Germany were knocked out of the 2022 World Cup on Thursday after an extraordinary Group E final, despite beating Costa Rica.
At different times of the two games, fans of Spain and Japan, as well as Costa Rica and Germany thought their countries could be on their way to the knockout phase.
In the first half of Spain completely outplayed and after Alvaro Morata’s goal in the first half, Japan stormed back to win 2-1 and top the group.
Japan’s two goals – from Ritsu Dōan and Ao Tanaka – came within three minutes early in the second half.
Germany won 4-2 against Costa Rica, despite trailing by one point, but it wasn’t enough with Japan and Spain progressing to the last 16.
Germany coach Hansi Flick said that the “disappointment is huge” for Germany’s team.
“In the first half I was disappointed and very angry with my team and how we allowed the opponent to come back,” Flick said per Reuters.
“We wanted to score three or four goals in the first half, but then we made mistakes. If we converted the chances, 16 of them.
“But the tournament was not decided today for us. We did not have any efficiency in the tournament and that is why we were eliminated.
The conclusion to Group E means that Japan will face Croatia in the next round, while Spain will play Morocco.
The evening was important for another reason – Stéphanie Frappart became the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match.
Along with assistants Neuza Back of Brazil and Karen Diaz of Mexico, the French referee was part of an all-female refereeing trio overseeing the match between Germany and Costa Rica.
Nine goals, controversial VAR decisions, and the four-time World Cup winner being eliminated from the competition at the group stage just as Germany was at Russia 2018 – these two Group E games will live long in the memory.
Just hours after one European heavyweight, Belgium, was knocked out, Spain and Germany face the gauntlet against Japan and Costa Rica, two teams written off by most soccer experts as having little chance of reaching the last 16 before the World Cup. . Cup started.
Despite the predictions, it was an evening that started with the possibility that all four teams were able to progress to the next stage.
In the opening quarter of an hour of both games, both European sides looked destined to progress from the group.
At the Al Bayt Stadium, Serge Gnabry headed home in the 10th minute to give Germany a vital lead as they battled to rekindle their hopes of qualifying after a poor start to their campaign when they surprisingly lost to Japan.
At the Khalifa International Stadium, Morata headed home a sumptuous cross from right back César Azpilicueta to put Spain ahead.
In doing so, Morata became the second player to score in his first three World Cup appearances for Spain, after Telmo Zarra in 1950, according to Opta.
After the goal, with both European sides sitting in the qualification spots, Spain and Germany dominated proceedings for the rest of the first half, with Spain enjoying 78% of the possession while Germany had 65% as they limited the openings of the opposition team respectively .
But the preeminence of the European teams is soon to be challenged – within minutes of the start of the second half of both games, the situation in the group has completely changed.
As he did in the famous victory over Germany, Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu used his substitutes masterfully, bringing on Doan and his left-footed strike brought Japan level.
Moments later, Tanaka gave the Samurai Blue a shock lead that put the group in jeopardy.
Tanaka’s goal did not come without controversy though. A VAR review ruled the ball was not out of play before Tanaka tapped the crossbar for a goal.
Just when things looked like they couldn’t get any wilder – and completely against the run of play – Costa Rica leveled the scores against Germany as Yeltsin Tejeda smashed home a rebound after Manuel Neuer couldn’t keep out a powerful effort from Kendall Waston.
But the mental math for coaches, players and fans is just beginning.
Costa Rica took a stunning lead as Juan Pablo Vargas prodded home after a frantic goalmouth scramble to leave Germany trailing.
With just over 20 minutes remaining in the two games, Spain and Germany – both recent World Cup winners – were in danger of going home.
Costa Rica’s hopes were quickly dashed as a quickfire double from substitute Kai Havertz and a late Niclas Füllkrug goal ensured Germany – after a rollercoaster evening – would claim three points.
However, Spain’s 7-0 win over Costa Rica in its first group game – thereby ensuring a healthy goal difference – is now proving a lifeline to Luis Enrique’s side to get out of the group and condemn Germany to finish third.
Germany desperately needed a Spain goal to climb back into the qualification spots. But Spain were unable to break down a resolute Japan defence, and never really troubled Shuichi Gonda in goal, despite seven minutes of added time.
After scraping by on goal difference, Spain coach Enrique was critical of his team’s performance.
“I am not happy at all. Yes, we have qualified, I would like to win this game. It was impossible because in five minutes, Japan scored two goals… We are out, we are dismantled,” Enrique said during a press conference, per Reuters.