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Winners & Losers from day 12 of the World Cup

More rocking from Morocco and Japan.


It’s hard to pick a feel-good story of the tournament at this point, but one of the top contenders for that particular title has to be Japan. The Samurai Blue have now claimed two outstanding come-from-behind victories over big-name European opposition to open and close their Group Stage. Costa Rica very nearly got in on the fun, holding onto a spot in the Round of 16 for a glorious 10 minutes or so before Germany came back with three unanswered goals to seal both of them to their doom.

Morocco also have a claim for that feel-good story, having beaten Belgium and Canada on the trot after drawing Croatia in their opening game. Ultimately, Belgium probably get the feel bad story of the tournament as they came into the World Cup ranked second in the world, but never looked particularly good as they narrowly beat Canada 1-0, lost to Morocco 2-0 and then drew Croatia 0-0 in their final game of the tournament. Such promise and potential for Belgium’s golden generation, and it all just fizzles out.


Everyone fighting the good fight against presumed European footballing supremacy: There are people who will try to tell you that it’s fair that UEFA has 13 representatives at the World Cup out of its 55 member associations, while CAF has 54 member associations and only gets 5 World Cup berths. The AFC, with 47 member nations, had 6 representatives thanks to a playoff spot and the host nation being a member. There’s a presumed trickle-down effect associated with the amount of money concentrated in European football, which is part of the justification for that imbalance. On Thursday, though, we got to see Japan and Morocco advance while Germany and Belgium packed their bags. It’s a good reminder of the strength outside of the traditional seats of power.

Japanese player agents with European connections: It may have seemed like a novelty and a coincidence that when Japan beat Germany in the opening game of the tournament, both of Japan’s goals were scored by players whose club teams are in the Bundesliga. Even the assist in that game came from a Bundesliga player. But it’s no coincidence — more players on this Japan squad play in Germany (8, with 1 player from a 2.Bundesliga team) than in Japan (7). The other 11 members of the 26 player squad ply their trade across Europe and the UK, and with the impression the team has made so far in the tournament added to the impressions these players and others have made with their club teams, I’d expect Japanese players and the J.League to attract even more European interest.


Flags featuring black, yellow and red bands: In a single day, Belgium and Germany were both eliminated from the World Cup. The two teams, the only ones in the tournament to feature the combination of black, yellow and red on their flags — although not in the same order — ended the tournament with different results but the same point total. Belgium closed out their tournament with another frustrating result, a 0-0 draw with Croatia that left them on 4 points, sitting behind Morocco on 7 points and Croatia on 5 in Group F. Germany won a wild 4-2 game against Costa Rica, but had put themselves in too deep of a hole through the first two games as Japan’s 2-1 win over Spain meant Japan had 6 points and Spain and Germany both had 4 points, but Spain advanced due to a superior goal difference. Maybe Belgium and Germany should consider a prettier flag option before trying their hand at an international tournament again.

Concacaf: It’s not been a great couple of days for this little federation of ours. Canada had already been eliminated going into their game against Morocco, and there was a beautiful and glorious 10 minutes or so where it looked like Costa Rica might do the thing against Germany and knock both Spain and Germany out of the tournament, but in the end three of four Concacaf teams in the World Cup went out in the Group Stage. Mexico have been heading towards this result for a while, and find themselves at a crossroads of sorts with a number of hard questions to answer. Canada will probably be able to take more positives from this than negatives, no matter how painful 0 points from 3 games may be. Costa Rica managed to show how tough they can play big teams, but wound up not having enough to beat Germany once they really got going. With the expanded tournament in 2026, and the three hosts presumably getting automatic berths, it will be necessary for Concacaf teams to find a way to truly prepare for a better showing in four years.

Storylines to watch on Day 13

7:00 AM - Korea Republic vs. Portugal: Group H will probably end up shaking out the way it looks like it’s going to: Portugal have already secured a spot in the Round of 16, it’s just a matter of whether it’s in first or second in the group. Ghana currently sit in second, having found themselves on both sides of a 3-2 result with a loss against Portugal and a win against South Korea. But Portugal could try to rest some players ahead of the next round, and if we’ve learned anything from this tournament it’s to expect chaos. As South Korea’s 3-2 loss to Ghana showed, they’re capable of surprising folks, and what could be more fun than them shaking things up?

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

7:00 AM - Ghana vs. Uruguay: Ghana find themselves in the unenviable position of probably needing to get a win in the last Group Stage game against a team that will be highly motivated to prove that they’re better than they’ve shown throughout the tournament. Uruguay have just about the same chance of advancing as South Korea — the two teams are tied on points with Uruguay having a worse goal difference — and a win could be enough to catapult them into the knockouts. Darwin Nunez and Luis Suarez have both been pretty anonymous and bad so far, so expect either or both of them to do something noteworthy, good or bad.

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

11:00 AM - Cameroon vs. Brazil: Nouhou vs. Brazil’s right-wingers and also the players on their right flank. It’s a tale as old as time, Nouhou playing against some of the best attackers in the competition; we saw him do it at AFCON, we’ve seen him do it in MLS, and now we’ll probably see him either go up against a winger from a top La Liga team (Rodrygo or Raphinha) or a Premier League attacker like Antony. One way or another, we’re sure to get a classic Nouhou performance. And who knows, maybe Cameroon can join the ranks of surprise results and sneak their way out of the Group Stage.

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

11:00 AM - Serbia vs. Switzerland: Serbia vs. Switzerland just feels like it should be a boring game. Maybe it won’t be, as both teams have a legitimate shot at the next round, but just repeating the words “Serbia versus Switzerland” in my head just conjures images of black-and-white footage of a pre-WWII era game where the players are wearing short shorts and button-down shirts that your great grandpa insists was one of the best matches ever played. Realistically though, there’s plenty of talent here, and I think we’ve all earned another good old fashioned shootout. Expect a lot of hand-gesturing from Serbia’s sizable Italy-based contingent no matter what happens.

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.

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