Japan came from behind to beat Spain 2-1 to come out top of Group E, thanks to a very controversial goal that made the difference on the night and sent Germany out of the World Cup but both teams progressed to the round of 16 of the tournament.
Alvaro Morata’s header which found the back of the net in the 12th minute gave Luis Enrique’s team the impression that they were going for an easy victory.
But after the interval, everything changed as substitute Ritsu Doan equalized with a strike from the edge of the box in the 48th minute, and the comeback was completed after a Kaoru Mitoma cut-back which initially appeared to have gone out of play was bundled home by Ao Tanaka in the 51st minute.
The goal was followed by a prolonged VAR check, but it was decided in favor of Japan because the whole curvature of the ball was not thought to have crossed the line.
Despite the shocking defeat, Spain joined Japan in the round of 16 at the expense of Germany based on goal difference, thanks to their 7-0 victory over Costa Rica in their opening game.
Germany defeated Costa Rica 4-2 in the other group match, but they were eliminated from the World Cup at the group stage for the second time in a row.
A controversial decisive goal that sent Germany packing
The winning goal was first disallowed by the on-field officials because they believed the ball had gone out and initial replays seemed to back up their decision.
In football, however, the ball is considered out when “it has wholly passed over the goal line or touchline on the ground or in the air,” according to the International Football Association Board (IFAB). This body established the rules of the game.
Referee Victor Miguel de Freitas Gomes’ decision was overturned and he awarded the goal after a VAR check was completed.
FIFA has not yet released official photos showing that the entire ball’s curvature did not cross the line and was out of play.
Football pundits have their say
Sky Sports‘ Gary Neville questioned why the winning goal from Japan wasn’t broadcast from all angles to television viewers following the game.
He told ITV: “The high cam that is on the line does suggest that there might be some of the ball over the line.
“But from that very first offside goal, Ecuador vs Qatar in game one, I’ve struggled with it a little bit that we’ve not been given the correct angles, it just doesn’t feel right.
“In the Premier League we see all the VAR cameras, here we don’t.”
Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness added: “The longer they don’t show a picture that conclusively shows that it didn’t go out of play, you’re thinking something untoward is going on.
“There are 80 million Germans right now going mad, waiting for a picture that shows that ball didn’t go out of play.
“Germany is not a small footballing nation. Why would you create confusion and not want to clear it up immediately?
“Why are FIFA not showing us something that is so controversial?
“Why aren’t they showing it to us? Clear it up for us, please.”
Japan will now play Croatia in their round of 16 game at Al Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah on Monday, December 5 at 3 pm GMT (10am ET, 7am PT).
The following day, at 3pm GMT (10am ET, 7am PT), Spain will take on Morocco at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan.
Germany and Costa Rica are out of the competition as they finished 3rd and 4th respectively in the group.