Ao Tanaka, Japan, World Cup
Japan celebrates #17 Ao Tanaka's goal to beat Spain and advance to the Round of 16 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Jewel Samad/AFP


  • Japan shocked the world with a come-from-behind victory over Spain in Group E action
  • Ao Tanaka's goal drew controversy as many observers thought the ball was out of bounds
  • Germany is booted out of the tournament, while Japan and Spain advance to the Round of 16

The 2022 World Cup is set to enter the Round of 16 stage following the conclusion of Group G matches and Japan is turning out to be the darlings of the global soccer tournament with a historic win against Spain.

Ranked 24th in the world by FIFA among international men's teams, Japan continued to pull off stunner after stunner, the start of it being a 2-1 victory against 11th-ranked Germany.

They did have their misgivings in the group stages after allowing Costa Rica to runaway with a 2-1 victory and many observers had pegged their World Cup journey to end against powerhouse Spain.

It certainly looked to be the case after Spain struck first and early thanks to a header off a lob towards the box from Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata at the 11th minute, giving them the 1-0 lead.

Spain sought to keep the momentum on their side entering the second half, but something appeared to have changed then–for both sides.

Japanese super-sub Ritsu Doan entered the game after both teams came out of the tunnel while highly touted defender Dani Carvajal also made his way to the field at this point in the game.

Doan's presence would be felt more on the pitch than Carvajal's in the 48th minute after firing a meteoric strike from just outside the box as young Spain keeper Unai Simon was off-position and could not recover in time.

With the Samurai Blue drawing level early, fans were expecting Spain to get their heads on straight and score another goal, but it certainly was not the case after Japan went on a stunning blitz three minutes later.

In the 51st minute, a controversial goal found its way onto the scoresheet for Japan as Kaoru Mitoma raced to save the ball from going out of bounds and flicked it right back into the box for Ao Tanaka to guide it home and gain the 2-1 lead.

To many fans watching, it certainly appeared as though the goal should be disallowed, but upon further review plus the assistance of the video assistant referee (VAR), it was confirmed to be a live ball.

It is important to note that in soccer, the entirety of the ball must cross the out-of-bounds line to be considered a dead ball and in this case, technology helped confirm Japan's goal to be a valid one with the thinnest of margins–as many Twitter users pointed out.

With Spain unable to mount a comeback despite owning the possession battle 82.3 to 17.7%, Japan ended up with the win and the top spot in Group E.

According to Opta Analyst, the 17.7% possession figure for the Samurai Blue was the lowest recorded in World Cup history, further making their win over Spain an incredible feat.

Japan and Spain advance to the Round of 16 with six and four points respectively and heavy favorite Germany was unceremoniously kicked out of the World Cup.

Germany already had the win needed to advance and only needed either a Spain victory or a draw plus the goal differential tiebreaker to join Spain in the knockout stages.

But with Tanaka's goal being allowed, Germany is left on the outside looking in as they are again forced to relive the memories of their group stage ouster in 2018.

Japan will now face the formidable Croatia and Spain gets Morocco in the Round of 16 as the dramatic 2022 World Cup continues to chug along.

Japan, World Cup 2022
The Japan national team crowds #18 Takuma Asano after giving them the 2-1 lead in their World Cup 2022 opening match against Germany. FIFA World Cup/Twitter