The Northern Advocate

Japan advance after second shock win


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 yesterday 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.

Players from both teams looked surprised when it was announced that the goal counted, and the Japanese started running toward their bench again to celebrate with their teammates.

Japan finished at the top of Group E and will next face Croatia. Spain will take on Group F winners Morocco.

Spain and Germany — who 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.

lvaro 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.”

Japan, which lost to Costa Rica in its second match, was eliminated by Belgium in the last 16 four years ago in Russia. The Japanese have never gotten past the round of 16 at the World Cup. By finishing second in the group, Spain may avoid facing Brazil in the quarter-finals and Argentina in the semifinals.

The coach said he was surprised that the second goal by Japan was confirmed by VAR. He said he was shown a photo of the ball out of bounds.

“That photo they showed me must have been altered,” Luis Enrique said. “That’s the only explanatio­n.”

■ Croatia advanced to the last 16 after a scoreless draw against Belgium, whose group-stage exit will likely usher in the breakup of its talented but underachie­ving generation of players.

The eastern European nation has reached at least the semifinals on each of the two times it has reached the knockout stage.

Belgium was eliminated after scoring one goal in three games and failed to live up to its status as the second-ranked team and one of the tournament favourites.

Needing a win to be sure of advancing, Belgium produced its best performanc­e of the World Cup and wasted two clear chances that fell to Romelu Lukaku.

The halftime substitute struck a shot against the post and failed to control a ball that bounced off his chest.

What has long been called Belgium’s “Golden Generation” — now featuring six players with more than 100 appearance­s — is set to split up, with a World Cup semifinal appearance in 2018 as its peak. ■ Morocco advanced to the last 16 at the World Cup for just the second time after clinging on for a 2-1 win over Canada.

The Moroccans’ only other trip past the group stage came in 1986.

Hakim Ziyech scored f or Morocco in the fourth minute after a bad error by Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan left the winger to shoot the ball into an empty goal.

Youssef En-Nesyri added a second in the 23rd minute.

It looked then like Morocco would overrun the Canadians.

But a calamitous Nayef Aguerd own-goal just before halftime made it 2-1.

The error lifted Canada who pressured Morocco in search of an equalising goal for most of the second half.

 ?? PHOTO / AP ?? Japan players celebrate after beating Spain 2-1, aided by a controvers­ial video referral.
PHOTO / AP Japan players celebrate after beating Spain 2-1, aided by a controvers­ial video referral.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand