MLB Opening Day is still over a week away but several of baseball's biggest names will be in action on Tuesday – and Shohei Ohtani cannot wait.

The final of the World Baseball Classic will pit Ohtani's Japan against the might of defending champions the United States.

With Ohtani planning to hit and pitch in relief as he ramps up his preparations for the new season, all eyes will be on his potential matchup with Los Angeles Angels team-mate Mike Trout, the Team USA captain.

"It's not only Mike Trout, but one through nine in that order is filled with superstars, household names," Ohtani said.

"I'm just excited to face that lineup. It's a great thing for Japanese baseball."

Ohtani was speaking after Japan's dramatic 6-5 comeback win over Mexico that booked their spot in the final.

In an apparent nod to the Angels' eight-year absence from the MLB playoffs – spanning his entire career – Ohtani said: "It's been a while since I've played in a win-or-lose game, in a playoff atmosphere."

Munetaka Murakami, a Japanese Triple Crown winner last year, clinched Japan's victory with a walk-off double at the bottom of the ninth.

"It was the best, epic," said Boston Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida, while Mexico manager Benji Gil graciously added: "Japan advances, but the world of baseball won tonight."

That is still not enough for Ohtani, though, as the two-way superstar said: "Obviously, it's a big accomplishment to get to the championship series.

"But there's a big difference from being in first and second, so I'm going to do all I can to get that first place."

Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez has pulled out of Uruguay's squad for their upcoming friendlies.

The 23-year-old had been included in Uruguay's squad for the games against Japan and South Korea on March 24 and 28 respectively.

However, the Uruguayan Football Association and Liverpool both announced on Friday that Nunez will not be linking up with his international team-mates.

According to reports from Uruguay, the former Benfica man is recovering from an ankle injury sustained in Wednesday's 1-0 loss at Real Madrid.

Nunez has 14 goals and four assists in 33 appearances in his first campaign at Anfield – only Mohamed Salah (33) has been directly involved in more goals among Liverpool players.

Uruguay have called up Club America forward Jonathan Rodriguez as Nunez's replacement.

Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu has extended his contract with the national side following a successful performance at the World Cup in Qatar.

The Samurai Blue were one of the tournament's surprise packages, beating Germany and Spain in the group stages to top Group E, before suffering a penalty shoot-out defeat to Croatia in the last 16.

After impressing in Qatar, Japanese Football Association president Kozo Tajima announced Moriyasu had extended his contract to run until after the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Japan have featured in every World Cup tournament since 1998, including as co-hosts alongside South Korea four years later, but have never entered consecutive tournaments under the same head coach – a record Moriyasu will look to change.

Ranked 50th when he took charge in 2018, Japan have climbed to 20th in FIFA's World Rankings – their highest position since 2005 (15th).

The highest-ranked Asian nation, Moriyasu's side return to action in March, when they will play two friendlies as part of the 2023 Kirin Challenge Cup.  

The Boston Red Sox have agreed to a five-year, $90 million contract with Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida.

Yoshida, who is a four-time Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) All-Star, joined the Red Sox the day after he was posted by his Japanese team, the Orix Buffaloes, making him available to MLB franchises.

The Buffaloes are the reigning Japanese champions with Yoshida hitting .335/.441/.561 with 21 home runs, 80 walks and only 41 strikeouts from 508 plate appearances.

The Red Sox will also pay an additional $15.4m posting fee to the Buffaloes, rounding out the bumper deal at $105.4m.

Boston also agreed to a two-year, $32 million contract with former Atlanta Braves closer Kenley Jansen on Wednesday to add depth to their bullpen.

The Red Sox finished bottom of the AL East division with a 78-84 record in 2022.

Takehiro Tomiyasu described his own performance as a "disaster" as Japan were knocked out of the World Cup by Croatia on Monday.

Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida all missed their spot-kicks in a shoot-out following a 1-1 draw at Al Janoub Stadium, with Croatia advancing to a quarter-final against Brazil.

It meant Japan have been eliminated from all four of their round-of-16 appearances at the World Cup, while they have lost both of their penalty shoot-outs in the competition (also versus Paraguay in 2010).

Tomiyasu registered the worst pass completion rate of any outfield player to play the full 120 minutes (67.7 per cent), while he lost possession a game-high 27 times.

The Arsenal defender, who also failed to make a single tackle or interception, was disappointed with his display and said Japan need to be "much, much better" in future.

"Of course, we are so disappointed with the result," he said.

"My performance was a disaster so I am sorry for the team. I just need to be much, much better to help the team.

"It was not enough and also for the team, we did not deserve to win. We were so close to achieving our aim. They were better than us.

"I can't be proud. I am not satisfied about what happened. This is football and we need to be much, much better to win against a stronger team."

Tomiyasu will return to club duty with Arsenal now and will hope to feature in the Premier League leaders' first match after the World Cup against West Ham on December 26. 

Zlatko Dalic confidently declared the World Cup in Qatar will not be Luka Modric's last international tournament as the Croatia head coach insisted the midfielder will "strive for self-improvement".

Croatia have become accustomed to requiring extra time and penalties at FIFA's top tournament, edging past Japan with a shoot-out victory on Monday to tee up a quarter-final clash with Brazil.

Dalic's side needed penalties to defeat Denmark and Russia, then extra time against England, as they reached the final in 2018, the year in which Modric won the Ballon d'Or with his efforts for club and country.

The Real Madrid veteran is now 37, yet Dalic has no doubts he can call upon the evergreen veteran past the tournament in Qatar.

"This will not be Luka’s last tournament," Dalic said. "He will continue to play for Croatia, I am absolutely certain of that.

"Luka continues to work hard and he continues to strive for self-improvement. We will need him for some time more in the future."

Croatia have a fine record at the World Cup, finishing third in 1998 and runners-up in 2018, with another chance to reach the last four if they can overcome Brazil at the Education City Stadium on Friday.

Dalic believes the performances of Croatia on the global stage are "unrivalled" as his side aim to cause an upset against one of the pre-tournament favourites.

"The results we have produced at the World Cup and in European Championships over the last few years are unrivalled for a country of our size," he added.

"I believe this team has given great success to our people – and when you look at it this really is a miracle.

"We have become a force in world football because we are a nation who always feels like we have to prove ourselves."

Dejan Lovren believes Croatia showed the world – including former team-mate Mohamed Salah – they were not "lucky" at Russia 2018 by returning to the World Cup quarter-finals on Monday.

Croatia reached the final of the previous tournament, losing 4-2 to France, although they had to go through penalty shoot-outs against Denmark and Russia, then extra time against England.

Lovren and his team-mates advanced to the last eight at Qatar 2022 by defeating Japan, again relying on spot-kicks as Dominik Livakovic made three saves in a 3-1 shoot-out success.

Despite the nature of the victory, the centre-back felt his side had proven a point.

"How? Why? Maybe it is written in the stars that Croatia need to go like this," Lovren said. "We need to suffer. Without suffering, there is no reward.

"We showed to the world we are in the best eight of the world, that 2018 didn't happen just luckily.

"Especially my friend Salah said to me, 'penalties, penalties'. I said, 'okay, let me show you'. It's great that we showed to the world that we are really strong."

Lovren's hopes of advancing though another shoot-out were boosted by Sunday's training session, which had seen a similarly inspired Livakovic display.

"In the training session, we practised the penalties and he saved almost all penalties," Lovren added.

"We said to ourselves, 'wow, we are really bad at shooting'. I said to him, 'just be that'. He showed that today.

"Penalties are a lottery, but to be honest I was a little bit more calm today, because yesterday he really showed his quality in the training when he saved almost all penalties. Fantastic."

Livakovic was not Croatia's only hero, with Ivan Perisic earlier equalising with his record 10th major tournament goal, surpassing the great Davor Suker (nine).

"We had this extra experience from 2018, mixed with a younger generation," Lovren said.

"I'm really proud of my team. We kept calm even when we were 1-0 down. It was a really important goal from Perisic."

Croatia would play the winner of the match between Brazil and South Korea, in which the Selecao were racing into a big first-half lead as Perisic added: "It doesn't matter who, we have to be prepared to play our game. If we fight like today, everything is possible."

Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic produced another Croatian penalty shoot-out masterclass, and was delighted to have followed in the footsteps of his predecessors.

Livakovic saved three penalties as Croatia triumphed 3-1 on spot-kicks after a 1-1 draw against Japan at Al Janoub Stadium to progress to a quarter-final against either Brazil or South Korea.

His efforts mirrored that of Danijel Subasic, who also made three saves when Croatia edged past Denmark at the same stage four years ago in Russia.

"It's what we do in Croatia," Livakovic said. "You could see that four years ago. I continue the tradition of my predecessors and I put it down to the analysis we do of the penalty takers."

Croatia were second best in the first half and trailed at the break to Daizen Maeda's close-range strike. Ivan Perisic dragged his side level with a wonderful header 10 minutes into the second half with extra time failing to separate two determined but limited sides.

"It's important to win, but it's always easier to resolve the game in 90 minutes because penalties are risky," added Livakovic, who attempted to play down his heroics.

"This time the penalties worked well for us. I don't think they were difficult ones to save. We did an analysis prior to this match."

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic praised his modest goalkeeper, although his heroics came as no surprise.

"We have a fantastic goalkeeper, he was unbeatable," said Dalic. "When we started the shoot-out, I was very confident. He was great in training yesterday and I had no doubt he would demonstrate that again today.

"We had made several substitutions and didn't have the likes of [Luka] Modric, [Mateo] Kovacic and Perisic on the field but all our problems were resolved by Livakovic.

"He proved to be like Subasic in Russia, history keeps repeating itself."

Croatia have a fine record at the World Cup, finishing third in 1998 and runners-up in 2018. The squad from Russia has largely broken up and Dalic called on today's players to make their own mark.

"This generation is resilient, they don't give up," he said. "They reflect the spirit of the Croatian people. We have been through so much pain that the Croatian national team is now a source of pride.

"We had a great generation in 2018, but we now have 18 new players and I told them that this is their chance to make history."

Defeat ended a remarkable run for Japan that saw them beat Germany and Spain. A first World Cup quarter-final appearance eluded them, though.

Coach Hajime Moriyasu was full of admiration for his players and denied they had wilted under the pressure.

I don't think so, no," he said. "Their goalkeeper was great and the Japanese players that took the penalties were very courageous.

"We obviously wanted to win, but it does not negate the efforts of the players. I think Japanese football can continue to grow.

"We cannot do everything at once, we cannot become superheroes in one go, we need to improve little by little, but Japan is reaching a level where we can play on the world stage."

Dominik Livakovic became Croatia's latest penalty hero as they again survived a World Cup shoot-out on Monday, beating Japan 3-1 from the spot after a turgid 1-1 draw at Al Janoub Stadium.

Goalkeeper Livakovic saved spot-kicks from Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida to send Croatia through to the quarter-finals.

Danijel Subasic had likewise kept out three penalties in a last-16 shoot-out during a run to the final in Russia four years ago, with Croatia now having won each of their three World Cup knockout ties that have gone all the way.

The result was a little harsh on Japan, who had led through Daizen Maeda before Ivan Perisic equalised, although neither side impressed ahead of a meeting with either Brazil or South Korea in the next round.

An entertaining start was not an indicator of what was to come. Shogo Taniguchi headed wide at one end and Perisic was denied at the other, but there was not another clear-cut chance until the opener two minutes before half-time.

Ritsu Doan's cross following a short corner reached the centre of the area, where Maya Yoshida's attempt at a shot succeeded instead in teeing up Maeda for a close-range finish.

Croatia had not looked like crafting a goal of their own, but they were level 10 minutes after the restart when Perisic met Dejan Lovren's delivery with a superb header into the bottom-right corner.

Although Ante Budimir soon nodded off target, opportunities remained scarce and Lovro Majer dragged wide with the final kick of extra time to condemn the tie to penalties.

Livakovic kept out Japan's first two attempts, with his save from Mitoma particularly impressive, and Croatia could ease through even with Marko Livaja clipping a dreadful effort against the post.

Gavi is retaining faith in Spain's style of player even if the impressive teenage star knows La Rojo must learn from the mistakes made against Japan when they face Morocco in the last 16 of the World Cup.

Spain were on course to top Group E when Alvaro Morata headed an early opener on Wednesday, but goals from Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka helped the Samurai Blue leapfrog their opponents in stunning fashion.

For three incredible minutes, Spain even looked set to join Germany in making an early exit as Costa Rica briefly occupied second place.

Spain ultimately survived despite seeing their seven-match unbeaten run (excluding shoot-outs) at the World Cup halted, and Gavi says Tuesday's game represents a chance to right some wrongs.

"The match against Japan has to serve as a lesson for what is to come. Luckily, that defeat has been resolved and we are clear about what we have to do," Gavi told Marca.

"We are in the round of 16 and there are some very good teams that haven't been able to do it. That's why we have to really think that pressure is a privilege."

Spain completed 2,489 passes in their group-stage campaign, their most at a single tournament on record (since 1966), while their tally of 969 passes against Japan was a record for a losing team at the tournament.

While Morocco showed their counter-attacking quality to claim four points from games against Croatia and Belgium, Gavi believes Spain must stick to their principles.

"We are not going to lose focus on the goal, which is to win the World Cup," he added. 

"We are going to look for it by being faithful to what we have been doing all these years. It would be a mistake to give up everything we believe in."

Morocco are featuring in the knockout stages of a World Cup for just the second time, having been beaten at this stage by West Germany in 1986.

The Atlas Lions are chasing a slice of history on Tuesday, when they could match the longest unbeaten run managed by an African side at the World Cup – currently Cameroon's five-game sequence between 1982 and 1990.

After a 2-1 win over Canada ensured Morocco topped Group F, coach Walid Regragui called for his side to aim high.

"We didn't come just to say 'oh, we almost got close'," he said. "We need to get the results as all the European or South American teams do. We need to emulate them."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Morocco – Hakim Ziyech 

While Romain Saiss and Nayef Aguerd are likely to be busy in the Morocco backline, Regragui's men will carry a threat at the other end – chiefly through Chelsea creator Ziyech.

Ziyech has played more passes into the box (17) and created more chances (4) than any other Morocco player at the World Cup, as well as leading his team-mates for ball carries (43) and combined distance carried (477.6 metres).

While Ziyech's counter-attacking prowess is clear, he also scored his first World Cup goal last time out, and the 29-year-old could be a thorn in Spain's side.

Spain – Alvaro Morata

While Barcelona playmakers Gavi and Pedri have stolen the headlines for Spain in Qatar, fine margins can often decide knockout games – and Morata's contribution could be key. 

Though maligned by some, Morata has been consistent in front of goal at this tournament, hitting the net on each of his three appearances despite playing a total of just 126 minutes.

Morata started two of Spain's three knockout games at Euro 2020 last year, and if he can reward Luis Enrique's faith with another goal, he will join David Villa as just the second Spanish player to score in four consecutive World Cup matches.

PREDICTION

Spain have never lost in their three previous meetings with Morocco (W2 D1), and Opta's prediction model makes them strong favourites to advance to the last eight, giving them a 61.3 per cent chance of victory.

However, Morocco did claim a 2-2 draw in the teams' only previous World Cup contest in 2018, and a repeat – which would mean extra-time and potentially penalties – is given a 24 per cent chance. 

The Atlas Lions have provided one of the great underdog stories of this tournament, but their chances of an historic victory are rated at just 14.7 per cent, making them big outsiders.

Spain midfielder Pedri believes their loss to Japan has been a wake-up call for their World Cup campaign ahead of their last-16 tie with Morocco on Monday.

La Roja missed out on top spot in Group E after a shock defeat to the Samurai Blue, but still qualified after Germany beat Costa Rica elsewhere at Qatar 2022.

Having been firm favourites to top the pile and secure a more favourable knockout round tie, Luis Enrique's side will instead face Morocco after their own surprise campaign.

But with no safety net now going forward, Pedri says Spain are more than aware that there will be no second chances after suffering the unexpected defeat.

"We have realised all matches or life and death," he told Sport. "The last game was a tough match. It was a hard blow – we didn't expect that result against Japan.

"Luckily, we have another opportunity. But if we go missing for 10 minutes, if you disconnect, you go home. If they score, it can be the only one they need."

At one point during their final Group E game, Spain looked set to miss out on the knockouts entirely, with Costa Rica instead set to go through as they led Germany.

Pedri revealed he was not able to focus on matters elsewhere after he discovered La Roja could be going out, instead attempting to ensure Spain turned their game around instead.

"I was looking at the scoreboard," he added. "When I saw Costa Rica were second, and we were out, I was trying to look for the goal.

"I didn't realise Germany had took the lead, and we were second again. I was in anguish throughout the game."

Zlatko Dalic stressed that staying disciplined will be crucial if Croatia are to defeat Japan and reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

Croatia, runners-up in Group F behind Morocco, face Japan on Monday in the last 16.

Japan were the shock victors of Group E in Qatar, having claimed 2-1 victories over Germany and Spain either side of a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica.

Runners-up to France in 2018, Croatia have only lost two of their eight knockout stage games at the World Cup (W4 D2), while Japan have never progressed beyond the last 16.

Hajime Moriyasu's team have shown their quality against top sides, however, and Dalic knows his team must stay regimented if they are to avoid an upset.

"Spain might have thought it was going to be easier, but Japan are a team that do not quit, as they showed against Germany as well," Dalic told reporters.

"At some point, when Costa Rica were leading against Germany, Spain were out of the tournament, so they couldn't allow themselves to lose. Japan deserved to win.

"Before the group stage, if we could choose an opponent in the next round, some people may have said Japan, but after seeing them beat Germany and Spain, they are anything but an easier opponent.

"If you are first in a group with Germany and Spain, it shows your quality and that you are playing at a really high level. What I would say about the Japanese team is that they never quit. They conceded goals at the beginning of the match both against Germany and Spain, but they came back.

"They had a lot of faith in themselves, and that is a great virtue of the Japan national team. For us, it will be key that we are also disciplined and patient. We cannot make mistakes, because Japan has the quality to punish those mistakes. We need to be good at falling back if we lose the ball."

Croatia might have progressed from a group that also included Belgium and Canada, but failed to score in two of their matches – they had only drawn a blank in two of 13 matches at the tournament in the 2006, 2014 and 2018 editions combined.

Dalic's side like to control possession, but that could play into Japan's hands. They averaged just 32.3 per cent of the ball across their three group stage games. Indeed, their two wins over Spain and Germany came with 17.7 per cent and 26.1 per cent possession respectively, while the one match they lost came when they had more of the ball against Costa Rica (56.8 per cent).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Japan – Ritsu Doan

Three of Japan's four goals scored have been scored by substitutes. Ritsu Doan has netted two of these. 

Only three players have ever scored at least three goals as a substitute at a single World Cup – Andre Schurrle in 2014 (three), Roger Milla in 1990 (four), and Laszlo Kiss in 1982 (three).

Croatia – Ivan Perisic

Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric run the midfield for Croatia, but their attack is not quite as world-class.

That being said, in Ivan Perisic they have a wide player more than capable of chipping in. The 33-year-old has scored nine goals at major tournaments, which is a joint record for Croatia along with Davor Suker.

Perisic has also set up seven goals at either the Euros or the World Cup, a national record, and no Croatia player has had more shots so far in Qatar than his tally of five.

PREDICTION

This will be the third World Cup meeting between Japan and Croatia, with Japan winless and goalless in the previous two – a 1-0 defeat in 1998 and a goalless draw in 2006, both in the group stage. 

Opta's model says the odds are against Japan, who are given a 26 per cent chance of progressing to the last eight. Croatia are the favourites (46.1 per cent).

Do not be surprised to see this one go to extra-time, though – the draw is ranked at a 27.9 per cent chance.

Yuto Nagatomo wants his Japan team-mates to "fight like samurais" when they face Croatia in the last 16 of the World Cup.

Japan shocked many by winning Group E in Qatar, beating former world champions Germany and Spain to do so.

The Samurai Blue were eliminated in the 2018 tournament by Belgium in the round of 16, losing 3-2 after taking a two-goal lead.

Four years on and Nagatomo, who played in that game in Rostov, thinks the challenge of getting over that blow will only strengthen what he calls the "strongest" Japan team in World Cup history.

"Of course I've never forgotten [the Belgium loss]," Nagatomo told reporters. "It always remained with me, sometimes suddenly I remember things from that game.

"The last four years have been very tough for me, my thoughts were always on the Qatar World Cup, but we overcame those challenging four years and I think we grew mentally and physically.

"Since 2008, I've been participating about 15 years in the World Cup process, but as far as I can see, this team is the strongest in the history of Japan's participation in the World Cup.

"We intend to beat Croatia and enjoy a new landscape and I'm looking forward to shouting 'bravo' out loud."

Hajime Moriyasu's side showed spirit in their wins against Germany and Spain, coming from a goal down to beat both 2-1, and Nagatomo revealed where some of their belief may have come from.

"Before the Germany game, there is a word in Italian, 'couragio', which means 'courage', so I shook hands with each player and we said 'couragio' together," the former Inter man said.

"I think all the players are manifesting this 'couragio' play, sometimes on the field or on the bench, but the atmosphere on the bench is also very good. I can really feel we are united as one and this is Japan's strength. I think we are the most united team at this World Cup.

"I don't need to say 'couragio' anymore, they are passionate enough and I'm sure we're going to show the world very passionate play tomorrow. We will win.

"I mentioned before that we use the analogy of the samurai, before they go to battle they polish their weapons, improve their techniques, but if they are scared during the battle, they will not be able to use them properly. It's the same with football.

"Of course, tactics are important, but no matter how much we improve those, if we are scared on the field, those things are useless. In order for us to maximise all the tactics we've been talking about in the last four years, the first thing we need is courage. Tomorrow, we want to showcase how courageously we are fighting."

When asked to elaborate on his samurai point, Nagatomo said: "Yes, I am the one who of course talks about the samurais very often. In the world, the Japanese samurais are very famous, so we'd like to fight like samurais. I think this is a great opportunity to show how we can fight as the samurai."

Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic also alluded to the "samurai philosophy", but insisted his players will be ready, having played a part in eliminating Japan's 2018 tormentors Belgium in the group stage.

"What I find to be of utmost importance is to demonstrate respect for opponents," Dalic said. "They beat two World Cup winners, they showed their mental strength and quality.

"What I said to my players [is] 'never underestimate'. They will bring samurai philosophy in their game, we'll do our part. We know what they are, who they are, their mentality. We must apply the same attitude. We must do our best and never underestimate, show maximum respect and we'll see who is the best team."

FIFA has defended the VAR verdict that saw Japan score a controversial goal against Spain, knocking Germany out of the World Cup in the process.

The video assistant referee ruled there was nothing wrong with Japan's winner in Thursday's game, scored by Ao Tanaka.

Television replays cast some doubt on that decision, with Kaoru Mitoma crossing from a position where, from certain angles, the ball looked to have run off the pitch.

Tanaka bundled the ball over the line, and a drawn-out VAR review ruled Brighton and Hove Albion player Mitoma had kept the ball in play.

On Friday, FIFA blamed "misleading images" for appearing to point to the ball having fully left the boundaries of the pitch.

The world governing body insisted its VAR integrity was as watertight as could be, with the video evidence it presented showing the whole of the ball had not crossed the dead-ball line, even though almost all of it had.

Such replays had been a long time in coming, critics said, with a number of broadcast pundits questioning on Thursday why such forensic images were not shown during the game coverage, if they were made available to the VAR.

FIFA's statement, issued on Twitter, read: "Japan's second goal in their 2-1 win over Spain was checked by VAR to determine if the ball had gone out of play. The video match officials used the goal line camera images to check if the ball was still partially on the line or not.

"Other cameras may offer misleading images but on the evidence available, the whole of the ball was not out of play."

The outcome of the game means Spain go forward to face Morocco in the last-16 stage, while Japan, as Group E winners, will take on Croatia, who were runners-up in Group F.

Four-time champions Germany exited the tournament because of Japan's 2-1 win, with their own 4-2 success over Costa Rica proving nothing more than a consolation.

Joshua Kimmich described Germany's humiliating World Cup exit as the worst moment of his career as Japan and Spain progressed following a dramatic Group E finale on Thursday.

Germany began their final fixture against Costa Rica knowing a win would likely take them into the last 16 if Japan failed to beat Spain, and Hansi Flick's men held up their end of the bargain with a 4-2 victory.

However, Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka scored as Japan staged a remarkable comeback to beat La Roja, ensuring they emerged as surprise group winners and ending Germany's bid for a fifth World Cup triumph.

Germany have now failed to progress beyond the group stage at consecutive World Cups after doing so on each of their previous 16 appearances at the tournament, leaving Kimmich devastated.

"For me personally, this is the worst day of my career. I'm afraid I'll fall into a hole," Kimmich told reporters. "It makes you think these failures are connected to my person.

"This is definitely the most difficult day of my career for me. The second time being eliminated at a World Cup, in between we had the Euros, where we were eliminated early. 

"That is bitter and there have been many missed opportunities within the last four years."

Germany reached the semi-finals of Kimmich's first major tournament at Euro 2016, but they have since fallen at the first hurdle at two World Cups and suffered a last-16 defeat to England at Euro 2020.

Costa Rica briefly took a surprise lead when Manuel Neuer put through his own net with 20 minutes remaining on Thursday, and Germany have now gone 12 major tournament games without a clean sheet (World Cup/Euros) – their longest ever streak.

Kimmich's fellow midfielder Ilkay Gundogan hit out at Die Nationalmannschaft's defending as he called on his team-mates to reflect on their shortcomings.

"We concede goals too easily, we lose balls too easily and up front we miss goalscoring chances too easily," Gundogan said.

"Of course, as Germany, we have to have different aspirations, so we have to take a good look at ourselves. 

"We just didn't manage to do our best as a group, or maybe individually. We have to question what the reasons were and everyone has to look in the mirror and tell themselves that it wasn't enough."

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