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Germany breathes life into WC push in battling draw with Spain

SPAIN’S Sergio Busquets (5)fouls Germany’s Jamal Musiala  before being shown
a yellow card. — REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

AL KHOR, Qatar — Germany gave themselves hope of avoiding another embarrassing early World Cup exit when they snatched a 1-1 draw with Spain on Sunday with Niclas Fuellkrug firing home an 83rd minute equalizer on only his third appearance for his country.

The result leaves the four-time world champions facing a must-win match against Costa Rica on Thursday, and also means Spain have yet to book their passage out of Group E. Japan and Costa Rica could yet qualify too.

Germany looked to be in severe danger of repeating their group stage failure of 2018 in Russia when Alvato Morata, eight minutes after coming on from the bench, handed Spain the lead by neatly flicking in a cross from Jordi Alba in the 62nd minute.

A defeat against Spain after Germany’s shock 2-1 opening loss to Japan would have left Hansi Flick’s men facing a huge challenge to get into the knockout phase.

But in the 83rd minute they battled back into contention as Leroy Sane took advantage of a poor defensive clearance to feed Jamal Musiala who turned between two Spain defenders, with the ball falling to Fuellkrug who fired high into the net.

The Werder Bremen forward, who won his first cap earlier this month after a string of goals in the Bundesliga, had replaced Thomas Mueller 13 minutes earlier as Germany desperately sought an equalizer.

“We knew what the situation was, what was at stake,” Flick told reporters, and he said Fuellkrug’s equalizer might prove to be a turning point for Germany in Qatar.

“Things start to happen when you start to win, so maybe this will give us a boost and give us the self confidence to get goals,” he said.

Spain coach Luis Enrique said he was left ruing his side’s failure to hold on to their lead. “But after two matches we are in the top of the classification of the death group and I think that we have to be positive,” he said.

The Spaniards had looked more relaxed from the start, cutting through Germany with their angled passing in the Al Bayt Stadium, about 50km (30 miles) north of Doha. Dani Olmo almost created an early breakthrough in the seventh minute but his shot was palmed onto the bar by Manuel Neuer.

Germany thought they had taken an unlikely lead in the 39th minute when defender Antonio Rudiger powered in a header from a Joshua Kimmich free kick, but the German celebrations were cut short as VAR quickly ruled that he was offside.

Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon was forced into his first save in the 56th minute when the 2010 champions got into trouble trying to play out of defence, allowing Kimmich to shoot from just inside the penalty area but Simon saved impressively.

Spain top the standings with four points and now need only a draw in their final Group E game against Japan to progress. A win would send them through to the knockout round in first place.

Germany, are bottom of the table on one point. They need to win against Costa Rica on Thursday and their hopes then depend on Japan losing. If Japan draw it would come down to goal difference or goals scored by Germany and Japan.

COSTA RICA STUNS JAPANCosta Rica’s Keysher Fuller scored in the 81st minute to give his team a 1-0 victory over favored Japan on Sunday in World Cup play at Al Rayyan, Qatar. The loss denied Japan a chance to move straight to the knockout stage.

Fuller’s score came on Costa Rica’s first shot on target in the match.

Costa Rica, which lost to Spain 7-0 in its Group E opener, now has an improbable chance to advance. With two matches down, Costa Rica and Japan have three points each. Spain also has three points and will meet Germany, which lost its opener to Japan, later Sunday.

Japan controlled the ball 57 percent of the match and had three shots on goal, all stopped by Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas. The Japanese also couldn’t take advantage of five corner kick opportunities.

MOROCCO 2, BELGIUM 0Abdelhamid Sabiri scored in the 73rd minute and fellow substitute Zakaria Aboukhlal also tallied in second-half stoppage time to lift Morocco to victory in its Group F match.

Sabiri opened the scoring after curling in a free kick from near the corner flag that surprised Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (two saves).

Aboukhlal provided insurance with a goal on the counterattack and Munir El-Kajoui made three saves for Morocco, which has four points — one more than Belgium.

The Belgians were unable to take advantage of any of their nine corner kicks.

CROATIA 4, CANADA 1A quick-strike goal against Croatia did not hold up and Canada crashed out of the World Cup with a second straight setback in Group F.

Alphonso Davies’ leaping header gave Canada the lead in the second minute and marked the first goal scored by the men’s national team in World Cup history.

Croatia grabbed the lead with first-half goals by Andrej Kramaric in the 36th minute and Marko Livaja in the 44th.

Kramaric scored again in the 70th minute and Lovro Majer capped the Croatians’ win with a goal during second-half stoppage time. Croatia and Morocco lead Group F with four points. — Reuters

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