Spain looked as if it was business as usual in their final World Cup Group E match against Japan. They dominated possession and scored an early goal. They looked set to win the group, despite five changes to their team.
However, their status as favourites in Qatar was strained by Japan's amazing 2-1 win. They were also fortunate to be joined by the Samurai Blue in 16 thanks to a superior goal difference to Germany.
Spain displayed a possession show that was reminiscent of their dominating sides that conquered Europe, the world and beyond. Alvaro Morata scored his third goal of this tournament after just 11 minutes. Spain had enough probing possession at that point to have pushed Japan into a passive and nervous back five, and they cruised through to the halftime break despite not having any clear-cut chances.
Opta reported that Rodri (115) as well as Pau Torres (109) had completed more passes in the first period than Japan's entire team (89). The margin of one goal seemed to be enough against a Japan team that played with little urgency, despite their place in the tournament.
Spain was not as solid defensively. This weakness was exposed during a remarkable six-minute period after the restart, when substitutes Ritsu Donan and Kaoru Mitoma made a huge impact to turn the match and Group E upside down,report by jfdbet online betting malaysia.
Japan's high-pressing style, which upset Germany, had briefly troubled Spain on a few occasions during the first half. They took the game to their European counterparts after Hajime Moriyasu's second-half substitutions, and refused to settle for the ball.
Spain's tendency to give away possession while they build from the back almost cost them against Germany. That trend continued against Japan with Sergio Busquets losing a ball on the area's edge and Unai Simon having the task of clearing a line off his own line at the half-hour mark.
Doan started Japan's comeback by collecting another loose pass from Simon, before unleashing a thunderous shot. Mitoma, a lively winger, made the other crucial but controversial contribution by cutting off the ball back for Ao Takaka to bundle it home. Luis Enrique's team still saw the ball most, but they were careless under pressure when it came to elimination. This was briefly realized during Costa Rica's narrow victory over Germany in the other Group E decider.
The victory was won by the Samurai Blue with 17.7 percent possession, which is the lowest percentage for a winning team in World Cup history. It was against a shell-shocked Spain side. The 2010 world champions had almost the entire second period to make a comeback, but they lacked energy and ideas, and could barely threaten Shuichi Gonda's goal in Japan.
Spain, which beat Costa Rica 7-0 in their first group match, and drew 1-1 against Germany, will be relieved that they have stayed in tournament. However, they must now regroup before taking on surprise package Morocco for a place at the quarter-finals.