Japan vs Spain | World Cup 2022: Defeat gives Spain a more straightforward path

Safe to say nobody would have expected Spain, who put seven past Costa Rica in their opening World Cup game, to be at risk of elimination by that same CONCACAF side.

What was expected to be a walkover at half-time became a nightmare during the second half, as Spain were up against it at one point.

In the end La Roja were saved by Germany, who needed a favor themselves in order to go through.

All in all, Spain were a bit of a mess. Except for the last 15 minutes, which proved to be the exception, there was nothing worth salvaging from Wednesday’s performance.

As for Japan, they showed they’re as unpredictable as ever after taking down another European giant.

Defeat gives Spain a more straightforward path

Japan finish first in the group!

To say the Japanese are unpredictable would be an understatement. They qualified as Group E winners after beating Germany and Spain, but lost to Costa Rica.

If their opponent in the round of 16 were Brazil, you wouldn’t rule out a victory. However, they’ll know take on Croatia, and a defeat wouldn’t be unexpected either. Just like against Germany, their second half was impressive.

Defeat gives Spain a more straightforward path

What happened, Luis Enrique?

Spain played a horrendous game, one that was far from their identity. Slow, predictable and without any defensive intensity.

A collective collapse that must be fixed urgently in three days, because it’s impossible to beat anyone like that.

Defeat gives Spain a more straightforward path

Morata keeps scoring

One positive for Spain is that Morata keeps scoring goals. He has scored in all three group matches, something a Spaniard hasn’t done since Zarra in 1950, and is one of the top scorers of this World Cup.

Substituted with 25 minutes to go, he was missed in the closing minutes, because when there is the need to hold the ball, he is always there.

Defeat gives Spain a more straightforward path

When it came to the moment of truth, Ansu Fati

Luis Enrique must not trust him entirely, but he believes in his talent. Unlike some of his other more acclaimed teammates, the Barcelona player caused problems for Japan at the end of the game.

Who knows what Fati must have been thinking after not featuring in the first two games, and then being asked to resolve a complicated situation in the final group match.

Defeat gives Spain a more straightforward path

Spain have reason to dream

It’s always tricky to try and figure out which side of the bracket you would rather be on, but Spain have reason to dream if they can put things together.

They’ve gone from Croatia, Brazil and Argentina to Morocco, Portugal or Ghana and France or England. The road seems much simpler now.

Defeat gives Spain a more straightforward path

In or out?

The World Cup has a goal controversy following Japan’s stunning 2-1 victory over Spain, a result that sees Germany exit the competition in stunning fashion.

It happened in the 51st minute of the match, just minutes after Ritsu Doan had levelled the score for the Asian side.

After a cross from the far side, the ball made its way to the far post where Kaoru Mitoma managed to get his foot on it just before it crossed the byline.

The touch proved decisive, as the ball landed at the feet of Ao Tanaka, who fired past Unai Simon to give Japan the 2-1 lead.