In a simply wild 45 minutes, Japan and Spain made their way into the World Cup knockout stage. Meanwhile, Germany won on the day, but failed to advance due to a poor goal differential.
At halftime of the games, both Germany and Spain were in a position to advance. By the time each game reached 70th minute, Japan and Costa Rica would have advanced. Comebacks from both of those sides put them in winning positions. While Spain managed to hold on to its lead, Costa Rica capitulated. Germany put three past Keylor Navas in the final 17 minutes. Germany’s win was not enough for Die Mannschaft, even if it did get Spain over the line.
Remarkably, Japan finished top of the group. On six points, Japan’s only defeat was to Costa Rica. Wins over Germany then Spain put the Samurai Blue into a round of 16 tie with Croatia. Spain, which looked lackluster both against Germany and Japan after the 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica, scraped by with second. Its reward is a date with Group F winners Morocco.
Germany, on the other hand, is out in the group stage for a second-straight World Cup after winning the tournament in 2014. Despite a string of heroic performances from Jamal Musiala and a pair of goals from Kai Havertz against Costa Rica, Germany is out. On top of that, Germany had an ‘early’ exit at Euro 2020, too. It lost to England in the round of 16, giving Germany just one knockout game at a tournament since reaching the semifinals at Euro 2016.
Japan defeats Spain to finish top of wild World Cup group
Yet, Germany could have a bone to pick in its lack of reaching the round of 16. If Spain drew with Japan, Germany and Spain would advance. Japan’s second goal came much to the ire of the Germans, particularly due to how marginal the call was.
Kauro Mitoma made a desperate attempt to keep the ball in play as it rolled past Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simón. From the camera angles provided, the ball looked out of play. However, the camera angles did not tell the same story that the officials saw. Mitoma whipped the ball back in, and Ao Tanaka placed it into the net with his knee.
The goal counted. As a result, Japan’s three points took it clear of Germany in the group table.
Spain, which advanced regardless so long as Costa Rica lost, did not have the impetus to score that Germany had late on.
Group winners Japan take on Croatia on Monday, Dec. 5. Spain battles Morocco a day later.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ANP
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