DOHA, QATAR (AP) – Same stadium. Same result. Similar shocking victory for Japan at the World Cup.
After beating Germany in the team’s opener, Japan worked its way into the round of 16 of the World Cup on Thursday by defeating Spain 2-1 – the same score as last week.
Spain also advanced despite the loss, knocking Germany out of the tournament.
Japan scored twice early in the second half to come from behind and defeat another European powerhouse and make it to the knockout stage for the second straight World Cup. It’s the first time Japan has advanced past the group stage in back-to-back tournaments.
“For Asia and for Japan, our victories over Spain and Germany, two of the top teams in the world, is something that give us great confidence and we are very pleased,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said. “Of course, there are many things we still have to learn, but Asia can win in the world stage, Japan can win in the world stage.”
Ao Tanaka scored the winning goal from close range early in the second half. It took about two minutes for video review officials to confirm the ball hadn’t gone out of bounds before the goal at Khalifa International Stadium, where Japan had shocked Germany in its opener.
Japan finished at the top of Group E and will next face Croatia. Spain will take on Group F winner Morocco.
Spain and Germany – which beat Costa Rica 4-2 in a simultaneous match – both had four points in the group. But Spain had a superior goal difference.
The group standings bounced back and forth during both matches. Costa Rica was beating
Germany at one point. If that result had stood, Costa Rica would have eliminated Spain.
Spain coach Luis Enrique said he didn’t know that at one point Costa Rica was winning.
“If I had known about it, I could have had a heart attack,” he said.
Álvaro Morata scored for Spain in the 11th minute and the 2010 champions were in control until Japan rallied after halftime. Ritsu Doan equalised in the 48th with a left-footed shot from outside the box and Tanaka added the second three minutes later.
Luis Enrique said Spain “got into collapse mode.”
“We totally lost control during those five minutes. We panicked,” Luis Enrique said. “If they had to score more goals, they would have been able to do it. They got past us like an airplane.”
Morata became the first Spain player to score in the team’s first three matches at the World Cup since Telmo Zarra in 1950.
Spain had opened with a 7-0 rout of Costa Rica before conceding late in a 1-1 draw against Germany.