|Ao Tanaka of Japan passes the ball under the pressure of Pedri of Spain during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Japan and Spain at Khalifa International Stadium on December 1, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.|
Japan produced a stunning win at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, beating Spain 2-1 and securing a spot in the Group of 16 with four-time champions Germany crashing out of the tournament.
Germany claimed a 4-2 victory over Costa Rica in their last Group E match, but it wasn’t enough as they tumbled out at the first hurdle for the second consecutive time.
Germany finished third in the standings on Thursday, behind Spain on goal difference, with Japan topping the group.
If Japan had either drawn 1-1 or lost, Germany would have scraped through on goal difference.
It was the first time in their illustrious World Cup history that Germany – ranked 11th in the FIFA world rankings – had failed to win any of their first two group matches and despite bagging a win on their last attempt, they will leave Qatar with dropped heads .
“For me personally this is an absolute catastrophe,” Germany forward Thomas Müller, 33, told ARD, suggesting he will now retire from international football.
“If this was my last game, I want to say a few words to our fans who have supported me for years. I have always tried to leave my heart on the field.”
Spain looked in total control at half-time after taking the lead through Alvaro Morata’s early header.
Japan turned things around in the space of five minutes at the start of the second half when substitute Ritsu Doan equalized before Ao Tanaka netted another.
The goal was allowed to stand following a lengthy VAR review after the ball appeared to have gone out of play.
Japan, who had opened their campaign with a shock win against Germany but then were beaten by Costa Rica, almost snatched an early lead when Junya Ito fired into the side-netting.
As news came through of Germany scoring an early goal against Costa Rica, the Samurai Blue fans became subdued, mirroring their team on the pitch.
There was a rare moment of action in the Spain penalty area just after the half-hour mark when goalkeeper Unai Simon dwelt on the ball a bit too long, and Daizen Maeda almost capitalized.
Spain continued to dominate possession and although it seemed only a matter of time before they would open up Japan’s defense again, there were no more goals ahead of the break.
Spain was caught trying to play out from the back as Freiburg winger Doan picked up possession just outside the penalty area and drilled a shot past Simon, who could only palm the ball into the top left corner.
Japan completed another remarkable turnaround when they took the lead in the 51st minute.
Doan was again involved as his low cross went right through the six-yard box and was cut back in by Mitoma from the goal line at the far post, with Tanaka bundling the ball home.
A lengthy VAR check followed and officials eventually ruled that the whole of the ball had not crossed the line – a decision which sparked pandemonium among the now jubilant Samurai Blue faithful.
Japan created another good opening with 20 minutes left when Mitoma broke down the left and clipped a pass back across to the edge of the penalty area where Takuma Asano arrived at pace, but the Bochum forward could only skew his shot wide.
Spain pushed for an equalizer and Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda made a smart reaction save to push away a low drive from Asensio before then collecting Dani Olmo’s angled shot at the near post as Japan celebrated another remarkable victory and a place in the last 16.
They will now meet Group F runner-up Croatia in the next round.