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Player ratings as Hansi Flick’s side exit the World Cup



Germany have once again been knocked out of the FIFA World Cup at the group stages, despite beating Costa Rica 4-2 on Thursday evening.

The win proved to not be enough for Hansi Flick’s side as Japan beat Spain 2-1 to book their place in the knockout rounds.

As expected, Germany took the game to Costa Rica early with Jamal Musiala forcing Keylor Navas into a smart save inside the opening two minutes.


The first real chance of the game would fall to Thomas Muller six minutes later. Found unmarked by a brilliant looping Joshua Kimmich cross, the Bayern forward was unable to get his resulting header on target when he really should have.

One minute later a header did find it’s way into the back of the net through Leroy Sane. The former Man City man flicked a David Raum cross from the left flank into the bottom right hand corner of the net. A great header and no less than what Germany deserved.

Germany would create yet another headed opportunity in the 15th minute when Leon Goretzka burst into the box to latch onto an Ilkay Gundogan cross. Navas, this time, however was on hand to palm the effort on goal clear of danger.

The game continued in a similar vein thereafter as Costa Rica continued to defend every single open play situation as if it was a corner kick – i.e. at least three defenders in their own six-yard box at all times.


At the end of the half, the Germans would create a few more chances to double their advantage. First a mazy run from Musiala culminated in the youngster firing just wide of the post, then his international and club teammate did the same a few minutes later – Cruyff-turning his way around a Costa Rica defender before curling wide.

Amazingly, it was nearly 1-1 in the 42nd minute after some horrid defending from Antonio Rudiger. Keysher Fuller latched onto the ball after Rudiger sliced a clearance back toward his own goal, but the Costa Rica wide player saw his subsequent shot on goal well saved by Manuel Neuer.

With Japan coming from behind to lead Spain 2-1 in the other game, Germany attempted to throw the kitchen sink at Costa Rica by bringing on Niclas Fullkrug.

Harry Symeou hosts Jack Gallagher and Toby Cudworth to look back on Germany ’06 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!


If you can’t see the podcast embed, click to download or listen to the episode in full!

Instead of adding to their lead though, they ended up conceding. The goal would be scored by Yeltsin Tejeda, who stole in to side-foot home after Neuer failed to adequately save a Kendall Waston header.

Moments later Germany went up the other end and came so close to equalising through Musiala and then Rudiger. Musiala burst into the left of the penalty area and slammed the ball off of the inside of the post, then a minute later Rudiger hit the outside of the post with a shot from inside the six-yard box.

In the 65th minute Germany managed to do it again. That’s right, they hit the post for a third time. This time it was Musiala who curled the ball off of the post from just outside the box.


Then it happened.

COSTA RICA scored another.

And it might have been the scrappiest goal in World Cup history. The central American side won three headers from a set piece, with the final header from Juan Pablo Vargas from four yards out bouncing off Neuer’s feet, back off Vargas’s back and into the net.

Costa Rica’s time in the top two places in the table would end about 30 seconds later as Germany finally scored a second, with substitute Kai Havertz latching onto a flick on before chipping over Navas and into the back of the net.


In the 75th minute, Hansi Flick’s men were denied a third by a stunning Keylor Navas save. The former Real Madrid goalkeeper got across his line brilliant to block a Fullkrug shot from point-blank range with his face.

Havertz would make it 3-2 in the 85th minute, latching onto a great cross from Gnabry to side-foot into the net.

Soon after it was 4-2 as Fullkrug tapped home after Sane found him with a deft chested pass into his path, but it wasn’t enough as Japan held on against Spain and knocked Flick’s men out.

Keylor Navas

Navas was unlucky to ship four goals / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

GK: Keylor Navas – 7/10 – Made a stunning save later in the game.


CB: Oscar Duarte – 6/10 – Battled hard throughout, particularly when Germany crossed into the box.

CB: Kendall Waston – 7/10 – He basically stood on his own goal line for the first half, then ended up being the catalyst for the equalising goal in the second.

CB: Juan Pablo Vargas – 7/10 – Scored the second goal in the scrappiest way imaginable.

RM: Keysher Fuller – 5/10 – Missed Costa Rica’s only chance of the first half.


CM: Celso Borges – 6/10 – Work extremely hard for his side off the ball.

CM: Yeltsin Tejeda – 7/10 – Scored his first ever international goal at the best possible time.

LM: Bryan Oviedo – 6/10 – The former Sunderland and Everton man did quite well defensively on his flank.

RW: Brandon Aguilera – N/A – He did literally nothing and was subbed off at half-time.


ST: Johan Venegas – 5/10 – Worked hard for his side, but didn’t really add any quality.

LW: Joel Campbell – 6/10 – The out ball for Costa Rica, and a pretty effective one at that.


SUB – Youstin Salas – 6/10 – Offered far more than Aguilera, though that’s not saying an awful lot.

SUB – Jewison Bennette – 5/10


SUB – Ronald Matarrita – 5/10

SUB – Roan Wilson – N/A.

SUB – Anthony Contreras – N/A.

Manager – Luis Fernando Suarez – 5/10 – There’s not an awful lot you can do when there’s such a gulf in quality, is there? Still, his side battled gallantly against a side clearly far too good for Costa Rica.

Kai Havertz

Havertz was anguished despite scoring two goals / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

GK: Manuel Neuer – 3/10 – He should’ve done much better for both goals. Looked his age.

RB: Joshua Kimmich – 4/10 – Used at right-back and central midfield, but didn’t move the ball as quick as he should’ve in either position.

CB: Niklas Sule – 2/10 – Let’s call a spade a spade: a literal spade would’ve been a better defender than Sule has been at this World Cup.

CB: Antonio Rudiger – 3/10 – Almost cost his team a goal with a disastrous attempted clearance in the first half, and didn’t improve much after that.


LB: David Raum – 6/10 – Lovely cross to set up the opening goal of the game.

CM: Leon Goretzka – 5/10 – Subbed off at half time.

CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 4/10 – Didn’t do a whole lot and was subbed off in favour of a striker in the 55th minute.

RM: Serge Gnabry – 7/10 – Did really well to flick Raum’s cross into the back of the net and set up the third.


AM: Jamal Musiala – 7/10 – Really lively once again and hit the post twice.

LM: Leroy Sane – 5/10 – He wasn’t great but did get an assist.

ST: Thomas Muller – 2/10 – Missed a great chance inside the opening five minutes and was generally bad.


SUB: Lukas Klostermann – 5/10 – Did ok when he came on.


SUB: Niclas Fullkrug – 7/10 – Denied a goal by the brilliant Keylor Navas, and then got his goal late on.

SUB: Mario Gotze – 5/10

SUB – Kai Havertz – 8/10 – Scored Germany’s second and third goals. Really great cameo performance.

SUB – Matthias Ginter – N/A.


SUB – Hansi Flick – 5/10 – Probably should have started Fullkrug up front, though his changes did get Germany back into the game. Pretty unacceptable to lead a team with such quality to a group stage exit.

Player of the match: Kai Havertz

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RB Leipzig End Liverpool’s Hopes of Early Naby Keita Move



Naby Keita will not be allowed to ditch Leipzig for ​Liverpool in January, regardless of progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League, according to Leipziger Volkszeitung.

It was announced during the summer that Liverpool had met Keita’s release clause and the Guinean midfielder would move to Anfield at the end of the 2017/18 season. 

However, recent speculation suggested that die Roten Bullen could be persuaded into letting Keita leave the club during the winter transfer window.


“Even if we should not reach the knockout stages of Champions League, it would make no sense to allow Naby to join Liverpool earlier,” said RB Leipzig sporting director, Ralf Rangnick.

“We want to qualify for Europe again, and we need Naby for that.”

Leipzig have won just one Champions League game this season, with defeats to FC Porto and Besiktas making progression to the knockout stages a difficult task this year.

Following their impressive maiden season in the Bundesliga, in which RB Leipzig finished ahead of Borussia Dortmund, the Red Bulls will be desperate to make sure their Champions League status continues next season.


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The 22-year-old has struggled to replicate the incredible form he showed last year since the announcement of his move next summer. 

Questions about Keita’s disciplinary record have also arisen this season, the midfielder seeing three red cards for club and country in less than one month.

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Man Utd’s fixture list up to Carabao Cup final including Barcelona & Leeds clashes



Manchester United reached their first final under Erik ten Hag by securing safe passage through the Carabao Cup semi finals at the expense of Nottingham Forest.

The Red Devils have enjoyed a brilliant run of form after their infamous defeats to Brighton and Brentford to start the season. They’re firmly in the Champions League qualification mix and remain alive in the FA Cup and Europa League.

However, their commitments in cup competitions means Ten Hag faces a tough February as he tries to balance the playing time of a squad that has recently been struck by injuries to key players.


Here’s United’s truncated schedule leading up to the Carabao Cup final, including some juicy derbies and European fixtures.

Michael Olise, David De Gea

Olise denied Man Utd with a late free kick last time out / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Fresh from sealing their spot in the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle, United are back into Premier League matters when they host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday 4 February in a 15:00 GMT kick off.

The two sides duked it out earlier a few weeks ago in their first meeting of the season as a late Michael Olise free-kick earned Palace a point after Bruno Fernandes’ strike just before half time.

Manchester United and Leeds are fierce rivals and the tension between the two teams has risen again following Leeds’ promotion to the Premier League.


The Red Devils have scored 15 goals in the four meetings in that time, only failing to win once when they were held to a goalless draw in April 2021. The fixture was originally postponed following Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September and will take place on Wednesday 8 February at 20:00 GMT.

Fred, Anthony Elanga

Fred and Elanga struck at Elland Road last season / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

That fixture rearrangement means the two Uniteds will face each other twice in four days.

In this fixture last season, two headless chickens went at it as Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds were downed 4-2 by Ralf Rangnick’s Man Utd. Goals from Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes had the visitors 2-0 up before two goals in two minutes from Rodrigo and Raphinha squared things up.

Substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga gave the Red Devils all three points. However, they would win only three more league games before the end of the season.


The stakes are really upped in mid February when Man Utd travel to Barcelona to face the Catalan giants at Camp Nou in the Europa League knockout play-off round.

It’s Barça who hold the edge in recent meetings, having won the past four games between the two sides.

Once they return home from the trip to Catalonia, United have a home game against Leicester to contend with.

The Foxes have endured some turbulent form this season but have mostly been a mess at the back, though the sides were only separated by Jadon Sancho’s strike they met back in September.

Lionel Messi

A lot has changed since United and Barça last met in 2019 / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

The return leg of the Europa League knockout play-off round will determine who between United and Barça continue in the continent’s secondary club competition.

United’s last win over Barça came at Old Trafford in 2008 when Paul Scholes scored the only goal of a Champions League semi final tie to send his side to final in Moscow.

Two of the most improved sides this season meet in the Carabao Cup final in late February when Newcastle face Man Utd.

Both sides are eyeing up Champions League qualification and each sit in the top four currently and this meeting could be an opportunity to land a significant psychological blow.


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Player ratings as Catalans pull clear in La Liga



Barcelona survived a late scare against Real Betis to secure a 2-1 win and at least temporarily extend their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points before Real Madrid play on Thursday night.

Barça went into the game at Benito Villamarin knowing they had the opportunity to start pulling away from their fierce rivals in Madrid. But it took until well into the second half for the breakthrough to come, with Raphinha and later Robert Lewandowski eventually netting.

An own goal from Joules Kounde in the closing stages threatened to make it a difficult end for Xavi’s team, but they managed to see it out. Betis midfielder William Carvalho, who had already been substituted with an hour played, was then sent off for dissent at the game’s conclusion.


Betis were actually the first to threaten in the contest, seeing Luiz Henrique only narrowly miss an early chance when his shot was deflected just wide by Alejandro Balde.

Pedri had a chance for Barça at the other end not long after, but his touch in the penalty area wasn’t sharp enough and Rui Silva in the home goal got down to pick the ball off his toe.

Silva again denied Pedri after the restart, but Raphinha broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. The Brazilian, whose debut season hasn’t been a rip-roaring success, tapped in from close range after excellent work from Balde down the left flank.

Lewandowski’s ultimately decisive second was from only a little further out, pounced on by the Pole after Ronald Araujo flicked on Raphinha’s cross.


That cushion was enough for Barça and ensured that Kounde’s own goal mattered little in the end.

GK: Silva (6); RB: Ruibal (7), CB: Pezzella (6), CB: Felipe (6), LB: Abner (6); CM: Rodriguez (6), CM: Carvalho (5); RM: Henrique (7), AM: Fekir (6), LM: Canales (6); ST: Iglesias (6)

Subs: Guardado (6), Juanmi (6), Rodri (6), Jose (5), Sabaly (6)

GK: Ter Stegen (6); RB: Kounde (6), CB: Araujo (7), CB: Chistensen (7), LB: Balde (8); CM: De Jong (7), CM: Busquets (8), CM: Pedri (7); RW: Raphinha (8), ST: Lewandowski (7), LW: Gavi (7)


Subs: Fati (5), Torres (N/A), Kessie (N/A)

Player of the match – Alejandro Balde (Barcelona)

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