Japan pulled another massive shocker as they did against Germany in the World Cup opening game by beating Spain 2-1 to top Group E.
The key Group E matchup tonight pitted Spain’s favorites against Japan.
Both teams had advanced to the knockout stage and were ranked first and second in the table prior to the match.
If Japan had avoided losing to Costa Rica, they would have been in a much more comfortable situation, but tonight they needed at least a draw, ideally a tie.
The most at ease side in the group was Spain, who would advance to the round of 16 with merely a draw.
The game began one minute after 7 o’clock CAT, with Spain wearing all red and Japan playing left to right in blue jerseys and white shorts.
Both teams played some fast-paced football in the opening minutes of the game, but Spain maintained possession regardless.
Spain made a mistake in the middle, which allowed Japan to come within a few inches of scoring.
Busquets misplaced the ball in the box, and Tanaka, to the left, was the recipient after a scramble.
Tanaka made a rather poor attempt from a tight angle as the ball went into the side net.
After Japan’s attempt, Spain quickly scored thanks to Alvaro Morata.
Morata got space between the two center backs to head in Azpilicueta’s cross from the corner of the area.
It was a very easy goal for Japan to concede, given that they needed at least a draw to stay in the game.
Favorites for the Golden Boot are, of course, Marcus Rashford and Alvaro Morata.
Alvaro Morata scored a header quickly after coming close with a previous attempt, giving Spain a 1-0 lead.
The spectators cheering for Japan did their utmost to motivate their side.
However, without the ball, it was difficult to participate in the game.
While Japan was pursuing the ball the entire time, Spain ate up all of the possession in the game.
The game’s possession statistics were astounding, even by the standards of Spain’s possession-based football. The ball had hardly been kept by the Japanese players.
Morata has received criticism in the past for his performance with Spain. But the Atletico Madrid striker is currently tied for the tournament’s most goals with three in three games for Spain in Qatar.
A few adjustments were made by both teams before the start of the second half of the game.
Dani Carvajal replaced Chelsea captain Azpilicueta for Spain. Kubo and Nagatomo left for Japan in place of Doan and Mitoma.
Japan unexpectedly entered the game again just three minutes into the second half.
The equalizer was Unai Simon’s fault; Doan fired from the edge of the box, and despite having two hands on the ball, Simon was powerless to stop it.
Despite not possessing the ball for one third of the game, Japan managed to tie the score.
Tanaka gave Japan the lead after just 60 seconds, which was huge!
Once more, it was Doan who sent the ball across the face of the goal, where Mitoma held it and then passed it to Tanaka, who bundled it in.
Morata and Williams were substituted in favor of Marco Asensio and Ferran Torres as coach Luis Enrique appeared frazzled.
Spain’s inexperience on major platforms was clear from their inability to accomplish much despite having a lot of possession.
After the second Japan goal, the country was unable to regain control of the game.
They appeared rattled here. The strength of this young Spanish team was put to the final test.
Despite all of Spain’s possession throughout the match, Japan came from behind to win them and top the Group E standings.
Germany again failed to qualify for the second time in a row just like in the 2018 edition of the tournament.
Also, Costa Rica were one of the teams eliminated from the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as they failed to advance beyond the group stage.