Japan Takes Down Another Powerhouse After Victory Over Spain

By Jeff Stinger

The Blue Samurai were eager to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica. Head coach Hajime Moriyasu and his squad quickly recovered with another huge upset victory over one of the competition’s favorites, Spain, in a 2-1 final score. The result meant heartbreak for the Germans, who managed a win in their final fixture against Costa Rica, four goals to two, but also banked on a Spain victory. The positive result means that they are likely to be the only Asian country that makes it to the Round of 16, finishing on top of Group E with two wins and a loss.

Japan cements dark horse status as they join the Round of 16

READ MORE: Germany and Belgium Knocked Out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Japan shoots to the top of Group E

It’s hard to justify Japan’s odds against Spain, let alone getting out of a group that features Germany and Spain. But, the men from the Land of the Rising Sun played on another level in this World Cup.

Japan kicked off its campaign by upsetting Germany 2-1. They came from one goal behind and sealed the deal in the latter part of the game. This set them up nicely heading into their second group stage clash against Costa Rica. However, Samurai Blue somehow conceded the game’s lone goal despite holding onto possession for the most part.

Their result versus the South American team meant they had to produce another upset to get to the knockout stage. Spain started on a high and thumped Costa Rica 7-0. With their fighting spirit on an entirely different level, Japan did exactly what they did to Germany, coming from a goal down to win the game 2-1. They also did the unthinkable and turned the game around with just 17.7% possession–the lowest recorded in the tournament’s history.

As it happened

The second goal may just be the best goal so far at the 2022 World Cup. Japan entered the pitch facing a 1-0 deficit against Spain in the second half. If this scoreline stayed, they would end up in third place in the live Group E standings with Germany simultaneously taking the lead over Costa Rica. However, the narrative changed after the break.

Ritsu Doan leveled the match in the 48th minute and the Samurai Blue followed this up minus later off an incredible team goal. After Doan hit the shot that missed the target, Karou Mitmo was there to keep the ball in play. His sliding effort sparked questionable decisions from the officials, but VAR cleared everything up after the Spanish side tried to contest the call. Mitoma’s ball knocked it right to Ao Tanaka who scored the deciding goal in the 51st minute.

Japan at the World Cup

This is arguably the best performance of Japan in a World Cup. The 2022 EAFF champions booked their place in the Round of 16 after defeating two heavy favorites in Germany and Spain. Their final position in the group means they have a date with Croatia in the next round and come in as +304 match underdogs.

Japan attended the FIFA World Cup seven times, the first one being in 1998 when they lost all three group games and were the second team to exit the tournament. The team never made it beyond the third round of the tournament despite appearing in the Round of 16 on three occasions. This is possibly their best group stage campaign in history as they enter the tournament as +850 semi-finalists.

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