World Cup 2022 - Japan 2-1 Spain: Tanaka's controversial goal stuns Spain but both sides advance

Chuck Blake

Updated: Dec 02, 2022 05:53

World Cup 2022 - Japan 2-1 Spain: Ao Tanaka's controversial goal stuns Luis Enrique's side but both sides advance

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Japan players celebrate their equaliser against Spain

With a highly contentious goal, Japan overcame a deficit to defeat Spain 2-1 and take the lead in Group E. Luis Enrique's team needed to win out on goal differential to advance as runners-up ahead of Germany.

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Match report as Japan reach last 16 as Group E winners with stunning 2-1 win over Spain; Alvaro Morata opened scoring but Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka struck back; Japan's winning goal was hugely controversial but VAR ruled in their favour


At the Khalifa International Stadium, Spain completely dominated the first half and appeared poised to progress in first place as Alvaro Morata headed in his third goal of the competition (11).

Thursday's thrilling finale as it happened

7.10pm UK time – Gnabry gives Germany a fast start against Costa Rica, but they still need Spain to beat Japan.

7.11pm - Morata heads in Spain’s opener. Germany move above Japan in the live table into second place.

8.04pm - Doan drives in an equaliser for Japan. They move level with Germany on points, goal difference, goals scored – but are ahead on head-to-head record.

8.06pm - Tanaka bundles in another Japan goal to lead Spain 2-1. Japan move top of group, Spain second and Germany third and going out on goal difference.

8.14pm – Tejeda scores an equaliser for Costa Rica, who go up to third in the table, behind Spain on goal difference. Germany sit bottom.

8.26pm - Vargas puts Costa Rica ahead vs Germany – and incredibly Germany and Spain are going home with Japan top and Costa Rica sitting second.

8.29pm - Havertz almost instantly equalises for Germany. They’re still bottom of the group but Spain move back above Costa Rica on goal difference.

8.41pm - Havertz puts Germany back in front. Germany move up to third in the group. They need Spain to equalise against group leaders Japan and they will go above Japan on goals scored

8.46pm – Fullkrug adds another for Germany – but that doesn’t change their situation. They still need a Spain equaliser.

8.53pm - The final whistle in the Spain game leaves Costa Rica and Germany eliminated from the World Cup.

But after the break, everything changed when Kaoru Mitoma's cut-back, which initially appeared to have gone out of play, was turned around by Ao Tanaka and substitute Ritsu Doan, who equalized with a shot from the edge of the box (48). (51).

After the goal, there was a lengthy VAR review, but it shockingly decided in favor of Japan because the full curvature of the ball was not deemed to have crossed the line. This left Spain, who had been sluggish in the second half despite having earlier dominance, to worry about their spot in the round of 16.

Spain was about to go out with Hansi Flick's team when Costa Rica took the lead in their 4-2 loss to Germany. However, Spain's better goal difference, owing to their 7-0 victory over Costa Rica in their opening game, guaranteed they advanced to the knockout stages at the expense of Germany.

Spain will now take on Morocco in the round of 16, while Japan—which also rallied from a deficit to defeat Germany but fell short against Costa Rica—now face Croatia.

The controversial winner in pictures


The ball appeared to be over the line before Japan's Kaoru Mitoma cut it back to Ao Tanaka for the second goal


Mitoma was meeting a Ritsu Doan cross at the byline


VAR ruled in favour of Japan, saying the curvature of the ball had not crossed the line

What does the result mean?

Japan finish top of Group E with six points, meaning they will face Group F runners-up Croata in the last 16 on Monday, with kick-off at 3pm.

Spain finish second on four points, ahead of Germany on goal difference, and will face Group F winners Morocco in the last 16 on Tuesday, kicking off at 3pm.

Costa Rica finish bottom of Group E on three points and, like Germany, exit the competition.


Japan's Ritsu Doan, left, celebrates with teammate Kaoru Mitoma

Japan the comeback kings - Opta stats

Japan have progressed to the knockout rounds in consecutive World Cup tournaments for the first time, while they've finished top of their group for the first time since 2002.

Japan have become the third team in World Cup history to be losing at half time and come back to win two matches in a single edition, after Brazil in 1938 and Germany in 1970.

Japan had just 18 per cent possession against Spain, the lowest share of the ball for a winning team in a World Cup match since records began in 1966.

Three of Japan's last four goals at the World Cup have been scored by substitutes, as many as they'd scored via subs in their first 20 goals in the competition.

Alvaro Morata scored his ninth goal in just 13 appearances at major tournaments for Spain (World Cup and Euros). Only David Villa (13 in 16 apps) has scored more such goals for the country.

At 25 years 98 days old, Spain started with their youngest XI in a World Cup match since their 3-1 defeat to France in the round of 16 in 2006 (24y 321d).

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