World Cup 2022: Japan's win over Spain eliminates Germany

AL KHOR, QATAR - DECEMBER 1: Niklas Suele of Germany, Joshua Kimmich of Germany, Lukas Klostermann of Germany and Niclas Fullkrug of Germany looks dejected after conceding their sides second goal during the Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium on December 1, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar (Photo by Pablo Morano/BSR Agency/Getty Images)
Germany's Niklas Suele, Joshua Kimmich, Lukas Klostermann and Niclas Fullkrug looks dejected after conceding their sides second goal against Costa Rica. (Photo by Pablo Morano/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Germany isn’t advancing to the knockout rounds for a second consecutive World Cup after Japan hung on for a 2-1 win over Spain.

Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 on Thursday afternoon but Japan’s win over the Spaniards at the same time meant Japan won Group E with its victories over Germany and Spain while Spain advanced to the knockout rounds in second via goal difference.

Spain built itself a massive goal differential cushion in its first game of the World Cup in a 7-0 win over Costa Rica. That win meant Germany basically had to replicate that effort with a Japan win to have any tiebreaker edge over Spain.

Germany won the 2014 World Cup in a thrilling final over Argentina. But the Germans finished last in their group in 2018 behind Sweden, Mexico and South Korea to become the third consecutive defending World Cup champion to fail to make it out of the group stage. France broke that streak in 2022 by winning Group D.

How Japan beat Spain

The Spaniards took an early 1-0 lead thanks to an Alvaro Morata goal but Japan scored two goals in the first seven minutes of the second half.

The goals came less than four minutes apart. Ritsu Doan scored to tie the game in the 48th minute and then Ao Tanaka scored a controversial goal to give Japan the lead.

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The game-winner was initially not given as it appeared the ball went out of play near the Spain goal. But a video review determined that the ball stayed in bounds. In soccer, the entire circumference of the ball has to cross the entirety of the out of bounds line for the ball to be out of play.

There might have been some daylight between the bottom of the ball and the line too.

Japan's forward #09 Kaoru Mitoma (L) crosses the ball for his team's second goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group E football match between Japan and Spain at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on December 1, 2022. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)
Japan's forward #09 Kaoru Mitoma (L) crosses the ball for his team's second goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group E football match between Japan and Spain at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on December 1, 2022. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

The win means that Japan will take on Croatia in the Round of 16 after Croatia tied Belgium on Thursday morning. It’s the second consecutive knockout round appearance for the Japanese and they have made the Round of 16 in four of their last six World Cup appearances.

Is Spain’s World Cup path now easier?

Spain probably isn’t too unhappy about finishing second in the group. Yeah, winning the group is nice, but instead of facing a Croatia squad that made the 2018 World Cup final, Spain now plays Morocco to start the knockout rounds.

The loss also means that Spain likely avoids a potential matchup with Brazil in the quarterfinals and is out of the same side of the bracket as both Brazil and Argentina. Portugal would be Spain’s likely quarterfinal opponent instead and Spain is now on England’s side of the bracket.

Costa Rica gave us a few moments of chaos

There was a brief stretch in the second half of both games that had both Spain and Germany provisionally out of the World Cup.

The only way Japan and Costa Rica both advanced out of Group E was if they both won. And Costa Rica took a 2-1 lead over Germany in the 70th minute after Manuel Neuer couldn’t corral the ball after a free kick.

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That lead came as Japan was ahead of Spain. But it didn’t last very long. Kai Havertz scored in the 73rd minute to tie the game for Germany and then gave the Germans the lead in the 85th minute.

Had Spain tied Japan in the second half, Germany would have gone through to the knockout rounds thanks to having a better goal difference than the Japanese. Japan beat Germany 2-1 and lost 1-0 to Costa Rica while Germany tied Spain 1-1.

What’s next for Germany?

The German National Team entered this World Cup without many of the stalwarts that powered them to the 2014 win and were a part of the team that crashed out of the 2018 World Cup. While Neuer and Thomas Muller were the notable holdovers, players like Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala and others got a shot at this World Cup.

And while Germany has a wealth of attacking options, it’s even more clear that it’s in need of a stronger defense. The Germans gave up five goals across three games. The back four was a question entering the tournament and it’s even more of one now. Finding the next era of top-level defenders is a must before the 2026 World Cup.