clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

FIFA World Cup 2022 Recaps: Wild Group E Finales See Japan, Spain Advance

For a fleeting few seconds Costa Rica’s go ahead goal descended the group into glorious madness but Spain still advances despite the loss.

Japan v Spain: Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images


There are a few times when statistics and logic simply don’t make sense. Japan beating both Spain and Germany in this group while setting records for having the fewest possession in a World Cup win and also losing to Costa Rica is perhaps the perfect embodiment of international soccer.

The Blue Samurai used two quick goals right after halftime to stun Spain and their victory sees them top Group E and advance into the knockout stages as La Furia Roja advanced over Germany on goal difference.

Alvaro Morata opened the scoring with a close range header in the 11th minute, nodding down Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross from the top of the box.

But after halftime Ritsu Doan ended up with the ball at the top of the box and unleashed a rocket that Unai Simon could not keep out at the near post despite getting hands to it. Moments later, Kaoru Mitoma centered a ball that appeared to have gone out of bounds for a goal kick and as Ao Tanaka slammed home the eventual winner appeals immediately went up. After VAR review, the goal stood, as the edge of the ball on replay still appeared to be even with the endline.

Japan’s 18% possession as well as 700+ passes from Spain (and Germany in their other upset win) are among some of the many statistical anomalies that the Blue Samurai could care less about. They are through in spectacular fashion and as group winners.


For barely over a minute, a Costa Rican go-ahead go by Juan Pablo Vargas (later credited as an own goal to Manuel Neuer) sent the internet and CONCACAF denizens into a frenzy of chaos worshiping.

This was ended by Kai Havertz rather quickly, but we’ll always have the memories however brief as the Ticos for however short a time were going to the knockouts over Spain and Germany.

Alas, Germany eventually broke away but never got the desperate Spain equalizer they needed to progress and were eliminated despite a 4-2 win in their finale.

Serge Gnabry opened the scoring with a deft header into the far post in the 10th minute, a lead that would hold up until Yeltsin Tejeda’s equalizer in the 58th when he cleaned up a spill from Neuer on a hard rebound in the middle of the box.

Calamity struck in the 70th as Joel Campbell won a header off a free kick deep in the box and sent it back towards the middle of goal...where Neuer and several others jumped for it and somehow the ball squirted backwards into goal for a short lived go ahead goal for Costa Rica.

Havertz would need only a couple of minutes to collect a ball on top of the penalty spot and finish to the far post past an on rushing Keylor Navas in goal. Immediately Germany flipped a switch and went all out, pressuring Costa Rica with Navas forced to scramble to his left to tip over a Niclas Fullkrug shot at seemed to be a tap in into a empty net.

Havertz and Fullkrug would add goals late on, Havertz finishing off a Leroy Sane cross and Fullkrug a tap in from Havertz that was initially flagged offside but given after review as Fullkrug’s offside position was reset by Havertz.

The 2014 world champions have now been eliminated in the group stage in the last two tournaments.


An absolutely wild finish culminating in the few brief minutes in which Spain and Germany were seemingly heading for the exit. The difference in the group being Spain’s ruthless blowout of Costa Rica on the first matchday as it gave the Spanish a nearly insurmountable goal difference the rest of the way.

Japan advances to face Group F runners up Croatia on Monday, December 5th while Spain will face Group F winners Morocco on Tuesday, December 6th both games being at 10am EDT.