DOHA: Japan produced yet another scintillating outcome as they downed 2010 champions Spain 2-1, who still managed to make it to the knockouts as Germany failed to improvise their goal difference despite a dominating 4-2 triumph over Costa Rica.
The ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022 “group of death” had an astounding outcome as Japan emerged as the leader by beating two former champions Spain and Germany, while the 2014 champions failed to make it to the knockouts.
Spain and Germany both ended on four points each, but Luis Enrique’s side progressed on goal difference.
Spain took the lead early on thanks to a spectacular header from Alvaro Morata, but Japan dramatically responded at the start of the second half.
Ritsu Doan netted the equalizer for Japan just three minutes after the break as sloppy defending from the former champions allowed Doan to seize the ball at the edge of the box before sending it into the top corner. Ao Tanaka then put Japan into the lead as he struck three minutes after the equalizer to put the European side under immense pressure.
Spain made desperate attempts to fire an equalizer but struggled to create chances against a staunch Japanese defence, who were well aware that conceding another goal would send them crashing.
Meanwhile, the four-time champions Germany, who took the field in a must-win game were also reliant on Japan’s game with Spain to progress, the outcome, however, did not favour them, resulting in them crashing out of the group stage second time in succession.
Germany had a flying start to their last group fixture as a curling strike from Serge Gnarby straight away put them up front Costa Rica.
The two sides then went hard at each other but to no avail as the scoreboard remained intact at half-time.
Costa Rica then neutralized briefly after the break courtesy of Yeltsin Tajeda’s strike and soon took the lead when German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer handed them an own goal in the 70th minute.
Germany responded minutes later, drawing level through Kai Havertz. Havertz scored again in the 86th minute, and Fuellkrug added another in the 89th, bringing the score to 4-2, but the team’s mind remained uneasily fixated on the group’s parallel fixture, and Germany lost on goal difference to second-placed Spain.
Group E winner Japan will take on last world cup’s runners-up Croatia in the Round of 16 on Monday, while Spain will take Group F winner Morocco on Tuesday.