into the German goal.
Save of the day
With Germany still leading 1-0 in the second half, German captain Manuel Neuer pulled off a remarkable close-range save from Junya Ito. The veteran keeper got down low to parry the ball, which took a deflection on the way, as it headed for the bottom corner.
Player of the day
The young talent on display today lived up to the hype, with Jamal Musiala looking like Germany's best player and carving open a few good chances despite losing to Japan. Pedri mesmerised in midfield for Spain, especially in the first half, but was subbed before the hour-mark with the match already won.
And 18-year-old Gavi showed the world why he's expected to be one of the best footballers for many years to come, dictating play, assisting and scoring a wonderful volley to become the third youngest goalscorer in World Cup history.
- The partisan Moroccan crown cheered the Atlas Lions on throughout, and booed every Croatian touch of the ball. In contrast, you could hear a pin drop for much of the Germany vs Japan match at the Khalifa International Stadium... you know things are bad when the Mexican Wave gets going.
- The Germans lined up for their team photo with their hands over their mouths to protest over not being able to wear the OneLove armband.
- Japan's Head Coach Hajime Moriyasu was close to tears during the Japanese national anthem.
- Japan fans cleaning up rubbish in the stands after their historic win.
- ITV's Roy Keane giving his thoughts on Germany's pre-match team photo - Ian Wright was trying to be positive about the protest, but Keano cut to the chase in typical no-nonsense fashion.
- Canada's 39-year-old midfielder Atiba Hutchinson became the second oldest player to appear at a World Cup behind the legendary Cameroon forward Roger Milla. His first cap for Canada came 20 years earlier.
Quote of the day
ITV pundit Roy Keane on the Germany's pre-match protest:
"I think they could do a lot more. They say they’ve been silenced. By who?
"The most important people in football are the supporters and players… Use their voice, wear the armband. It’s about leadership, it’s about action.
"Go and do it cause this is just going to drag on! It’s a gesture, it’s a start, but they can do more."
Image of the day
The German team covered their mouths for their pre-match team photo in response to being silenced and not allowed to wear OneLove armbands. There was talk that Manuel Neuer would risk receiving a yellow card to wear one, but wore a FIFA-approved No Discrimination captain's armband instead.
Said on social
Thursday 24 November:
Group G - Switzerland vs Cameroon - 10am KO
Group H - Uruguay vs South Korea - 1pm KO
Group H - Portugal vs Ghana - 4pm KO
Group G - Brazil vs Serbia - 7pm KO