Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2022. 3:51 pm CST.
Photo Credit: FIFA
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Japan stunned Spain 2-1 turning around a game they were losing and qualified to the Round of 16 in first place in Group E. By goal difference, Spain also qualified over Germany who managed a come-from behind 4-2 win over Costa Rica. However, the victory was not enough for the 2014 champions who crashed out of a second World Cup in the group stage.
In one World Cup, Japan have now beaten two World Champions: Spain and Germany.
At the Khalifa International Stadium in Ar-Rayyan in front of 44,851 fans, Spain took the lead over Japan in the 11th minute on a header by Álvaro Morata. The pass came from the right side by César Azpilicueta and Morata, unguarded, headed the ball into the net. Goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda remained under the sticks facilitating Morata’s header.
Morata has now scored in all of Spain’s three games so far. The last Spaniard to do so was Telmo Zarra in 1959 who converted against the United States, Chile, and England.
David Villa also scored three in the first round in 2010 but went blank in the opening game which Spain lost 1-0 to Switzerland.
Spain looked like they would rout Japan, but after half an hour Japan, led by Takefusa Kubo, started pushing forward creating a number of opportunities.
At the start of the second half, Japan got their just deserves as they were to score two goals that turned the game around. In the 48th minute, substitute player Ritsu Doan took advantage of a loose ball as Spain tried to clear and smacked it beyond the grasp of goalkeeper Unai Simon to tie the ball game at 1-1. That goal changed the classification table with Spain first with four points. Japan and Germany were tied at four with a better goal differential for Japan.
Taking advantage of Spain’s momentary lapse, Japan attacked and scored again in the 50th minute. Doan advanced on the right side, crossed to the left. The ball slid in front of Simón. Two Japanese players went for it as it appeared to cross the goal line, sent back in, and Ao Tanaka smacked into the net. A Video Assistant Referee (VAR) check determined that the ball hadn’t crossed with its entire circumference over the line and the goal was validated.
Spain’s coach Luis Enrique was totally incensed while the Japanese fans could not believe themselves and celebrated effusively.
At that moment Japan took the lead, Spain were second, but Germany had the same number of points. If Costa Rica turned around the 1-0 score by which they were losing to Germany, Spain would be out. And for a while that happened when Costa Rica scored two and went up 2-1. But Germany eventually won 4-2, giving Spain the ticket to the next round behind Japan. Not the way they had planned it.
With four points, the same as Germany, Spain qualified on goal difference. Their 7-0 win over Costa Rica in their opener certainly came in handy.
They will now face Morocco in the next round while Japan will measure up against Croatia.
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