Japan comes back to beat Spain, finish top of group in incredible fashion
Japan came back from a goal down at halftime to beat Spain 2-1 and finish top of the group in truly stunning, heart-stopping fashion at the 2022 World Cup on Thursday.
Ahead of matchday 3 in Group E, the simplest math was as follows: a German win, plus a Japanese loss (to Spain), would see the 2014 world champions jump from 4th to 2nd and avoid a second straight World Cup group-stage exit.
The first part of that equation seemed to be going relatively straightforward, as Serge Gnabry opened the scoring in the 10th minute. A minute later in the other game, Alvaro Morata put Spain ahead and Germany were going through as things stood. But, Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka struck twice in six minutes to start the second half and overturn the deficit to a European giant, just as they did against Germany in the opener.
Then, something even more unthinkable happened: Costa Rica equalized, and then they went ahead. At that point, they were going through as runners-up. That lasted for all of three minutes, until Kai Havertz lifted the ball over Keylor Navas to make it 2-2. Havertz struck again 12 minutes later to make it 3-2, and give Germany a small glimmer of hope — that Spain might equalize and save Germany from elimination, but they never did.
In the end, Japan (6 points) advance as Group E winners, joined by Spain (4) in the round of 16.
How to watch Japan vs Spain live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 2pm ET, Thursday (December 1)Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium, Al RayyanTV channels en Español: TelemundoStreaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)
Key storylines, players to watch closely
Spain were at their brilliant best as they put seven goals past Los Ticos in their opener, before coughing up a late lead and settling for a 1-1 draw with the desperate Germans in game no. 2. All in all, it’s been a good start to the World Cup for Luis Enrique’s exciting, young side. Six different attacking players have scored a goal for Spain, with Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres the only ones to find the back of the net twice thus far.
As for Japan, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions this World Cup. Their comeback victory over Germany in the opener seemed to signal their arrival in a new tier on the world’s biggest stage, before falling flat on their faces in a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, who had conceded seven goals just four days earlier. Instead of clinching their place in the round of 16 with a win, Japan need at least a draw from their toughest group game in order to move on.
Japan quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 24
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 7
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Key players: Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino, Daichi Kamada
Spain quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 7
World Cup titles: 1 (2010)
World Cup appearances: 16
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Luis Enrique
Key players: Rodri, Pedri, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba