World Cup Recap: Day 14

Germany eliminated and Mexico spared as Sweden and Brazil win their groups

Mexico backed in despite a loss. Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

After all the unthinkable results so far, there’s no way it would continue. Right? Wrong. The insanity continued on the two-week mark of the tournament, sending a variety of nationalities on a roller coaster of emotions.

Mexico 0-3 Sweden

Ekaterinburg Arena, Ekaterinburg

Attendance: 33,061

Mexico were looking to solidify their spot at the top of Group F, needing only a draw, while Sweden could assure itself qualification with a win - and potentially win the group for themselves. Mexico started in bad form from the whistle as midfielder Jesus Gallardo picked up the fastest yellow card in World Cup history just 13 seconds in. Each side would have opportunities but few on goal, sending them tied 0-0 at halftime despite Sweden being the higher pressing team.

Sweden would be rewarded for their persistence with the opening goal five minutes into the second half. Ludwig Augustinsson - a member of Sweden’s 2015 UEFA European U-21 championship team - picked up his first goal with the senior team on a play where three Swedish players were ready to pounce inside the box. In the 60th minute, Mexico defender Hector Moreno would be yellow carded - disqualifying him from playing the following match - for a tackle inside the box. Sweden Captain Andreas Granqvist would convert his second penalty of the tournament to put his side up 2-0. An Edson Alvarez own-goal in the 74th minute sunk Mexico further and 3-0 Sweden would be the final scoreline.

Analysis: If you had asked Mexico fans what their expectations were heading into the tournament, most would say a second place finish and a round of 16 bout with Brazil. That all changed after El Tri’s opening win against Germany. They only needed a draw on the day but even that was in jeopardy on Wednesday - not to mention their qualification hopes. A win by South Korea secured Mexico’s passage into the next round, which would have been toast had Germany been able to find a goal. Ultimately, it’s a clean slate and Mexico will be lucky to have salvaged at least that. Some may argue that they match well with Brazil, but even if they win on Monday, the Sweden loss has put them in the toughest side of the bracket. Maybe the tough competition will bring the best out of Mexico, but otherwise, this may have been a wasted opportunity.

Sweden, on their end, have not been getting the credit they deserve and this win will get them that. After leaving out the Netherlands and Italy in European qualifiers, the Nordic nation have won their group to set up an advantageous tie with a hobbling Switzerland. Nothing is guaranteed but Sweden look strong and a side that is ascending and one that should reach the quarter-finals.

Notable stat: Mexico repeated a starting XI for the first time under Manager Juan Carlos Osorio’s tenure.

South Korea 2-0 Germany

Kazan Arena, Kazan

Attendance: 41,835

Defending champions Germany had saved their hopes with a late goal over Sweden in their previous match and needed a win to advance. South Korea lost its first two matches but were hopeful to go through if Mexico could get a win over Sweden. Both teams would have their share of opportunities but could not find a way to break the other down through the full 90 minutes. Kim Younggwon would break the deadlock in the 91st minute off a corner - but there would be drama, of course there was. The goal was disallowed and marked as offside before referee Mark Geiger went to video review to determine the goal was legal. Germany sent everyone forward including goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who would abandon his goal. Son Heung-min scored South Korea’s second on the counter late in stoppage time to secure his country a win over the No. 1 ranked team.

Analysis: South Korea gave themselves a chance to qualify and may have done so if Mexico had won. They will lament not doing more in their first two matches as their opener against Sweden was decided by a penalty. They will leave with heads held high after a historic win but have plenty to work on if they want to make noise at Qatar 2022. Given that the next World Cup takes place in their continent, it would be their best chance to go far.

Germany, on their end, will end in embarrassment as this team becomes the most unsuccessful in recent history. The last time the Germans bowed out in the opening stage was at France 1938. The silver lining? When Germany were embarrassed by exiting the 2000 European Championship in the group stage, their reaction was to re-evaluate their shortcomings to produce one of their most successful generations. In my opinion, recent champions have failed to incorporate more youth in their squads to replenish their championship-winning sides instead of returning with virtually the same squad - just four years older. Expect Germany to come back strong and give way to younger players as the USA has done.

Notable stat: The defending champion has failed to move past the group phase for the third-straight World Cup and for the fourth time in the last five editions.

Serbia 0-2 Brazil

Spartak Stadium, Moscow

Attendance: 44,190

The possibilities for Brazil ranged from winning the group to potential elimination entering Wednesday. For Serbia, a win was a must to advance. Given what has already transpired in this World Cup, Brazil were not going to test their luck and wanted to secure a win as fast as possible. The five-time champions constantly pressed forward with their high-speed attack and took the lead in the 36th minute. Paulinho would be the man to get the goal, one he hit with a delicate poke to pop it over Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.

The Verde-Amarela would continue to press in the second half with Neymar while Mitrovic would lead the attack for the Serbians. Brazil would get their second goal off a corner, converted by defender Thiago Silva in the 68th minute. Brazil would continue to push for a third up until the final minute but the match would end with the 2-0 score.

Analysis: Serbia had it though in this group and could not come away with the result they needed in the end. Given that the loss against Brazil was expected, their wasted opportunity came by not beating Switzerland. This is a disappointing outing for a side that could have returned to their first round of 16 since France 1998. The only way to turn this around? Build on this result and qualify to Euro 2020.

Brazil, on the other hand, is looking good and morphing into the favorite most painted them as. The only pushback against them should be that they weren’t tested much but it’s not their fault who they were pit against. It should say something, however, that Brazil have not suffered as much as other non-European nations and that bodes well for their title hopes. Historically, Brazil has not struggled to adapt to different continents - winning a World Cup in four different ones - and are the only non-European side to win a World Cup hosted on European soil. If Brazil win this edition, they will have certainly earned it as they are forced to navigate the strong side of the bracket.

Notable stat: Brazil went through the group stage undefeated for the fifth consecutive World Cup, last losing a group match at France 1998.

Switzerland 2-2 Costa Rica

Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod

Attendance: 43,319

Switzerland knew a win would secure their ticket into the next round and the rest would be decided by what happened between Brazil-Serbia. Costa Rica, already eliminated, seeked redemption with a win on their way out. It would be the Central Americans who were strong in attack early on but a few unlucky plays, including hitting the top post, kept the match scoreless. Switzerland broke through in the 31st minute goal from Blerim Dzemaili to put things at 1-0, and that’s how the teams would arrive to halftime.

Kendall Waston would tie things in the 56th minute with a goal in his first World Cup start. Josip Drmic would regain the lead for the Swiss in the 88th minute. Costa Rica had an opportunity to equalize late thanks to a penalty. Bryan Ruiz’s shot hit the top post before bouncing off the back of the head of Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer. The match would end 2-2, a result that sent Switzerland through as the group’s second best team.

Analysis: Switzerland are through but are also swaying like a drunk into the knockout round. The biggest downside of their draw with Costa Rica is that they will be without two defenders due to yellow card accumulation, something that doesn’t bode well for them. The upside? They are on the soft side of the bracket and are pit against a familiar foe in Sweden. Passing as the second place team may turn out to be a blessing but not if they play like they did Wednesday.

Costa Rica, though, will leave with disappointment. They were unable to build on their Cinderella run in the last World Cup but didn’t even look like a side worthy to advance. Competing with Mexico and the United States, Costa Rica has not shown the consistency to carry the cache those countries have (and, yes, I know the USA missed the World Cup). They may remain as the better Central American country but they will fail to go far without more players gaining minutes in quality European leagues - and that, to me, is why they lacked quality at Russia 2018.

Notable stat: Costa Rica was the last team to score at Russia 2018, 426 minutes removed from Bryan Ruiz’s goal against Greece at Brazil 2014.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Thursday, June 27

9 a.m. - [Group H] Japan vs. Poland (FS1, NBC Universo)

9 a.m. - [Group H] Senegal vs. Colombia (FOX, Telemundo)

1 p.m. - [Group G] Panama vs. Tunisia (FS1, NBC Universo)

1 p.m. - [Group G] England vs. Belgium (FOX, Telemundo)

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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