WORLD CUP: Japan beat Spain as both advance on dramatic night
Japan staged another extraordinary World Cup comeback to top Group E and reach the last 16, overcoming a stunned Spain side who were fortunate to join them in the knockout stage.
In a tournament that has been full of shocks, this was perhaps the most dramatic night so far, with Spain left relying on the result of Germany’s game with Costa Rica for them to progress.
All four teams had started the evening with a chance of progressing but with Spain needing only a draw to qualify, they were not expected to need any favours from elsewhere.
La Roja were cruising at the break after Alvaro Morata headed home Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross from close range, but Japan would quickly turn the game – and the whole of Group E – on its head.
The Samurai Blue sent on substitutes Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma at half-time and within six minutes of the restart they had both made a huge impact.
Doan equalised with a fierce shot from the edge of the area and, only 142 seconds later, Mitomo retrieved Doan’s low cross and found Ao Tanaka to bundle home from close range
The goal was initially ruled out by the assistant referee who signalled Doan’s cross had gone out of play, but the Video Assistant Referee ruled Mitomo had reached it in time.
Things got even worse for Spain when Costa Rica took a surprise lead over Germany moments later, because at that stage they were heading out.
The big screens at Khalifa International Stadium showed the updated group table, to the disbelief of the Spain supporters, and pretty much everyone else here too.
Luis Enrique’s side were in big trouble, and were showing few signs of knowing how to rescue themselves, with only Germany’s late rally sending La Roja through as group runners-up on goal difference. (BBC Sport)