Japan tops group with comeback win over Spain

Japan set up a Round-of-16 clash with Croatia after staring at the prospect of an early exit at half-time while Spain had to rely on goal difference to edge out Germany.
A sliver of the ball was in play when Kaoru Mitoma (left) crossed for the second goal
A sliver of the ball was in play when Kaoru Mitoma (left) crossed for the second goal

DOHA: Japan staged its second stunning turnaround of the ongoing World Cup to beat Spain 2-1 on Thursday and surge into the last-16 along with its beaten opponent.

Japan set up a Round-of-16 clash with Croatia after staring at the prospect of an early exit at half-time while Spain had to rely on goal difference to edge out Germany. Spain will face Morocco next. Japan’s turnaround was built on head coach Hajime Moriyasu’s revamp of his eleven at the break, when it was losing 0-1.

On came Ritsu Doan and within three minutes, he hammered in a shot from the edge of the box that Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon, whose poor clearance had created the danger in the first place, could not keep out. With Japan’s noisy fans barely catching their breath, Ao Tanaka scored from point-blank range in the 51st minute, bundling the ball in after the other half-time substitute Kaoru Mitoma cut it back from the byline.

The VAR took several minutes to confirm the ball had not gone out before Mitoma’s touch. Replays suggested that a sliver of the ball had not crossed the line and the verdict sparked wild celebrations both on the pitch and in the Khalifa International Stadium stands.

“We played against Spain, one of the best teams in the world. We knew before the game that this was going to be very tough and difficult, and indeed it was,” said Moriyasu. “The players conceded one goal, but they persisted and in very difficult circumstances, they did very well,” added the chief coach.

Spain had looked in total control in the first half but suddenly, it was the one clinging to its chance of staying in the World Cup as Costa Rica and Germany battled out their drama in the other Group E match.

Alvaro Morata had put the Spaniards ahead when he scored his third goal in three games in Qatar, rising above Japan’s defence to power a header past goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda in the 11th minute after a cross from right-back Cesar Azpilicueta. In the dying minutes, winger Dani Olmo came closest to a leveller but his angled shot was easily gathered by Gonda.

Japan defender Kou Itakura was shown his second yellow card of the tournament and will be suspended for the Croatia match.

RESULT: Japan 2 (R Doan 48, A Tanaka 51) bt Spain 1 (A Morata 11)

Visit news.dtnext.in to explore our interactive epaper!

Download the DT Next app for more exciting features!

Click here for iOS

Click here for Android

Related Stories

No stories found.
logo
DT next
www.dtnext.in