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WORLD CUP NOTEBOOK

Germany keeps advancement hopes alive with late draw vs. Spain

Niclas Fullkrug's goal in the 83rd minute kept Germany's hopes of reaching the round of 16 alive, at least until Thursday against Costa Rica.INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

Only a win for Germany in the final group game will give the four-time World Cup champions a chance to avoid a second straight early elimination.

At least they’re improving.

Substitute Niclas Füllkrug scored in the 83rd minute Sunday to give Germany a 1-1 draw against Spain at Al Bayt Stadium in one of the most anticipated matches of this year’s World Cup. A loss would not have eliminated Germany, but it would have left the team in a much more difficult position.

“It was important that we got this point,” Füllkrug said. “We definitely have a chance to get through to the next round now. We can now go into the last game with a good feeling and hope that everything goes well.”

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Germany’s fate will be decided on Thursday against Costa Rica. Even a win may not be enough for the Germans, who lost to Japan in their opener and are in last place in Group E.

If both Germany and Spain win, both will advance. If there is a draw in the Japan-Spain match, Germany will need to overcome a goal-difference deficit against the Japanese. If Japan is victorious, then the Germans will have to top Spain — which beat Costa Rica 7-0 — on goal difference to get through.

“I hope this will give us a boost,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said, adding that he was satisfied with the result and his team’s attitude. “We know that this was the first step and we want to see against Costa Rica if we can craft the conditions to go through to the round of 16.”

Costa Rica tops Japan

Essentially written off after being battered by Spain, Keysher Fuller has changed everything for Costa Rica.

Fuller took advantage of a defensive error and scored the only goal of the match to lead his team over Japan, 1-0.

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Keysher Fuller lifted Costa Rica to victory Sunday at the World Cup.Francisco Seco/Associated Press

“We’re still alive,” said Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez, a Colombian who also guided Ecuador and Honduras to World Cup berths. “We weren’t dead yesterday, and now we are very much in this. The main thing is we are still alive. No one can forget about us. We can still dream.”

Fuller scored his goal in the 81st minute after Japan failed to clear the ball. He hit the net from 18 yards, with the shot going in off the fingertips of leaping Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.

Morocco stuns Belgium

Morocco pulled off yet another World Cup shock, and Belgium’s aging “Golden Generation” took the hit this time.

The 2-0 upset left Kevin de Bruyne and the 2018 semifinalists in peril of a group-stage exit at what is likely the final World Cup for a highly talented Belgian group that haven’t managed to convert their promise into prizes.

It might now be too late.

De Bruyne didn’t drive Belgium forward against Morocco, captain Eden Hazard was taken off after an hour, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was probably at fault for the opening goal.

“We haven’t seen the best Belgium yet,” said Roberto Martinez, a Spaniard who has coached the team for six years. “We haven’t been ourselves.”

Belgium could have become the second team behind defending champion France to advance to the last 16 if it beat Morocco. But it dropped from first to third in Group F and now plays against 2018 World Cup finalist Croatia trying to avoid its earliest elimination since 1998.

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Morocco captain Romain Saiss gave his team the lead with a barely noticeable deflection off his hip after a free kick from Abdelhamid Sabiri in the 73rd minute that got under the body of Courtois. Zakaria Aboukhlal guided a shot into the roof of the net off a pass from Hakim Ziyech in stoppage time.

Morocco's Romain Saiss, right, helped lead his country to the upset victory.Clive Mason/Getty

Riot act

Riots broke out in several Belgian and Dutch cities after Morocco’s win.

Police detained about a dozen people after they deployed water cannons and fire tear gas to disperse crowds in Brussels and eight more in the Northern city of Antwerp. Two police officials were injured in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam. By late evening, an uneasy calm had returned to most of the cities involved.

Dozens of rioters overturned and torched cars, set electric scooters on fire, and pelted cars with bricks. Police moved in after one person suffered facial injuries, said Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere.

Brussels mayor Philippe Close urged people to stay away from the city center and said authorities were doing their utmost to keep order in the streets. Even subway and tram traffic had to be interrupted on police orders.

“Those are not fans, they are rioters. Moroccan fans are there to celebrate,” Close said. There were also disturbances in the city of Antwerp and Liege.

Tuning in

The United States’ 0-0 draw against England drew 19.98 million viewers for English- and Spanish-language broadcasts, the third-most watched men’s soccer game on US television.

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The match, which kicked off at 2 p.m. on Friday, was seen by 15,377,000 viewers on Fox, the most for a US English-language men’s soccer telecast. The figure was 6 percent above the 14.51 million for Brazil’s penalty-kicks win over Italy in the 1994 final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., a Sunday 3:30 p.m. start in mid-July on ABC.

The United States-England game was viewed by 4.6 million on Telemundo, a division of Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal. It was the third-most-watched Spanish language World Cup telecast in the United States since at least 2006, topped by the Americans’ 2-2 group-stage draw with Portugal in 2014, seen by 6.5 million on Univision with a 6 p.m. start in mid-June, and Brazil’s 2-0 win over Serbia on Thursday, a 2 p.m. game seen by 5.7 million on Thanksgiving.

According to Nielsen, the only men’s soccer matches with more viewership on US television were Germany’s win over Argentina in the 2014 final, seen by 22.67 million, and Spain’s victory over the Netherlands in 2010, seen by 21.36 million. Both those matches, televised by ABC and Univision, were on Sundays in July.