Japan scored twice in two minutes and 22 seconds Thursday at Khalifa International Stadium to snatch a 2-1 comeback victory over Spain that knocked its heavily favored opponent out of first place in Group E and eliminated Germany from the World Cup.
Japan topped the group with six points after also upsetting Germany to open the tournament and losing to Costa Rica.
Spain finished second on four points, only ahead of Germany on goal difference.
Germany fought back to beat Costa Rica 4-2 in a breathless match Thursday that ultimately made no difference. The four-time world champion needed Spain to either draw or beat Japan to advance to the knockout round.
Instead, Die Mannschaft were eliminated in the group stage for a second consecutive World Cup.
The permutations seemed to change by the minute. Spain was sitting pretty in first place when it broke for halftime. Alvaro Morata had given La Roja a 1-0 lead, and Germany, racing to a 1-0 lead of its own, was also in a position to advance.
But everything changed in the second half.
Japan flew out of the gates, forcing Spain into a critical turnover that presented substitute Ritsu Doan a chance to equalize. Doan came off the bench to score in his country’s 2-1 win over Germany at the same stadium, and he played the hero again Thursday, flashing a shot that Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simon couldn’t palm to safety.
Minutes later, teammate Kaoru Mitoma scrambled to keep the ball in play, and Ao Tanaka outmuscled Spanish midfielder Rodri to bundle home Japan’s second goal. Replays showed Mitoma retrieved Doan’s pass before it crossed the goal line.
Germany, suddenly needing Spain to score to extend its stay in Qatar, watched as its own lead evaporated. Despite being outshot and outplayed at Al Bayt Stadium, Costa Rica scored twice in 12 minutes to go up 2-1, a score line that threatened to knock Germany and Spain out of the World Cup.
Kai Havertz responded with two goals, and substitute Niclas Fullkrug added another in the 89th minute to restore Germany’s lead and keep Spain on course for the knockout stage.
However, Luis Enrique’s side couldn’t do the Germans a similar favor.