December 2: Japan erupted in cheers and tears after the national team's 2-1 win over Spain on Friday, as the Blue Samurai fired two quickfire goals in the second half to stun another global football power at the World Cup.
Japan had shocked former world champions Germany in their opening match in Qatar and finished top of Group E to reach the last 16. They will play 2018 runners-up Croatia for a place in the quarter-finals, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, the BBC reported that Spain were fortunate to join Japan in the knockout stage thanks to the superior goal difference against Germany.
According to Reuters, Japan's turnaround was built on coach Hajime Moriyasu's revamp of his side at the break when they were losing 1-0.
“On came Ritsu Doan and within three minutes he hammered in a shot from the edge of the box which Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon could not keep out,” Reuters reported, adding, “With Japan's noisy travelling fans barely catching their breath, Ao Tanaka scored from point-blank range in the 51st minute, bundling the ball in after the other halftime sub Kaoru Mitoma cut the ball back from the byline.”
The VAR system took several minutes to confirm the ball had not gone out before Mitoma's touch, the news agency further reported.
“Replays suggested that a sliver of the ball had not crossed the line and the verdict sparked wild celebrations similar to the scenes that followed Japan's 2-1 comeback win over Germany last week.”