World Cup winners & losers: Day 8

Kyle Picknell
Not a winner in today's edition - Kevin De Bruyne. He'll be gutted once he finds out
Not a winner in today's edition - Kevin De Bruyne. He'll be gutted once he finds out / James Williamson - AMA/GettyImages
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Thrills, spills and Danny Mills. The World Cup managed to shake off its disturbing propensity for 0-0 draws over the weekend and we were even treated to two shock results on Sunday as Morocco beat Belgium and Costa Rica stunned Japan.

In the other two games, Spain and Germany played out a wonderfully melodramatic 1-1 draw while Croatia swatted those plucky upstarts Canada aside in a convincing 4-1 victory. They did, at least, let them score a first-ever World Cup goal before playing them off the park.

Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan '02 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 here to download or listen to the episode in full!

Here are the winners and losers from day eight.


1. Losers - Belgium's 'Golden Generation'

Eden Hazard
Time to concentrate on your football, Eden / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Axel Witsel? Washed. Jan Vertonghen? Washed. Eden Hazard? Washed. Astonishingly washed. So washed he's actually become dirty again and needs another two hours at 90 degrees. Michy Batshuayi is only 29 and washed. Toby Alderweireld still looks alright, to be fair to him.

Hazard even the gall to tell Germany to 'concentrate on football' following their protest last week. Eden, my friend, you were desperately fortunate to beat Canada 1-0 and got played off the park by MLS defenders.

It was no surprise to anyone - not least Kevin De Bruyne, who admitted Belgium are too old to do anything at this World Cup, nor Roberto Martinez, who is Roberto Martinez - that the Red Devils lost 2-0 to Morocco.

It's no less than they deserve given their team is running around with flames on their socks.

2. Winner - Real life Football Manager regens

Josko Gvardiol, Lovro Majer
Croatia's last youth intake: On the left, Luka Modric 2.0. On the right, Batman. / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

We were treated to a number of Football Manager regens in action on Sunday, especially in the form of Lovro Majer, who I am convinced has been trained from a young age by the Croatian Football Federation to replicate Luka Modric in both playing style and general aesthetic as closely as possible. He's a broken nose and a bad case of food poisoning away from being a perfect doppelgänger.

The same can also be said for Gavi (the footballing equivalent of copying someone's homework but changing it just enough not to get caught) and Pedri. The sheer audacity of Spain to replace two generational midfield playmakers with another pair, almost instantly, is enough to make your blood boil. It really is.

3. Winner - The core strength of Leon Goretzka

Leon Goretzka
Leon Goretzka: A man who can only be described as a physical specimen / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

There was a beautiful moment towards the end of Germany's draw with Spain when Leon Goretzka did some off-the-ball blocking akin to a basketball screen during an attacking corner.

The victim was none other than Sergio Busquets, who was folded in half like a deck chair after coming face-to-pectoral with the Bayern midfielder. There was only ever going to be one winner in that collision, a single piece of uncooked spaghetto trying to break through a slab of Lurpak spreadable.

That's the singular form of spaghetti, by the way. I'm not joking. Don't ever say you don't learn anything from my columns.

4. Loser - The politeness and respect upon which the entirety of Japanese culture is built

Shuichi Gonda
Imagine losing 1-0 to Costa Rica and THEN having to clean the dressing room after / Koji Watanabe/GettyImages

Another tournament, another chance for Japan's lovely team and lovely fans to clean up after themselves - a relatively normal thing to do but somehow mesmerising for the rest of the world's media.

After their 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica, Joe Cole claimed that Japan lost the game because they were 'too nice'.

Personally, I'd argue that it was because Japan - a counter-attacking team that thrives in transition - didn't have the requisite game plan to break down Costa Rica's deep, low block.

Or it could be that they are too nice because they pick up their water bottles and fold their towels after the game. Who can say? Could be either, really.

5. Winners - Silky, lightweight Moroccan wingers (and Achraf Hakimi's mum)

Sofiane Boufal, Achraf Hakimi, Hakim Ziyech
Sofiane Boufal, Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi were the stars of the show for Morocco / BSR Agency/GettyImages

Neither have quite cut the mustard in the Premier League - Graeme Souness nods in agreement - but Sofiane Boufal and Hakim Ziyech ripped Belgium to shreds from opposite wings during Morocco's win. Both are glorious footballers to watch on their day, wraithlike dribbly bois who are so measured and delicate with every touch and pass it is almost as though they are playing with a live grenade and not a football.

Elsewhere, a shout-out to this touching moment between Achraf Hakimi and his mum.

6. Winner - Niclas Fullkrug

Niclas Fuellkrug
The Fullkrug way: head down and laces through it / Kaz Photography/GettyImages

I've already written about the rebirth of the target man at this World Cup, so I was personally delighted to see the most Australian man on the planet - Mitchell Duke - get himself on the scoresheet on Saturday. Then came Werder Bremen's Niclas Fullkrug, a striker with a brutally effective playing style every bit as ugly as his name (and his teeth) and Germany's saviour on Sunday.

His late goal to equalise against Spain and keep his country in the tournament is everything I've ever wanted from big, lumpy forwards: absolutely leathered into the top corner when a careful side-foot would have done. Stunning.

7. Winner - Alphonso Davies

Alphonso Davies
A moment to remember for Canada / Claudio Villa/GettyImages

Canada's tournament ended prematurely after their 4-1 defeat to Croatia but Alphonso Davies secured his place in history by scoring their first-ever goal at a World Cup. It was a textbook planted header and a deserved redemption after his penalty miss in the opening game against Belgium.

With the 2026 World Cup to come as a host nation, Davies and Canada have a lot to look forward to.

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