clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Winners & Losers from days 5, 6 and 7 of the World Cup

Milestone moments, qualification and elimination from the holiday weekend.

Brazil v Serbia: Group G - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images

I may or may not have taken a Rip Van Winkle-esque post-Thanksgiving nap, but I’m back to

review some more World Cup action. The last few days have included some big match-ups, incredible games, and arguably the goal of the tournament. Robert Lewandowski scored his first-ever World Cup goal, and Leo Messi got his first of the tournament, while a couple of teams are still waiting to open their accounts 2/3rds of the way through their group stage games.

The USMNT still haven’t won a game, but they also haven’t lost one yet, so that’s something. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so why don’t we dig in?


The Golden Boot race: Ecuador got one step closer to the knockout rounds with their draw against the Netherlands thanks to yet another Enner Valencia goal. That gave him 3 for the tournament and the lead for the Golden Boot. That lead only lasted for a day, though, with Kylian Mbappé’s star performance and brace propelling him into a tie at the top. The tournament has had plenty of action so far, with more on tap as Spain and Brazil both have their second games still to come. and Richarlison and Ferran Torres each sitting on braces from the first round. The tournament’s been pretty exciting, and with any luck the Golden Boot race will keep the energy level high.

All promoters and bookers on the Leo Messi Moments Tour: It was pretty easy, from a narrative perspective, to go into this tournament predicting that this would be Messi’s final run at winning the trophy, and so would be a definitive tournament for his career. He’s already done all of the proving he could possibly need to through an honestly ridiculous career and his accomplishments at the club level speak for themselves. Argentina’s opening round loss to Saudi Arabia seemed like a potential wrench in the works, but if you saw Messi’s face after the final whistle you knew that it had only made him angry. His goal and assist against Mexico were only part of a dominant performance as he lifted his team to a win and that much closer to the Round of 16.

Rafael Leão’s dentist: Portugal vs. Ghana has a genuine claim for the best game of the tournament, and while there were plenty of dramatic moments, maybe the most beautiful of the bunch was Rafael Leão running at the back post with a big smile on his face well before he even touched the ball. That was joy: joy to be at the World Cup, joy to be playing and winning, and the kind of joy that comes from seeing the future and knowing you’ve already scored. The goal was great, but that smile! That SMILE! Whoever did the work deserves to be commended. The goal proved to be the winner, although a little lapse of awareness from Diogo Costa nearly undid that, but the lasting memory will be of that face:


Jair Bolsonaro, again and still: Brazil’s win had its costs as Neymar had to leave the field with an injury that will keep him out of the Switzerland game, but it also provided a platform for Richarlison to step into the spotlight. Richarlison’s golazo will be doing numbers on YouTube and TikTok for the foreseeable future, and the performance showed that this Brazil side might not be as reliant on Neymar as many of us may have feared. Richarlison’s impact extends beyond the field, though, where he’s a vocal advocate for those without a voice in Brazil. On a team that features plenty of Bolsonaro supporters, it surely comes as yet another defeat for the former Brazilian president that the win came on the strength of one of his opponents.

Qatar: It was already a bit of a long-shot for the hosts to make it out of the Group Stage after their opening loss against Ecuador. The 3-1 loss against Senegal made Qatar the first team eliminated from this World Cup, with their final Group Stage game against the Netherlands still on the horizon. The off-field experience of hosting the tournament has undeniably gone worse than Qatar would have hoped, as decisions like banning alcohol sales in stadiums at the last minute or repeatedly forbidding rainbow items from being brought into games have only drawn attention and criticism. Now even the major investments into the actual performance on the field have failed to pay off.

Kind of weirdly, not the US: There were plenty of people on the internet after the USMNT’s scoreless draw against England insisting that it would have actually been better to lose, or at least claiming that drawing was just as bad as a loss. Iran’s win against Wales meant that nothing but a win for the US would help in their pursuit of the Round of 16. But the reality is that it wasn’t a loss, it was a draw. They got a point against a team that were definitely favorites going into the game. The point might not have meant much in the standings as they need a win against Iran regardless, but it will undoubtedly be a confidence booster and demonstrated how good the midfield could be when played to their strengths. It’s a decent result, even if it’s still a little disappointing.

Storylines to watch on Day 8

2:00 AM Japan vs. Costa Rica: Japan’s opening-round game against Germany and their late comeback win was an absolute stunner and propelled them into tournament darling status. Now for their second game they’ve got a Costa Rica team that looked a long ways away from the team that so often gives the rest of Concacaf headaches and heartburn in their 7-0 loss against Spain. It seems unlikely that Costa Rica don’t come back looking better than they did in their first game, but Japan are still set up to potentially make a major statement of intent and secure early qualification for the knockouts. Japan could be the second team to qualify behind France, and they’ve got everything it takes to make some noise.

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

5:00 AM Belgium vs. Morocco: Michy Batshuayi’s goal secured 3 points for Belgium against Canada in their opening game, but the overall performance left something to be desired. Belgium could qualify for the Round of 16 without needing to risk Romelu Lukaku, allowing him to rest and hopefully be that much closer to full fitness for the knockouts with a win against Morocco. It would obviously improve their confidence and chances of making a run, but also make it more likely that Lukaku has a real impact when he does see the field.

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

8:00 AM Croatia vs. Canada: Alphonso Davies is one of the best stories of the tournament, and his meteoric rise from Vancouver Whitecaps Academy prospect to Bayern Munich starter and World Cup star is a badge of honor claimed by MLS. He’s going to carry a lot of the burden when Canada look to “F” Croatia, as Canada coach John Hermann said, as he’s the most likely player sporting a maple leaf to create or score a goal. The stage is set for a classic World Cup moment for this Canada team, and Davies is the man for the starring role.

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

11:00 AM Spain vs. Germany: This is The Game of Tremendous Teens. Jamal Musiala, the 19 year-old midfielder who’s already a key player for Bayern Munich, started alongside Thomas Müller for Germany in their 2-1 loss to Japan, while 18-year-old Gavi started in the midfield three with Sergio Busquets and Pedri in Spain’s 7-0 win over Costa Rica. These are among the biggest stars for both teams, who seem likely to play starring roles on this stage and just about every other major stage in men’s football for many years to come. These first moments could be the kind of things that we’ll talk about with other fans for the rest of our lives: “I remember seeing them when...”

Watch the game on FS1, 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.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Sounder At Heart Weekly Roundup newsletter!

A twice weekly roundup of Seattle Sounders and OL Reign news from Sounder at Heart