How Japan Upset Spain and Knocked Out Germany in the Process

Japan’s victory over Spain produced a stunning outcome: the elimination of Germany, a former champion. Spain will also advance to the next round.

Spain vs. Japan
How Group E Shakes Out
Japan takes first place in the group. Spain is second because its goal difference is better than Germany’s, despite Germany’s win over Costa Rica. You can see the bracket for the knockout round here.


John Branch
Reporting from Qatar

Japan sends a jolt through the World Cup.

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Two Japanese players lunge at a soccer ball near a goal post, trying to save it from going out of bounds. A Spanish defender runs behind them and Spain’s goalkeeper is sliding along the goal line toward the play.
Japan’s second goal was allowed after a V.A.R. review determined that the ball had not crossed the end line before it was centered to Ao Tanaka.Credit…Jennifer Lorenzini/Reuters




Two Japanese players lunge at a soccer ball near a goal post, trying to save it from going out of bounds. A Spanish defender runs behind them and Spain’s goalkeeper is sliding along the goal line toward the play.



AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The 11 Japanese players on the field were fighting back every Spanish threat and counting every tick of the clock. The substitutes stood on the sideline, arms locked, ready to rush the field. The fans beat a drum, and it felt like a quickening heartbeat.
The whistle blew, and Japan had done it: It had upset another European soccer heavyweight, turned its four-team group inside out, and advanced to the round of 16.
And Spain, knowing the tiebreaker scenarios and tracking what was happening 30 miles away in a game between Germany and Costa Rica, breathed a collective sigh of relief. It, too, had advanced from Group E, even after a 2-1 defeat at Khalifa International Stadium.
Germany won its match but lost its hope. The Germans, the 2014 World Cup champions, were stunningly eliminated from the tournament before the round of 16 for the second time in a row. This time, Germany was undone by its own middling play over three games and the ruthless cruelty of group-stage math.

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