Heading into this morning’s fixtures, none of Spain, Germany, Japan or Costa Rica were guaranteed a spot in the World Cup Round of 16.
The first halves of both Costa Rica vs Germany and Spain vs Japan went as expected, with Spain and Germany both leading 1-nil after the first 45 minutes.
Both goals came just after ten minutes, with Spain striker Alvaro Morata heading home to the right of Japan keeper Shūichi Gonda from close range.
Meanwhile, a Serge Gnabry header opened the scoring for Germany after getting on the end of a slick cross from David Raum.
Japan turned their match on it’s head almost immediately in the second half, with substitute Ritsu Doan smashing a long shot at Spain keeper Unai Simon who parried the ball into the back of the net.
Just minutes later, Japan sent a low cross fizzing across the Spanish box forcing Kaoru Mitoma to desperately reach out to square it back infield at the byline. The pass bounced infield to Ao Tanaka who bundled the ball over the line.
To the naked eye it appeared that ball had crossed the byline before Mitoma squared the ball back to Tanaka, however a VAR review controversially awarded the goal to make it 2-1 to Japan – sparking huge celebrations from Japanese fans in the stadium.
The introduction or Arsenal defender Takehiro Tomiyasu bolstered Japan’s efforts as they defended incredibly, clearing cross after cross into their box while their keeper made several impressive saves to keep their hopes alive.
In the Costa Rica vs Germany match, the Central American nation staged a brave comeback in the second-half scoring their equalising goal in the 58th minute as Yeltsin Tejeda latched onto a Manuel Neuer parry to bury it into the net.
Just over ten minutes later, Costa Rica miraculously took the lead as Juan Pablo Vargas headed the ball against Neuer who directed it into his own net.
With both Japan and Costa Rica in the lead, both world football giants of Germany and Spain looked destined to finish outside of the Round of 16 qualification spots.
However, Costa Rica’s elation was short-lived as Germany notched a quick equalizer through Chelsea forward Kai Havertz to make it 2-2.
With five minutes of regulation time to go, Havertz latched on to a cross from Serge Gnabry to make it a double and seize the lead for Germany.
Four minutes later, substitute striker Niclas Fullkrug got on the end of a pass into the box from Leroy Sane to knock it into the net to extend the lead to 4-2.
Japan incredibly managed to keep Spain scoreless in the second-half, securing their 2-1 win to top the group with six points and advance to the Round of 16.
Germany’s win put them level with Spain on four points but Spain’s huge 7-nil win over Costa Rica in their opening match proved decisive as goal difference put the 2010 World Cup winners in second place in Group E.
Japan will face Croatia in the Round of 16 at 4am on Tuesday 6 December at the Al Janoub stadium.
Spain will face Morocco in the next round at 4am on Wednesday 7 December at the Education City Stadium.