• Japan defeated Spain 2-1 in World Cup 2022
  • Both countries have qualified for Round of 16 in World Cup
  • Japan finished at the top of Group E

Spain head coach Luis Enrique was left "annoyed" after his side lost to Japan on Thursday. He said the Asian side "deserved" to win and finish at the top of Group E.

Japan were a goal down before they defeated Spain 2-1 in their group meeting and qualified for the Round of 16 of the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The result ensured Japan went into the knockout round as Group E's winners, while Spain progressed ahead as the runners-up.

Atletico Madrid forward Alvaro Morata headed home Cesar Azpilicueta's cross from close range and La Roja went into the half-time break with a 1-0 lead. The Samurai Blue brought in Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma at half-time and the duo made an instant impact. Just three minutes into the second half, Doan netted an equalizer for Japan before Mitoma assisted Aao Tanaka's winner in the 51st minute.

In a post-match interview, Spain's boss Enrique admitted he was annoyed as he wanted his side to end as the table-toppers of Group E.

"There were five minutes of panic. They scored two goals against us and could have scored another two. When a team like Japan has nothing to lose, it happens that they fly like airplanes. Then it went back to normal. The end was already very difficult because they were very closed. Japan goes first and it is deserved. It annoys me. I wanted to be first," Enrique told reporters.

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's second goal by Tanaka was a controversial one and referee Victor Gomes eventually awarded the goal after a lengthy VAR check. Tanaka slid home past Unai Simon following Mitoma's cross but the ball appeared to be out of play.

Nevertheless, it was difficult to determine how exactly VAR reached the conclusion, with TV images showing the ball was out of play. However, alternative angles, which haven't been released by FIFA yet, might have led the VAR team to conclude the whole ball hadn't actually gone out and was overhanging the line.

Japan's last-16 fixture is against Croatia, the runners-up of the 2018 edition, on Monday. Spain will face off against Morocco on Tuesday in their Round of 16 match.