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Winners and Losers from days 3 & 4 of the World Cup

Sweet Samurai Blue, and all the beauty the World Cup has to offer from the second and third days of the tournament.

Germany v Japan: Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

First of all, apologies for the lack of a World Cup post after the Day 3 games. Sometimes life gets in the way. Hopefully nothing big happened! (I know, things did; we’ll get to at least some of them.)

Honestly, though, the last couple days have had multiple games that show why, even when we all find almost everything surrounding these major tournaments to be at best objectionable, we can’t help but be drawn into it. The potential for, and inevitable reality of, real drama, of upsets, records being broken, heroic returns, joy and heartbreak. That’s the list of ingredients that make the World Cup the World Cup. In an international tournament, anybody can get it.

So, let’s dig into who got it and who got got over the last couple of days. We’ve got two days of games to cover and you’re probably not working on Thursday, so I’m going to do an extra winner and loser for this one.


The Underdog, by Spoon: I don’t know this for certain, but I feel like it’s probably gotten more plays on Spotify and other streaming services in the last 48 hours than at any point outside of the six months following its release as the lead single from Spoon’s sixth studio album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, in 2007. First Saudi Arabia suckerpunched Argentina, a team touted by many (including yours truly) as favorites to win the whole dang thing, and withstood several ultimately offside goals to take a 2-1 lead before Leo Messi and his compatriots apparently forgot how to score goals in what felt reminiscent to several scenes from the motion picture Space Jam.

A fool may have called that result a fluke, but even an otter could have told you we were all in for more upsets. It took a little over 24 hours for the next upset, but it came in the second game of Day 4 when Japan bested Germany. Astute viewers may have noted going into the game that Germany are hardly the juggernauts that methodically worked their way to lifting the trophy in 2014, but even the firmest believer in the Samurai Blue’s undoubted ability had to have been at least a little surprised by the result. Germany took a first-half lead after a penalty, but two substitutes from the Bundesliga in Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano provided late second half goals to secure the win and reward Japan for a much improved second half.

Canada did their best to get in on the underdog fun, but couldn’t find the scoring touch required in their 1-0 loss to Belgium to end the day.

European powerhouses that may have been too easily dismissed: Maybe it was just me, but I feel like I heard and read a fair amount of skepticism about France and Spain going into this tournament. France, the current title-holders, are dealing with an objectively worrying injury crisis, and while Spain had a pretty solid showing in the 2020 Euros, the specters of the last two World Cups still loomed, having not been exercised by a World Cup qualifying cycle that mostly involved getting the job done against the likes of Georgia and Kosovo. Some skepticism was warranted.

France got off to a rough start in the tournament as Australia took a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute, but 18 minutes later France had found an answer through Adrien Rabiot and they never looked back. The French attack was firing on all cylinders as Olivier Giroud bagged a brace, Kylian Mbappé got on the scoresheet, and Antoine Griezmann was dealing dimes. They’ll face tougher competition than Australia, to be sure, but it’s far too early to count them out of their title defense.

Spain left absolutely no opportunity for a rough start, as they were all over Costa Rica from the opening whistle to the final one. Their 7-0 win was the first real blowout of the tournament. They had six different goalscorers, with no shortage of stunners in the bunch, and none more beautiful than the opener from Dani Olmo.

Nishi Yoshiteru: Nishi Yoshiteru didn’t take the field for Japan in their win against Germany, but for five consecutive men’s World Cups he’s made sure that the Samurai Blue were well-nourished. He’s the team chef, and while participating in five World Cups is a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, it seems especially so for a member of the staff like him. The team included him as their “27th” member in the squad photos. As the team sees success on the field, it’s cool to see someone recognized for their work off of it.


Thierry Henry: No disrespect to the incredibly handsome New York Red Bulls legend, but he’s making the list of losers today. With a brace against Australia, Olivier Giroud tied Henry’s French men’s national team goalscoring record. Both players are even with 51 goals, but Giroud has reached that mark in 8 fewer games (115 compared to Henry’s 123), and seems well poised to score plenty more based on how the team played in their opening win.

Group C’s non-Mexican strikers and penalty takers: Guillermo Ochoa reminded the world that for a few weeks every four years he’s among the world’s best shot-stoppers. Ochoa preserved a 0-0 draw and a point for Mexico against Poland, with the biggest highlight coming on his penalty save against Robert Lewandowski. Some might poopoo the save, saying that Lewandowski’s shot was too easily saved or not well enough placed, but those people should be ignored and ostracized by their communities. Penalties are so heavily skewed to the penalty taker at this point, that any save should be celebrated, and Ochoa showed significant skill to read the take and get down and extend well on his dive. Attacking players from Argentina, Saudi Arabia and beyond in the tournament have been put on notice: it’s going to take something special to beat Ochoa.

FIFA: No need to get cute here, FIFA, Gianni Infantino, and everyone involved with the awarding of this World Cup and allowing Qatar to go back on their assurances and suppress dissent and protest goes in the losers category. European teams who had intended to wear rainbow OneLove armbands in opposition to discrimination were threatened with vague “serious punishment” if they were to wear the armbands. There was speculation that the punishment could be a yellow card — a sanction that FIFA doesn’t really, actually have the authority to issue — or even a suspension. In an act of protest of that decision, the German team all posed covering their mouths for their lineup photo. Belgium, whose away kit features the word “Love” on the neck tape, were instructed to remove the word from their kits after initially having the kits approved, but the version of the kit being sold at fan events in Qatar still includes the mark. The behavior from FIFA and Qatar is reprehensible, but if there is any justice in the world it will only blow back on them.

Storylines to watch on Day 5

2:00 AM Switzerland vs. Cameroon: Immovable Object vs. Unstoppable Force. Okay, I’m not sure which one is which, but we’re talking about Nouhou vs. Xherdan Shaqiri here. Shaqiri had an okay, but definitely somewhat disappointing season with the Chicago Fire, nabbing 7 goals and 6 assists in 29 appearances, but he’ll still be expected to help lift Switzerland if they’re going to have a chance of getting out of Group G, which also includes Brazil and Serbia. Nouhou and Cameroon will hope to build off of a solid AFCON, and Nouhou is likely to line up opposite Shaqiri and be at least somewhat responsible for limiting his contributions. Regardless of your opinions of the Sounders left back, we’re all certainly hoping for him to have a good tournament. You’ll either need to be an absolute sicko night owl, or wake up outrageously early and take a very solid nap if you want to catch this one live.

Watch the game on FS1, Telemundo, or streaming on and Peacock.

5:00 AM Uruguay vs. Korea Republic: Darwin Nunez seemingly found his scoring touch just in time for the tournament before reaching the break with Liverpool, he’s got the profile of a player who is perfectly suited to tournament football, and his game fits with Diego Alonso’s tactical and stylistic approach with Uruguay like a Puma kit. South Korea is a solid team with some very exciting young talents sprinkled in the attack, but their obvious star, Son Heung-min, may not be fully healthy. Uruguay’s success would make Nico Lodeiro happy, but Korea’s success would make Kim Kee-hee and everyone associated with BTS happy. Personally, I think it would be great to see non-European and South American teams succeed in the hopes of breaking up the hegemony that we tend to oddly worship in American football culture, but your rooting interests are your own.

Watch the game on FS1, Telemundo, or streaming on and Peacock.

8:00 AM Portugal vs. Ghana: I’m not going to talk about That Guy. You know the one — he wasn’t allowed in the US due to legal charges for a while, and just dissolved his contract with Manchester United. He sucks, and I hope he loses and that things that make him sad happen over and over again. Sorry to everyone else on Portugal, hopefully he’ll retire soon. Ghana have caused USMNT fans no small amount of heartache, but not everyone is a USMNT fan, and even they can probably get on board with rooting for Ghana here.

Watch the game on FOX, Telemundo, or streaming on and Peacock.

11:00 AM Brazil vs. Serbia: Brazil’s got a really strong squad that will probably go as far as Neymar can take them. They’re among the favorites to win the tournament, but they’re also a team full of fascists. As a rule, fascists are bad, and supporters of Jair Bolsonaro are fascists, and I don’t think we should be rooting for fascists. Admittedly I don’t know nearly as much about the political views of the Serbian players, probably because they haven’t loudly and publicly supported a fascist. If they can beat Brazil they’ve got a pretty good chance of advancing out of the group, but even a draw would be a pretty good result.

Watch the game on FOX, Telemundo, or streaming on and Peacock.

You can catch replays of all games in English on or Spanish on Peacock 30 minutes after the final whistle.

This is your match thread for the Day 5 games, feel free to avoid interacting with your family here with us. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

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