Spain wobbled into the round of 16 of the World Cup on Thursday despite a 1-2 defeat to Japan, whose team won a substantial Group E in a roller coaster night that saw home four-time champion Germany eliminated. Japan clinched another incredible victory after beating Germany in the opening match, with them breaking through the “group of death”, one of the greatest achievements in the country’s football history. For a few heart-pounding minutes, Spain were poised to take the lead with Costa Rica holding the lead in the other game, but the 2010 champions passed after Germany helped them come back up to beat Los Ticos.
Spain and Germany both have 4 points, but La Roja goes on through goal difference.
Alvaro Morata put Spain ahead early with a dangerous header, but Japan counter-attacked spectacularly early in the second half.
Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka’s goals gave them an impressive comeback, just as they did against Germany.
Tanaka’s goal caused great controversy after the referees relied on VAR to decide that Kaoru Mitoma had narrowly let the ball in for him to score.
Spain struggled to create a chance against Japan’s solid defense in the final stages, with the Asian side knowing that conceding one more goal would knock them out.
The Japanese players collapsed at full time to celebrate, exhausted and excited, while the substitutes ran out to celebrate.
Spain face Morocco in the round of 16, while Japan plays Croatia.
– Roller Coaster Night –
Both sides made five substitutions, with Luis Enrique putting Morata in the lead while also handing Alejandro Balde and Nico Williams the starting spots.
Japan started with five at the back, hoping to keep Spain, but ramped up attack to try to capitalize on any mistakes.
Spain sometimes fouls up defensively and Pau Torres proved it with a sloppy touch that led to Japan’s first chance, courtesy of Junya Ito putting the ball into the net.
Morata gave La Roja the lead after 12 minutes with a dangerous header from Cesar Azpilicueta‘, rekindling the link that sometimes worked at Chelsea following the striker’s arrival in 2017.
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu replaced Takefuso Kubo inefficiently and Yuto Nagatomo at the time of the break with Mitoma and Doan, and it paid dividends immediately.
Balde lost the ball under pressure and from the edge of the box, winger Doan made it through Unai Simonwho could have done more to prevent it.
Three minutes later, Japan turned the game around, with Tanaka finishing from the top of the line after Mitoma had miraculously kept the ball when he passed it – according to VAR.
Spain were shocked and struggled to react, with Luis Enrique making a series of substitutions to try to regain control.
The coach, alone and sitting at the edge of his technical area, was unaware that for a few moments his team was facing disqualification, as Costa Rica took the lead against Germany in the match. remaining with a score of 2-1.
Spain survived, progressing on a remarkable goal difference, on a night far more terrifying than they had anticipated — and Japan pulled off an incredible feat.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)
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