By AP and published by US News & World Report
Doha, Qatar – Same stadium. Same result. Similar shocking victory for Japan at the World Cup.
After beating Germany 2-1 in its opener, Japan found its way into the round of 16 of the World Cup by defeating Spain by the same score in its last group game on Thursday.
Spain also advanced despite the loss.
Japan scored twice early in the second half to come from behind and defeat another European powerhouse and make it to the knockout stage for the second straight time. It was the first time Japan has advanced past the group stage in back-to-back tournaments.
Ao Tanaka scored the winning goal from close range early in the second half. It took about two minutes for video review officials to confirm the ball hadn’t gone out of bounds before the goal that gave Japan the win at Khalifa International Stadium, which is where Japan had shocked Germany in its opener.
Japan finished at the top of Group E to set up a last-16 matchup against Croatia. Spain finished second and will take on Morocco.
Spain and Germany — which beat Costa Rica 4-2 — both had three points in the group. But Spain had a superior goal difference from its first group match so Germany was eliminated.
The group standings bounced back and forth during both matches. Costa Rica was beating Germany at one point. If that result had stood, Costa Rica would have eliminated Spain.
Álvaro Morata scored first for Spain in the 11th minute and Spain was in control until Japan rallied after halftime. Ritsu Doan equalized in the 48th with a left-footed shot from outside the box, and Tanaka added the second three minutes later.
Morata became the first player to score in the first three Spain matches at the World Cup since Telmo Zarra in 1950.
Spain had opened with a 7-0 rout of Costa Rica before conceding late in a 1-1 draw against Germany.
Japan was eliminated by Belgium in the last 16 in Russia. It has never gone past the round of 16 at World Cups.
Germany out of World Cup despite 4-2 win over Costa Rica
The four-time champions beat Costa Rica 4-2 on Thursday but it wasn’t enough to reach the round of 16. Japan’s 2-1 victory over Spain in the other group game allowed both of those teams to advance instead, with the Japanese team finishing at the top of Group E.
“I was just in the changing room and as you can imagine, the disappointment is huge,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said.
Playing as defending champions at the last World Cup, Germany also was knocked out in the group stage.
Germany, which lost to Japan in its opening match in Qatar, needed help from the other match in order to advance with a victory at Al Bayt Stadium, but things didn’t go its way. If Spain had beaten Japan, the Germans would have finished second in the group.
It all started so well with Serge Gnabry putting Germany in front against Costa Rica with a 10th-minute header and Spain taking an early lead against Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
Both matches were turned upside down in the second half.
Yeltsin Tejeda evened the score in the 58th minute and Juan Vargas scrambled another in the 70th, putting Costa Rica ahead 2-1 and on target to advance at Spain’s expense.
But Germany substitute Kai Havertz made it 2-2 three minutes later and then restored Germany’s lead in the 85th. Another substitute, Niclas Füllkrug, added the fourth.
Japan finished at the top of Group E with six points, two more than both Spain and Germany. Spain progressed because of its better goal difference, with most of them coming from its opening 7-0 rout of Costa Rica, and will next face Morocco. Japan will take on Croatia.
Germany would have needed five more goals to match the Spanish tally.
The match was also notable because French referee Stéphanie Frappart became the first woman to officiate a men’s World Cup match.
Top: Japan’s Ao Tanaka scores his side’s second goal during the World Cup group E soccer match between Japan and Spain, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Photo: AP /Darko Vojinovic and published by US News & World Report
Insert: Germany’s Serge Gnabry scores his side’s opening goal during the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Photo: AP /Matthias Schrader and published by US News & World Report
Front Page: Japan’s Ritsu Doan celebrates scoring his side’s first goal during a World Cup group E soccer match at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Photo: AP /Eugene Hoshiko and published by The Press Democrat