Japan vs Spain 2-1: Samurai Blue Win Sends Germany Packing

What a football night, ladies and gentlemen. Group E of the World Cup delivered its verdict and it was quite an unexpected one. Japan and Spain qualified to the knockouts as the Samurai Blue came from behind to beat Luis Enrique’s side 2-1 to grab the first place in the pool.

Germany, on the other hand, crashed out of the competition for the second time in a row. Beating 4-2 Costa Rica in the other match of Group E was not enough for Die Mannschaft as Spain had a better goal difference. On that note, the Furia Roja‘s 7-0 hammering of Costa Rica in the first matchday proved extremely useful.   

That was the outcome of a crazy, thrilling football night that delivered a whirlwind of emotions, with each and every team in Group E being qualified at some point of the night.

Japan won it with their willpower and their coach Hajime Moriyasu’s ability to read the game and make changes on the run. Just like a few days ago against Germany, the Samurai Blue found some unexpected strength in the second half and stunned the opposition with a lethal one-two in the space of three minutes. 

An enigmatic side, this Japanese one. They won both games where they were clearly the underdog and lost the only one where the odds were in their favor (even though Costa Rica showed that they were not that bad after all as they gave Germany a run for their money tonight).

Spain, on the other hand, risked to pay dearly for their overconfidence. Their massive ball possession in the first half resulted in only one shot on target, albeit a winning one. When the Nipponese stroke back, they suddenly found themselves with no options and they had to thank their first matchday goleada to maintain an edge over Germany.

Luis Enrique deployed his side in a usual 4-3-3 setup but changed two thirds of his attacking forces, deploying Alvaro Morata and Nico Williams alongside Dani Olmo. Spain were the ones taking the initiative but a mistake in the build up from Sergio Busquets after just eight minutes put Junya Ito in the condition to shot from a favorable position. 

Ito’s shot hit the side netting but Busquets’ carelessness was indicative of the approach the Spaniards were having. Still, the Furia Roja found themselves in the lead at half time as Morata headed home a cross from Cesar Azpilicueta on 11 minutes.  

Coach Moriyasu made two changes after the restart as he sent in Kaoru Mitoma and, moreover, Ritsu Doan.

Just like against Germany, it was the SC Freiburg man to draw his side level only three minutes into the second half. Spain stubbornly tried to build their play from the back but the ball was intercepted by Ito, who then served Doan the chance for a shot on which Unai Simon should have done much better.

Luis Enrique’s side appeared dazed by the sudden equalizer and didn’t have time to reorganize. On 51 minutes, it was again Doan to put his stamp on the proceedings with a clinical diagonal pass to pick Mitoma right on the goal end line. Mitoma sent the ball back in for Ao Tanaka’s winning tap in.

It took a three-minute VAR review for the goal to be awarded as the ball seemed to have crossed the end line when Mitoma whipped it back in, at least looking at it with the naked eye. The technology ruled differently though, and Tanaka’s goal stood.  

The rest of the game was an agony for Spain, who seldom have appeared so clueless in the past few decades. For a short period of time, the Furia Roja also found themselves out of the competition as Costa Rica were leading 2-1 over Germany. The Germans did eventually turn their game around but that only resulted in making a big favor to Luis Enrique and co. 

Spain will now face surprise package Morocco in the Round of 16 while Japan will need to test their might against World Cup 2018 runner-ups Croatia.

They two sides will come into the knockout stage from two completely different standpoints though, as the Spanish will need to lick their wounds in the aftermath of a disappointing qualification run, while the Blue Samurai will be pumped at a group stage success that has an even more special meaning for their coach Moriyasu. 

Twenty-nine years ago, right in Doha, he had lived an absolute football tragedy as a Japan player when his side conceded a last gasp goal to Iraq that resulted in them missing qualification to the 1994 World Cup. Sometimes football gives back what it takes. 



December 1, 2022 – FIFA World Cup Group E

SCORERS: 11′ Morata (S), 48′ Doan (J), 51′ Tanaka (J)

JAPAN (3-4-3): Gonda; Itakura, Yoshida, Taniguchi; J. Ito, Morita, Tanaka (87′ Endo), Nagatomo (46′ Mitoma); Kubo (46′ Doan), Maeda (62′ Asano), Kamada (69′ Tomiyasu). (Kawashima, Schmidt, Yamane, Shibasaki, Minamino, Sakai, Machino, Ueda, Soma, H. Ito) Coach: Moriyasu
SPAIN (4-3-3): Unai Simon, Azpilicueta (46′ Carvajal), Rodri, Pau Torres, Balde (68′ Jordi Alba); Gavi (68′ Ansu Fati), Busquets, Pedri; Nico Williams (57′ Ferran Torres), Morata (12′ st Asensio), Dani Olmo (Sanchez, Raya, Guillamón, Laporte, Eric Garcia, Llorente, Soler, Koke, Yeremy Pino) Coach: Luis Enrique
REFEREE: Mr. Victor Gomes (South Africa)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Itakura, Taniguchi, Yoshida (J); Added Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 7′
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