FIFAWC 2022: Japan shock Spain to top Group E in style
Second-half blitz hands Blue Samurai stunning win
Japan claimed a stunning 2-1 win over favourites Spain to secure an unlikely top spot in Group E at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Blue Samurai secured maximum points from the match to end the group stage with six points.
Japan defeated Germany in their group-stage opener before suffering a shock defeat to Costa Rica in the second match. They were up against a Spanish side that blew Costa Rica away in their opening game before playing out a draw with Germany.
Spain were favourites to win the match against the Japanese and duly took the lead after only 11 minutes. A cross from Cesar Azpilicueta was headed home brilliantly by the in-form Alvaro Morata, who became only the second Spanish player to score in each of his side’s group-stage games since Telmo Zarra in 1950.
Japan turned the game on its head in a three-minute spell at the start of the second half. Half-time substitute Ritsu Doan added to the goal he scored against Germany as he rifled in an effort from the edge of the box in the 48th minute.
The Blue Samurai were in the ascendancy and quickly pressed home their advantage three minutes later. A ball across the face of goal from Doan was prevented from crossing the line by another substitute Kaoru Mitoma, allowing Ao Tanaka to bundle the ball home from close range. After a VAR check to confirm if the ball had gone out of play, the goal was awarded and Japan took the lead.
Japan defended resolutely for the remainder of the game, limiting Spain to very few clear-cut chances. The Blue Samurai held on for a famous win that put them into the knockout rounds of the tournament in first place. They will face another European side, Croatia, for a place in the quarterfinals.
Spain joins Japan in the knockout stages by virtue of their vastly-superior goal difference over third-placed Germany. La Roja will now face Morocco in the Round of 16.