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.
Japan 2-1 Spain
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). 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 equalised with a shot from the edge of the box (48). (51).
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After the goal, there was a lengthy VAR review, but it shockingly decided in favour 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.
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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. In the round of 16, Spain will now take on Morocco, while Japan, who similarly rallied from a deficit to defeat Germany but fell short against Costa Rica in a stunning group-stage campaign, will meet Croatia.
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