Japan’s stay in the 2022 World Cup seemed to be over while it played its final game in Group E against Spain. With Germany on its way to victory over Costa Rica, Japan had to beat Spain otherwise the Germans were set to be the other team in the group to advance despite the fact that Japan had upset Germany in their opener in Qatar.
Things looked grim for Japan when Spain took a one goal lead at the half, while Germany raced to a big lead against Costa Rica. Japan opened the second half in attack mode with fresh substitutes in the lineup, and ultimately scored two goals to beat Spain, 2-1, and win the group to advance to the knockout round. Spain also advanced, while Germany was stunned to be sent home packing.
Japan’s win came on the most controversial play of the World Cup so far. After Ritsu Doan scored in the 48th minute to tie the score, Japan found itself with a scoring chance again. Kaoru Mitoma raced to save a ball from going out of bounds behind the net, and hit a pass to teammate Ao Tanaka to banged it home for the go-ahead goal. Only one problem: the refs judged that the ball had gone out before Mitomo crossed it. While the replays seemed to show the ball was out, VAR reversed the call and gave Japan the deciding goal.
Watch video here:
The goal that made the difference for Japan pic.twitter.com/WDmJ1QJAdc— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 1, 2022
Was the ball in or out before Japan got to it? It depends what angle you look at.
The rule says the entirety of the ball needs to be out of bounds for the ball to be out. VAR said just a sliver of the ball remained in, and therefore allowed Japan’s goal after a lengthy review. Here’s the best look at it:
And thus, the bird's eye view is the important angle of the Japan goal.— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) December 1, 2022
Here it is.
Ball is in, it seems — barely, by millimeters. pic.twitter.com/pgm9ZURD16
The broadcast was stunned at the decision after the game.
Making Japan’s win even more improbable is that they barely controlled possession the entire game. Japan had the ball just 17.7 percent of the time, makes marks the lowest possession figure for a team that has ever won a men’s World Cup game.
If that ball was ruled out, Germany would be moving on to the knockout round and Japan would be going home. Instead, Germany’s heartbreak is Japan’s jubilation.