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World Cup roundup, Day 12: Belgium and Germany flop, Canada takes notes

The 2022 World Cup is in full swing. At the end of every matchday, we’ll review the biggest talking points emanating from Qatar and break down all the action on the pitch. Below, we look back on Day 12 of the tournament.

Das Reboot 2.0?

There was once an aura of invincibility around the German national team. One way or another, Germany would always find a way to grind out results, particularly in a tournament setting. Mentally, it provided a huge edge and was an obstacle every other team had to contend with.

That has evaporated.

Despite a topsy-turvy 4-2 win over Costa Rica on Thursday, the Germans bowed out in the group stage for a second successive World Cup. Prior to the unlikely failure four years ago, Germany had made it beyond the first round at every World Cup dating back to 1954. Combined with a last-16 ouster at the recent European Championship, the former juggernaut is in disarray.

Veteran Thomas Muller dubbed the situation an “absolute catastrophe.”

“We have players who play with top clubs, and we do have the quality, (but) I believe that for the future of German football, we need to do things differently in training,” manager Hansi Flick said after the dispiriting exit. “It will be very important to focus on the new generation of footballers. There are good players for the future, but for the next ten years, it is very important that we make the right steps now.”

A total revamp from the ground up helped German football recover from the gloominess of the late ’90s. That revival culminated with a World Cup title in 2014. A similar reboot probably isn’t necessary this time around. There’s always an appetite for sweeping change in the wake of significant setbacks, but this doesn’t feel like the same situation. As Flick said, there’s young talent emerging, headlined by Jamal Musiala, who shone brightly in Qatar despite his team’s failure. Blowing everything up and starting from scratch isn’t the path forward for Germany.

Belgium’s golden generation flames out

For years, Belgium was the envy of almost every country. By the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Red Devils were routinely being tipped to compete for continental and global trophies thanks to a talent pool so deep that it seemed like a decade of glory was inevitable.

Instead, Belgium’s trophy cabinet remains bare after one of the poorest showings at a World Cup in the European nation’s history.

The widespread optimism born from the development of stars such as Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, and Romelu Lukaku has been slowly fading for years. All three blossomed into world-class players and won countless trophies at the club level.

But it’s been a completely different story on the international stage for the quartet and Belgium. And now that story is on the brink of ending on a sour note without any silverware.

With De Bruyne, Hazard, Courtois, and Lukaku on the back end of their respective careers and without comparable talents coming from the youth system, the hype around Belgium may never be as high again.

Martinez’s departure was inevitable, too late

Officially, it wasn’t Belgium’s colossal failure at the 2022 World Cup that cost Roberto Martinez his job. It seemed Martinez initially had stepped down on his own accord in the aftermath of Belgium’s miserable World Cup campaign. But it appears there was an unofficial understanding between the Spanish coach and the Royal Belgian Football Association that it was time to go their separate ways.

With Martinez’s contract set to expire after the tournament, hoisting the World Cup in Qatar was likely the only way he was coming back. After more than six years at the helm, it became crystal clear that the Red Devils desperately needed a new voice in the locker room.

Ian MacNicol / Getty Images Sport / Getty

But a change in leadership may have come too late with the country’s best years – and chances of winning a major trophy – in the rearview mirror before the 2022 World Cup even kicked off.

Despite Belgium reaching the quarterfinals in four previous major tournaments and entering the 2022 World Cup as FIFA’s second-ranked nation, doubts over Martinez’s ability to lead this crop of superstars steadily grew. So did the cloud of pessimism hovering over the Belgian camp.

Belgium’s hopes of challenging for the sport’s most coveted trophy were wiped out almost immediately. And the team’s dreadful performance in Qatar validated De Bruyne’s ominous prediction that the Red Devils were “too old” to win the tournament.

Morocco fooled us all

The headlines about Morocco didn’t inspire much confidence in its ability to compete at the World Cup.

It lost to Egypt in the quarterfinals of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations before suffering a chastening 3-0 defeat to the United States in a summer friendly. Three months before the tournament started, the country’s football federation fired Vahid Halilhodzic, the coach who helped the national team qualify for the World Cup, because of personal disagreements. Leading striker Youssef En-Nesyri, who plays for Sevilla, hadn’t scored in 12 La Liga appearances, and a pre-tournament injury to Amine Harit robbed Morocco of one of its most creative midfielders.

Simon Stacpoole/Offside / Offside / Getty

But Halilhodzic’s successor, Walid Regragui, moved quickly to unify the group. He immediately recalled Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech, one of the players the previous coaching regime had forced into exile, and put a greater emphasis on playing solid, defensive football.

The world should’ve taken more notice.

Morocco’s shutout streak lasted 662 minutes. And although Regragui’s team conceded in Thursday’s 2-1 win over Canada, it largely frustrated the Canadians, denying them a first point at the World Cup. Morocco showed similar resolve in a goalless draw against Croatia and held off Belgium long enough to run off with a 2-0 win.

Morocco played smart, assured football at the right time. It put all the negative headlines aside and earned first place in Group F as its reward. Though the North Africans now face Spain in the knockout round, they’ve shown they can handle opponents of any size. Count them out at your own peril.

Important lessons learned for Canada

On paper, Canada’s World Cup was an objective failure. Three matches played, three defeats, no points, and a goal difference of minus-five; Canada will finish the tournament 31st out of 32 teams. Officially, only host nation Qatar, with its three losses and minus-six differential, was worse. Harsh, considering some of the exciting moments John Herdman’s team delivered in the desert. The Canadians pushed Belgium to the brink – even if that’s not quite the accomplishment it appeared to be about a week ago – and had Croatia briefly on the ropes for 15 magical minutes. They also left with their heads high after an admirable finish in the defeat to Morocco.

There’s plenty of room for optimism, and it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate this team’s accomplishments right now. Competing at the highest level and making the world take notice after the men’s program was an afterthought for nearly four decades is no small feat.

Matthias Hangst / Getty Images Sport / Getty

“We belong on this world stage,” defender Alistair Johnston said after Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Morocco. He’s right.

But now it’s time to take the lessons learned in Qatar and apply them going forward. There’s still a gap in quality that needs to be closed before Canada assumes co-hosting duties for the 2026 World Cup. The final result was disappointing, especially after the memorable qualifying run created genuine expectations throughout the country. But, in hindsight, perhaps the outcome wasn’t entirely surprising. This isn’t CONCACAF anymore. This is another tier. Canada isn’t quite there just yet.

Herdman and his team need to ensure the harsh lessons learned in Qatar aren’t in vain as it aims to reach that next level.

Quick free-kicks

Moriyasu the master

Japan had never beaten a former champion at the World Cup coming into this year’s tournament. In the blink of an eye, the Samurai Blue have now done it twice in 10 days. Manager Hajime Moriyasu was the architect of two incredible – and incredibly similar – victories, making in-game tweaks and personnel changes that helped overturn 1-0 deficits against Germany and Spain, two of the most vaunted sides in world football. Moriyasu’s halftime formation change against Germany altered the course of that contest, and his substitutes were decisive. His changes at the interval had the same impact Thursday, as Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma came off the bench against Spain. The former grabbed the equalizer shortly after the restart, and an incredible effort just minutes later from the latter created the match-winning goal. Should the surprise Group E winner need a spark at some point in its last-16 match against Croatia, Moriyasu’s magic touch could turn the tide again.

What to make of Spain?


At any moment, Spain can look either like the most fluid, enchanting team on the planet or a defensively frail unit that’s only capable of passing the ball sideways and becoming bogged down. No other team at the World Cup is so duplicitous. Thursday was a prime example. At times, Spain zipped the ball around the pitch and didn’t let Japan have even a whiff of possession. Rodri, for instance, became the only player to attempt (and complete) over 200 passes in a World Cup match since that data started being collected in 1966. But for all the apparent control, La Roja crumbled in a hectic three-minute spell just after halftime and ultimately couldn’t recover. Spain has looked spellbinding at times in this tournament and inept at others. And sometimes both within the same game. Trying to predict what Luis Enrique’s team will do in the knockout stage is a fool’s errand. Spain could easily make the final. It could also – just as easily – fall to Morocco in the next round.

Changes coming to 2026 World Cup format?

The benefits of overhauling the current format for the 2026 World Cup are reportedly being discussed behind the scenes in Qatar. With the expansion from 32 to 48 contestants, the current plan for the North American World Cup is to have 16 groups of three teams. But organizers have apparently engaged in “corridor chats” in Doha to get FIFA officials to consider the benefits of going with 12 groups of four teams instead of the format agreed upon in early 2017. The shakeup would result in a 104-game World Cup – 40 more than in Qatar – if group winners, second-place teams, and the eight best third-place teams progress. Such a proposal would likely interest FIFA and sponsors given the increased revenue. But fears over player safety throughout a jam-packed schedule could present an obstacle if FIFA adopts the change. Stay tuned, as stakeholders could formally discuss the change in the coming months.

Stat of the day

Possession? Pfft. Who needs it?

Tweet of the day

The streets will never forget.

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Ranking the 10 best deals of the January transfer window

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With a quiet January transfer window now complete, theScore ranks the 10 best moves made across the game’s top leagues.

10. Gift Orban ?? Lyon

Isosport/MB Media / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Details: Signed from Gent for reported €12M fee

There were some concerns when Gent signed Orban in January 2023. His scoring record of 20 goals in just 21 starts was clearly impressive, but that was in Norway’s second tier. Those reservations were soon forgotten as he amassed nine goals and two assists over 10 Belgian Pro League appearances and struck five times in five Conference League outings. His productivity has since slowed, but €12 million for an intensely competitive 21-year-old striker could prove extremely fruitful business for Lyon. Orban’s outgoing personality should also be a welcome addition to the dressing room.

9. Timo Werner ?? Tottenham

Details: Signed on loan from RB Leipzig with reported €17M option to buy

Like many transfers in the January window, bringing in Werner presented a low-risk deal for Tottenham. If it works out, €17 million is an affordable sum for a forward of Werner’s pedigree. The German was largely ineffective over his first two appearances but was much better in his third outing, setting up Destiny Udogie and Brennan Johnson for goals in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Brentford. His incredible work ethic and pace, paired with Ange Postecoglou’s ability to instill belief in his players, could make this a great move for both parties.

8. Said Benrahma ?? Lyon

Details: Signed from West Ham in deal worth up to €20.4M

Lyon fought for this one, and it should pay off. After battling some administrative issues, the Ligue 1 side completed the deal a day later than expected, announcing Benrahma had joined on an initial €6-million loan deal that could become permanent for another €14.4 million. It’s a low-risk move that should enliven Lyon’s struggling attack. Benrahma’s a functional system player who can break games open and change their pace with the flick of a foot. Though he started just five times for West Ham in the Premier League this season, he hasn’t lost those progressive traits.

7. Marcos Leonardo ?? Benfica

Zed Jameson/MB Media / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Details: Signed from Santos for reported €18M fee

You just know Benfica are onto something here. They always are. Leonardo arrives from Santos in a deal that could look like a bargain in the years to come. Despite playing for one of the worst Santos sides in its 111-year history, the 20-year-old still managed to score 26 goals in 66 league appearances. He’s an old-school striker who loves to hang in the penalty area, and if Benfica can provide him with the right service, he’ll have no issues doubling that goal-scoring return.

6. Tommaso Baldanzi ?? Roma

Details: Signed from Empoli for reported €15M fee

The deal for Baldanzi is perfect in nearly every sense. Roma get a long-term replacement for Paulo Dybala without breaking the bank or running further afoul of Financial Fair Play regulations. The future Italian international also satisfies the club’s long-held preference for central attacking midfielders. Baldanzi even idolized Dybala during his formative years at Empoli. He could’ve waited to go to a club fighting for trophies, but he’ll get far more playing time at Roma, especially if Dybala’s injury issues persist.

5. Adam Wharton ?? Crystal Palace

Details: Signed from Blackburn Rovers for reported initial £18M fee

Crystal Palace are no strangers to fishing in the EFL. They plucked the thrilling double act of Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise from the Championship, and it took an impressive loan spell at Swansea City to convince the Eagles to sign Marc Guehi from Chelsea. Wharton is the next to join that contingent. The 19-year-old will bring some much-needed solidity to the midfield, but his admiration of Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, and Rodri hints at how much he treasures possession. He displays so much composure while he instigates attacks from the base of midfield.

4. Valentin Barco ?? Brighton & Hove Albion


Details: Signed from Boca Juniors for reported $10M fee

Tipping a player that Brighton & Hove Albion bought to shine usually works out, right? For a modest fee, the south coast club has acquired a cocksure 19-year-old who can play in any position down the left and also appeared across the midfield for Boca Juniors. Barco is a slippery operator, regularly dribbling past opponents and becoming difficult to track down once he’s wriggled free, and he’s constantly trying to ignite attacks with probing passes. It might take time for him to be a regular in Roberto De Zerbi’s lineup, but this signing should be yet another example of the Seagulls’ South American scouting network striking gold.

3. Jadon Sancho ?? Borussia Dortmund

Details: Signed on loan from Manchester United

Sancho is back at Dortmund – albeit temporarily – after leaving for Manchester United for around €85 million in 2021. The winger had a much-documented spat with Red Devils boss Erik ten Hag, and it’s difficult to envision a route back into the first team while the Dutchman’s in charge. By contrast, Sancho has been given a warm welcome in Germany, with club executives claiming he has no disciplinary issues and is in fine condition after being frozen out at United. It seems Sancho is in an ideal environment to revive his career.

2. Claudio Echeverri ?? Manchester City

Details: Signed from River Plate for reported £12.5M fee

Manchester City continue to bet on young talent during the January transfer window. Highly rated midfielder Echeverri follows in the footsteps of Julian Alvarez as the latest under-23 South American to sign for, if not necessarily join, the Premier League champions in the winter. Like Alvarez, whom City also signed from River Plate, Echeverri has been sent back to his boyhood club on loan for the year, allowing him to continue his development in a controlled environment. He’ll then arrive in Manchester in January 2025. City continue to hit the right note, never panicking while other clubs scramble for that elusive extra oomph to end the season.

1. Arthur Vermeeren ?? Atletico Madrid

Angel Martinez / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Details: Signed from Royal Antwerp for reported €18M fee

At just 18, Vermeeren already boasts plenty of experience. He played more minutes than any other player in Belgium’s top flight over 2023 and even captained Royal Antwerp during this season’s Champions League group stage. The midfielder has already won the Belgian league, cup, and super cup, too. Vermeeren might lack some physicality – and that weakness might not seem ideal when he’s going to play under the combative Diego Simeone – but he has a Koke-esque knack of progressing play while producing more interceptions, blocks, and clearances than the Atletico Madrid veteran. An €18-million deal is a bargain for someone who could become one of Europe’s leading midfielders.

Honorable mentions: Fabio Carvalho (Hull City), Radu Dragusin (Tottenham Hotspur)

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Transfer Deadline Day Live: Breaking down all the major deals, rumors

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Transfer deadline day is in full swing. We’re providing live, quick-hit analysis of the biggest deals and rumors until tonight’s 6 p.m. ET deadline.

Give Chelsea all of your money

Chelsea are the headline act again at the transfer deadline – but playing a different role entirely. Languishing in 10th place in the Premier League standings and without Champions League football on the horizon, the cash-guzzling Blues desperately need funds to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations ahead of the 2024-25 season. Armando Broja and Conor Gallagher are reportedly up for sale, not because they’re angling to leave but because they offer the juiciest profit margin. Chelsea are raising academy graduates for financial slaughter, having pawned off Lewis Hall, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Mason Mount for tens of millions of pounds in pure profit over the last six months. Fulham are interested in taking Broja off Chelsea’s hands, just not at the quoted £50-million asking price, according to BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty. A loan deal could be a welcome compromise.

Bayern getting instant relief

M. Donato / FC Bayern / Getty

Bayern are closing out the window strong. Signing Sacha Boey from Galatasaray for a reported €30 million solves a crisis at the right-back position, where midfielder Konrad Laimer and left-back Raphael Guerreiro have split time as square-peg-round-hole replacements for the injured Noussair Mazraoui. Further injuries to wingers Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman forced Bayern to bring in 22-year-old Granada winger Bryan Zaragoza six months ahead of his expected move to the Bavarians. The deals give Bayern the depth they need to continue competing on all fronts. Given their sputtering form and a surprisingly sustained challenge from Bundesliga title rivals Bayer Leverkusen, they need all the help they can get.

No place like home for Hojbjerg

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s future at Tottenham Hotspur has been up in the air since Antonio Conte left the club in March 2023 – and it’ll be suspended in motion for a while longer. Hojbjerg, one of former manager Conte’s soldiers in midfield, has made just five Premier League starts under Ange Postecoglou. And while he remains on the periphery of Postecoglou’s plans, Hojbjerg remains committed to the cause. He doesn’t lack options – Juventus, Napoli, Ajax, and Lyon reportedly expressed interest in the midfielder – but still feels part of something big in north London. Credit to Postecoglou for making a player with such limited minutes feel connected to the cause.

Forest keep wheeling and dealing

Nottingham Forest are sticking to their usual deadline-day formula. Having closed out the 2023 summer transfer window with an incredible seven signings, Forest are back to juggling negotiations. They’ve completed the signing of highly rated Portuguese striker Rodrigo Ribeiro from Sporting CP and Gio Reyna on loan from Borussia Dortmund. Forest are also reportedly flying in Strasbourg goalkeeper Matz Sels after abandoning talks with Crystal Palace over shot-stopper Sam Johnstone. They’re allowing some departures, too, with Serge Aurier expected to leave for Galatasaray and Orel Mangala heading for Lyon.

Other deals to watch today …

  • Said Benrahma to Lyon
  • Stefano Sensi to Leicester City
  • Tommaso Baldanzi to Roma
  • Hugo Ekitike to Eintracht Frankfurt
  • Antonio Nusa to Brentford
  • Bryan Gil to Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Enes Unal to Bournemouth
  • Serge Aurier to Galatasaray
  • Thomas Meunier to Burnley
  • Rafa Mir to Valencia
  • Maxwel Cornet to Crystal Palace
  • Matz Sels to Nottingham Forest

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The Best FIFA awards: Follow live as Messi, Bonmati eye more trophies

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World football’s top players and managers of 2023 are being recognized at The Best FIFA Football Awards show on Monday. Below, theScore is tracking all the winners of the various trophies handed out in London.

Best Men’s Player finalists

  • Erling Haaland (Manchester City and Norway)
  • Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain and France)
  • Lionel Messi (Inter Miami and Argentina)

Can Messi get one over on Mbappe yet again? The Argentine will look to retain the honor he won last year when he beat out his former Paris Saint-Germain teammate. The two superstars will face stiff competition from Manchester City striker Haaland for FIFA’s top individual prize, which was inaugurated in 2016 following the governing body’s split with Ballon d’Or organizer France Football. For this year’s award, accomplishments from Dec. 19, 2022, to Aug. 20, 2023, were taken into consideration by voters.

2022 winner: Lionel Messi

Best Women’s Player finalists

NurPhoto / NurPhoto / Getty
  • Aitana Bonmati (Barcelona and Spain)
  • Linda Caicedo (Real Madrid and Colombia)
  • Jennifer Hermoso (Tigres and Spain)

Bonmati can cap one of the most dominant individual seasons in the history of women’s soccer on Monday. The World Cup-winning midfielder, already having captured the Ballon d’Or and various other accolades over the last 12 months, is looking to succeed compatriot Putellas, who won this award in each of the last two years. The qualifying period for this year’s honor was Aug. 1, 2022, to Aug. 20, 2023, the date of the most recent Women’s World Cup final, which saw Bonmati’s Spain defeat England.

2022 winner: Alexia Putellas

Puskas Award finalists

One of the sport’s most coveted individual trophies. This year’s Puskas Award, given to the scorer of the best goal, covers the period between Dec. 19, 2022, and Aug. 20, 2023. Finalists include a long-range strike to conclude an excellent team move, a sensational bicycle kick, and a perfect rabona.

2022 winner: Marcin Oleksy

Best Men’s Coach finalists

  • Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
  • Simone Inzaghi (Inter Milan)
  • Luciano Spalletti (Napoli)

A trio of club managers are vying for the men’s coaching award; though Spalletti is the current Italy boss, his nomination came on the back of an enchanting title-winning campaign at Napoli. The two tacticians who were on the touchline for last season’s Champions League final, Guardiola and Inzaghi, square off once again, with the Manchester City boss considered the favorite after his team’s historic treble-winning season.

2022 winner: Lionel Scaloni

Best Women’s Coach finalists

Valerio Pennicino – UEFA / UEFA / Getty
  • Jonatan Giraldez (Barcelona)
  • Emma Hayes (Chelsea)
  • Sarina Wiegman (England)

A mixture of club and international coaches are vying for this prize. Wiegman and Hayes are the two most recent winners. The England manager has taken the award home on three occasions, more than any other bench boss (male or female). Giraldez, meanwhile, is looking for his first FIFA honor.

2022 winner: Sarina Wiegman

Best Men’s Goalkeeper finalists

  • Yassine Bounou (Al-Hilal and Morocco)
  • Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid and Belgium)
  • Ederson (Manchester City and Brazil)

Bounou helped Sevilla win yet another Europa League crown in 2022-23 before departing for Saudi Arabia, while Ederson backstopped Manchester City to a trio of titles during the club’s record-breaking campaign. Courtois is the only finalist to have won this award before.

2022 winner: Emiliano Martinez

Best Women’s Goalkeeper finalists

  • Mackenzie Arnold (West Ham and Australia)
  • Catalina Coll (Barcelona and Spain)
  • Mary Earps (Manchester United and England)

Three netminders who shone brightly at the 2023 Women’s World Cup will battle for this accolade. Coll helped Spain take home the title, while Arnold and Earps have become cult heroes in their respective countries. The latter, in particular, is one of the most popular footballers in England thanks to her combination of on-pitch excellence and off-field personality.

2022 winner: Mary Earps

Men’s FIFA FIFPro World11

To be announced.

Women’s FIFA FIFPro World11

To be announced.

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