German fans reacts after their team was eliminated from the World Cup on Thursday despite a 4-2 win over Costa Rica. Martin Meissner/Associated Press

AL KHOR, Qatar — Germany was eliminated from the group stage of the World Cup for the second tournament in a row.

The four-time champions beat Costa Rica 4-2 on Thursday, but it wasn’t enough to advance to the round of 16. Japan’s 2-1 victory over Spain allowed both of those teams to advance instead, with the Japanese team at the top of Group E.

“I was just in the changing room and as you can imagine, the disappointment is huge,” Germany Coach Hansi Flick said.

Playing as defending champions at the last World Cup, Germany also was knocked out in the group stage.

This time, the Germans lost their opener against Japan, then played to a draw against Spain, putting them in a must-win situation against Costa Rica. But they also needed help from Spain and didn’t get it, as Japan scored twice in the second half to relegate Spain to second in the group on goal difference over Germany.

It all started so well, with Serge Gnabry putting Germany in front against Costa Rica with a 10th-minute header and Spain taking an early lead against Japan.


Both matches were turned upside down in the second half.

Yeltsin Tejeda evened the score in the 58th minute and Juan Vargas scrambled another in the 70th, putting Costa Rica ahead 2-1 and on target to advance at the expense of both Spain and Germany.

But Germany substitute Kai Havertz made it 2-2 three minutes later and then restored Germany’s lead in the 85th. Another substitute, Niclas Füllkrug, added the fourth.

Japan finished at the top of Group E with six points, two more than both Spain and Germany. Spain progressed because of its better goal difference, with most of them coming from its opening 7-0 rout of Costa Rica.

JAPAN 2, SPAIN 1: Same Stadium. Same result. Similar shocking victory for Japan at the World Cup.

After beating Germany 2-1 in its opener, Japan found its way into the round of 16 by defeating Spain in its last group game.


Spain also advanced despite the loss.

Japan scored twice early in the second half to come from behind, defeat another European powerhouse, and make it to the knockout stage for the second straight time. It was the first time Japan has advanced past the group stage in back-to-back tournaments.

Ao Tanaka scored the winning goal from close range early in the second half. It took about two minutes for video review officials to confirm the ball hadn’t gone out of bounds before the goal.

Japan finished at the top of Group E to set up a matchup against Croatia. Spain finished second and will take on Morocco.

Álvaro Morata scored first for Spain in the 11th minute and Spain was in control until Japan rallied after halftime. Ritsu Doan equalized in the 48th with a left-footed shot from outside the box, and Tanaka added the second goal three minutes later.

Morata became the first player to score in the first three Spain matches at the World Cup since Telmo Zarra in 1950.


WCup Croatia Belgium Soccer

Belgium Coach Roberto Martinez embraces Jeremy Doku after their team played to a 0-0 draw Thursday against Croatia and was eliminated from the World Cup. Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

BELGIUM 0, CROATIA 0: The ball reached Romelu Lukaku right in front of the goal with seconds remaining. Score, and he’d send Belgium into the round of 16 of the World Cup.

Somehow, he missed.

Belgium and its aging generation of players were eliminated from the tournament after a draw with Croatia, which advanced as the second-place team in Group F behind Morocco.

Minutes after the game, Belgium Coach Roberto Martinez announced he’d be leaving his role after more than six years – a decision he said he had reached before the World Cup started.

His departure could easily have been delayed.

Lukaku, Belgium’s record scorer but only recently back from injury, came on as a halftime substitute and squandered several great chances, the best coming in stoppage time when Thorgan Hazard’s cross fell to him at the back post, barely 2 meters out. The ball struck Lukaku’s midriff, and instead of rolling into the net, it bounced back across the front of the goal and was gathered by Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.


Lukaku also hit the inside of the post with the goal virtually unguarded. Another chance, from a header in front of goal, sailed over the bar following a cross from Kevin De Bruyne that might have come from a ball that was out of play.

Lukaku punched the side of the dugout as he walked off, knocking the plexiglass screen out of place. He was seen sobbing as Belgium assistant coach Thierry Henry consoled him.

“We could have won this game by three goals and we’d be walking away feeling very different,” Martinez said. “I thought (Lukaku) moved very well, got in great situations, and what was missing was the finish. It was the difference between hitting the post and going in, and hitting the post and going out.”

Croatia, the 2018 runner-up led by Luka Modric, will play Japan on Monday.

Belgium is facing the breakup of its talented but underachieving squad after failing to live up to its status as the second-ranked team and one of the tournament favorites. What has long been called Belgium’s “Golden Generation” – now featuring six players with more than 100 appearances – is set to split, with the World Cup semifinal appearance in 2018 as its peak.

The team, which has faced reports of infighting and divisions between players during the tournament in Qatar, scored only one goal in three games and saved its best performance until its final match. It came too late.


MOROCCO 2, CANADA 1: Morocco advanced to the last 16 at the World Cup for just the second time, holding on for a win over Canada.

The victory meant Morocco finished top of Group F ahead of 2018 finalist Croatia and semifinalist Belgium. The Moroccans’ only other trip past the group stage came in 1986.

Hakim Ziyech scored for Morocco in the fourth minute after a bad error by Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan left the winger to shoot the ball into an empty goal. Youssef En-Nesyri added a second goal in the 23rd.

It looked then like Morocco would overrun the Canadians.

But Nayef Aguerd’s own goal just before halftime made it 2-1 and lifted Canada enough for them to put pressure on Morocco in search of an equalizing goal for most of the second half.

Canada came agonizingly close when a header from captain Atiba Hutchinson, who entered as a second-half substitute, bounced off the crossbar and onto the goal line.

Canada, which will co-host the next World Cup in 2026 with the United States and Mexico, had already been eliminated before the Morocco game. It ultimately lost all three of its games in Qatar, matching its three defeats at its only other World Cup appearance in 1986.

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