In a remarkable game, Germany took a first-half lead and seemed to be coasting until two Costa Rica goals early in the second period rocked Hansi Flick’s team. Although substitutes Kai Havertz (2) and Niclas Fullkrug scored to seal a 4-2 win, Japan‘s 2-1 victory against Spain meant that Germany were out.
1. Germany win but suffer another humiliating group stage exit
Germany suffered a second successive World Cup humiliation by being eliminated at the group stage in Qatar — four years after the same result at Russia 2018.
Having lost 2-1 to Japan in their opening game at the tournament last week, Flick’s team needed to beat Costa Rica and hope that Spain would beat Japan in order to progress. Japan produced their second major upset of Qatar 2022 to beat Luis Enrique’s team, though, meaning Germany were powerless to save themselves against Los Ticos.
The early exit is likely to lead to a major overhaul in German football, with Flick’s position as coach now vulnerable. Long-serving players such as Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Antonio Rudiger, Mario Gotze and Ilkay Gundogan also might have come to the end of the line on the international stage. With Germany due to host Euro 2024 in little more than 18 months from now, the need to renew the team and build around young talents such as Havertz and Jamal Musiala is now obvious.
This World Cup will signal the end of an era in German football, with the heroes of Brazil 2014 being moved on. Whether the new generation can emulate them remains to be seen.
2. Costa Rica boost CONCACAF ahead of 2026
Six CONCACAF teams will play at the 2026 World Cup, with three places already assigned to the United States, Mexico and Canada as co-hosts, but with Costa Rica joining Mexico and Canada by exiting Qatar 2022 at the group stage, can North and Central America really be competitive in four years’ time?
With home advantage, the joint hosts will all expect to progress to the knockout stages in a 48-team competition, and Costa Rica’s performances in Qatar after their 7-0 hammering at the hands of Spain show that the CONCACAF region has the depth to be confident of a successful showing in 2026. By beating Japan and then giving Germany an almighty scare at Al Bayt Stadium by leading 2-1 before eventually losing 4-2, Los Ticos gave hope to the second tier of CONCACAF nations hoping to qualify for World Cup 2026.
As one of the oldest squads in Qatar, with an average age of 27.2 years, Costa Rica will need to refresh their squad with old stagers such as Keylor Navas (35) and Celso Borges (34) likely to be out of the picture when the next World Cup comes around. But the Ticos have been regular World Cup participants, reaching the quarterfinals in 2014, and they will expect to qualify ahead of the likes of Panama and Jamaica, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in qualification this time around.
El Salvador and Honduras will both fancy their chances of qualification, with Haiti (1974) and Cuba (1938) also out to end long absences from the finals. Although only the US have made it through to the round of 16 this time, CONCACAF teams have shown enough to suggest they will compete in four years.
3. Neuer makes history on a night to forget
Neuer now stands out on his own as the goalkeeper with most appearances at the World Cup. His 19th appearance for Germany took him clear of Brazil’s Claudio Taffarel and West Germany’s Sepp Maier, but it was a night the 2014 World Cup winner won’t want to reminisce about anytime soon.
At 36, this will almost certainly be his last World Cup, but it was not the way he would have wanted to bow out.
Aside from the obvious humiliation of being eliminated at the group stage for the second successive World Cup, Neuer had a poor game, with his mistakes leading to both Costa Rica goals. Having made a stunning save from Keysher Fuller in the first half, Neuer then fumbled a Kendall Waston header to give Yeltsin Tejeda a tap-in for Costa Rica’s opener before failing to deal with the cross that led to Juan Pablo Vargas scoring Los Ticos’ second goal.
At his peak, Neuer was arguably the best goalkeeper in the world for a three- or four-year period, but injuries and age have caught up with the Bayern Munich No. 1. He is no longer the presence he once was and played his part in Germany’s second successive World Cup blowout.
Costa Rica: Keylor Navas 8; Keysher Fuller 7, Oscar Duarte 6, Kendall Waston 7, Juan Pablo Vargas 7, Bryan Oviedo 6; Brandon Aguilera 6, Celso Borges 6, Yeltsin Tejeda 8, Joel Campbell 6; Johan Venegas 7
Subs: Lukas Klosterman 5, Kai Havertz 7, Mario Gotze 6, Niclas Fullkrug 6, Matthias Ginter 6
Best and worst performers
BEST: Jamal Musiala, Germany. The rest of the 2022 World Cup will be poorer without the talents of Musiala, who gave everything for Germany and hit the post twice. A real talent and hope for the future of Die Nationalmannschaft.
WORST: Antonio Rudiger, Germany. A close run thing between the Real Madrid defender and Neuer, but Rudiger was poor all night. Neuer at least made one good save, but Rudiger made bad decisions from start to finish.
Highlights and notable moments
This is not something fans of Germany will want to see too much of. Was it in? You decide. Sorry, freunde.
If this ball is ruled out Germany would be moving on to the Round of 16 😱 pic.twitter.com/PcceKn0AIW
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 1, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
Muller: “If this was my last game, it was a huge pleasure. I’ve done it with love.”
Flick: “I think that in the first half, we weren’t able to have a clear result. We had lots of chances and attempts, but failed to take them. You have to take your chances and score goals, If we had, it would have been a different story.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– Russia 2018 was the first time Germany had ever been eliminated in the group stage. Thus, Qatar 2022 marks the first time they’ve failed to reach the knockout rounds in consecutive tournaments.
– With 232 goals, Germany now are level with Brazil for most in World Cup history.
– Germany had the highest expected goals (xG) at 10.0 and highest expected goal differential (xGD) at plus-6.4 of any team at the World Cup.
Costa Rica: Los Ticos’ World Cup is over, but they’ll be in CONCACAF Nations League action as the winter months end, traveling to Martinique on March 25.
Germany: For the second straight time, Germany are eliminated from the World Cup at the group stage. Die Nationalmannschaft have no upcoming fixtures scheduled.