Japan 2 Spain 1
Germany were at the centre of a huge Var row after they were knocked out of the World Cup by a highly controversial Japanese goal.
Japan’s dramatic 2-1 comeback win over Spain condemned the Germans to an embarrassing early exit from Group E, which was branded an "absolute catastrophe" by veteran striker Thomas Muller.
But the decision to allow Japan’s winner to stand thrust Var back into the spotlight as a debate raged on Thursday night over whether the ball had gone out of play before Kaoru Mitoma crossed for Ao Tanaka to score six minutes after the restart.
Aerial footage appeared to show little more than a cigarette paper between the ball and byline while from other angles the ball looked out but, after a lengthy review by the Mexico Var Fernando Guerrero, the goal was given to widespread astonishment in the Khalifa International Stadium. Germany – who came from 2-1 down to beat Costa Rica 4-2 – would have progressed on goal difference at Japan’s expense had the goal been disallowed.
“From my angle I think the ball was clearly half out but more than that I could not see because of the speed but I was concentrating on scoring,” Tanaka said. “But there was always a possibility it was out so if it was out and not a goal I would not have been disappointed. But in the end it was a goal so that was great.”
Fifa were tightlipped about the decision on Thursday night but it is understood that the decision was not assisted by technology since the goal decision system is only operational between the posts and nor was the semi automated technology in the ball of any use in that instance. Sources said the decision had come down to the judgement of Guerrero and his assistants, who advised the referee Victor Gomes the goal should stand.
"I thought the images must be wrong or fabricated,” Luis Enrique, the Spain coach, said. “I saw an image and said, 'That picture can’t be true'. I have nothing else to say. I have full respect [for the officials]. I knew something was going on because Var was taking so long. But we went into collapse mood."
Hajime Moriyasu, the Japan coach, said: “We think that our intent materialised as a goal. Whether the ball was out or not there is great technology nowadays for big football and if it was really out it would have been a goal kick but the judgement of the referee is it was in and we respected that. We were able to accept either way and in the end it was decided it was in.”
"I felt it should never have been a goal, based on the images that Var were likely to have seen." former referee Keith Hackett told Telegraph Sport. “Var has yet again taken centre stage in a match when it should be the skill set of the players.”
In the ITV studio, Graeme Souness said: "There's 80 million Germans going mad, waiting for a picture that shows that ball didn't go out of play."
'Why would Fifa not allow the host broadcaster to show Var footage?'
His fellow pundit Gary Neville later tweeted: "Got no doubt that Var have seen the conclusive angle/evidence that we haven’t but why would Fifa not allow the host broadcaster to show Var footage? In the PL [Premier League] we see it as it happens and have access to the pictures. Makes no sense and doesn’t help with transparency."
Germany have now failed to progress from the group stages in successive World Cups, having not previously fallen at the first hurdle since 1938.
Muller said their exit was “unbelievably bitter”, while head coach Hansi Flick called for an overhaul of their lauded academy system.
“We need to do things differently," said Flick. "We have always been able to defend well [in the past] and these are the things we need [now]. We need the basics.”
That's all from me tonight
Analysis of Japan's second goal will rumble on and on, and there could well be further clarity added tomorrow. The decision now looks less of an obvious clanger, but the process which denied viewers the angles Var were looking at clearly needs addressing.
Japan fully deserve to win the group after beating Germany and Spain. The complacency shown by Luis Enrique's team casts doubt on their World Cup credentials, but their quality is undeniable and they won't complain about a last-16 date with Morocco.
This was one of the greatest nights of World Cup group stage football.
More of Gary Neville's post-match thoughts
Luis Enrique not happy with Spain's second half
I am not happy at all. Yes, we have qualified, I would have liked to be on top of winning this game. This was impossible because in five minutes, Japan scored two goals ... we were out, we were dismantled.
I didn't miss anything, because we tried it all. We had strikers playing infield, we tried to create the chances. They were defending aggressively, they were closing down the spaces.
And of course with those aspects, you are going to be in danger ... this is what happens in football, and how can you manage this collapse that we suffered?," he asked with a note of incredulity.
About as a conclusive an angle as we will get
Will this be enough for Graeme Souness?
This is a clever home-made mock-up from Chris Williams which goes some way to explaining why we were all so sure the ball was out.
How a bonkers Group E finale unfolded
No grumbles for Germany manager Hansi Flick
We wanted to score three or four goals in the first half but then we made mistakes. If we had converted those chances, 16 of them. But the tournament was not decided today for us. We did not have any efficiency at this tournament and that is why we were eliminated.
Although maybe has not had time to watch the Japan goal on his phone yet?
To sum up....
There doesn't seem to be anything untoward about the decision to give Japan's winning goal, or that it was even a mistake despite initial replays suggesting the ball was out.
The cameras used to judge these decisions is above the ball and line, which provides a very different perspective from an ordinary match camera in front of the ball. I for one was fooled by the first replay.
The real problem for Fifa and Var is not supplying that conclusive camera angle around the world, to nip this in the bud.
Gary Neville's view in the ITV studio
I don't believe in conspiracies. That high-cam that's actually above the line does seem to suggest that some of the ball might be on the line. I'm struggling with it. From that very first offside goal, Ecuador vs Qatar game one, I've struggled with it a little bit and been uncomfortable that we're not being given the correct angles and the correct cameras because it just doesn't feel right.
Graeme Souness not happy with Var in the studio
We're getting close to an hour since the incident, the longer they don't come up with a picture...that last bit there would tell me the ball is out of play. The longer they don't produce a picture that shows conclusively the ball has not gone out of play you're thinking there's something untoward going on. There's 80 million Germans going mad, waiting for a picture that shows that ball didn't go out of play.
Not much sympathy for Germany from BBC's pundits
Why the ball was called in play
ITV are saying that Japan's winner was given because of the curvature of the ball - not all of the ball was over the line, even though the part of the ball that was on the grass WAS over the line. It's rather like when corner kick takers put the ball slightly outside the quadrant but it is deemed legal.
There will be questions for the Var team and Fifa about why the conclusive image that shows that was not supplied to the TV feed and broadcasters.
From this angle, you see the decision was perhaps closer than it first seemed and how - from a camera directly above - some of the ball overhangs the line.
What a night for Japan
What to make of Spain?
They will play Morocco - who are unbeaten it should be said - in the last 16. It is not a bad position to be in, but they were complacent after going ahead and tried to take the Michael out of Japan. Unprofessional really, but perhaps the example Luis Enrique needed.
The alternative universe...
There was a few minutes in the second half, when Costa Rica were 2-1 up against Germany, when Germany AND Spain were heading out. Germany's late flurry did Spain a huge favour, but they got nothing in return! Luis Enrique's team will have won few friends in Munich, Berlin or Cologne tonight.
England fans must also have been dreaming about the tournament opening up...
FULL TIME! Japan 2 Spain 1
Japan are going through as group winners, finishing above Spain and Germany. What a stunning achievement that is, and one that shouldn't be forgotten with so much focus on the fate of the two big boys. Their attacking is direct and speedy, and once they are in front they lock the game down with solid deep-lying defending.
Spain will be going through in second, ahead of Germany on goal difference thanks to their 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica in the opening game.
Japan will play Croatia in the last 16, with Spain playing Morocco. So despite the defeat, it's not a disaster for Spain.
Japan are almost there. This has been another second-half special from them, and they are heading through as group winners.
Asano chasing and forces Rodri to go back to Simon. Torres tries to stand up a cross from the right but it is too heavy and runs all the way through to Alba on the other side.
Japan have been very impressive since going in front, defending their box in textbook fashion. It's like watching one of the great Italy teams of old, and not just because of the shirt colour.
SEVEN minutes of added time
Germany have scored again to make it 4-2, now they must hope Spain score twice!
That was Spain's most dangerous moment since falling behind! Asensio with a swerving strike from distance which Gonda pushed out into the area, before a more routine stop after Olmo found some space in the box. Was that Spain - and Germany's - last chance?
Spain's turn to have the ball in Japan's half once again. Asensio tries a cute pass inside, but gives the ball away. Rodri just about gets there first again when Mitoma looked to outpace. Ally McCoist raises an interesting point: do Spain even want to score? As things stand, Japan go through with them instead of Germany.
Update: Havertz has scored again for Germany
They now lead Costa Rica 3-2 having been 2-1 down, in a bonkers game on a bonkers night. That surely means Spain are safe despite their slip up here. Germany need a Spain revival.
Oooh, Rodri and Carvajal found themselves two against two from the halfway line, and Ito looked to be away. Rodri cut across him but Carvajal got back and dealt with it. Strong work from the Real Madrid man.
Some dramatic irony on display here as Busquets fumes with Mitoma for going down easily to win a free-kick. Japan whip the free-kick in but Itakura's header was never troubling Simon.
Olmo does take on a shot from distance but Taniguchi blocks it. Spain are suffocating the game again with the counter-press, not letting Japan out of their defensive third, but the chances are not coming.
Spain patiently keeping the ball around the edge of the attacking third, Japan looking solid and compact. Rodri turns down the chance of a long-distance shot to keep it moving. This is an attack v defence exercise now.
Tomiyasu matches the run of Alba down the left flank and shuts out the light, ushering the ball out of play. He gets some applause from his team-mates at the back.
Spain are starting to see more of the ball now, playing the game in the Japan half. That Germany goal will come as an almighty relief to Luis Enrique. Torres tosses a cross into the area from the right but Japan head out. Pressure growing.
72 minutes: More updates from the game this blog is not covering!
Spain are back into the green because Germany have equalised against Costa Rica! Havertz with the goal.
Spain and Japan heading through as things stand.
Major news from the other game: COSTA RICA SCORE!
They are now 2-1 up against Germany, and as things stand Germany AND Spain are heading home.
Jordi Alba coming on, as well as Ansu Fati as Enrqiue makes another couple of changes. Japan are also bringing on Takehiro Tomiyasu, who might not be fully fit. Or else you would have expected him to play.
This has been another startling second-half turnaround from Japan, all credit to the manager for his changes: Mitoma, Doan and Asano have made the difference off the bench again. Spain have a goal kick and need to gather themselves.
Japan looking very dangerous especially through Doan down their right, Spain starting to look ragged. The game has not reestablished any kind of rhythm since the Japan goals.
Costa Rica have equalised against Germany and so are level on points with Spain now! If they were to go on and win, then Spain and Germany would be out if this game stays the same. Spain really need to retrieve this.
The explanation given is that because the ball was overhanging the line, it was not out of play. There must have been angle the Var crew had access to that showed a different picture. Luis Enrique has brought on Asensio and Ferran Torres on.
GOAL GIVEN! Japan lead
Well we need to see that one again, because the goal has been given for Tonaka!
Japan going through as group winners, Germany out as things stands.
This was the angle we saw on TV:
They are checking this...
The replays suggested the ball was clearly out but they are taking their time, a two or three-minute check.
Japan are producing more second-half heroics and thought they had scored a second! Doan whipped a delicious ball across the box, and it ran out of play when Tonaka hooked it across the box. Nagatomo was there to tap in but the goal is disallowed, rightly, with the ball out of play.
GOOOOAAALL! Doan equalises for Japan
What a start to the second half. Spain looked to have worked their way from a tight spot at the back with Simon chipping a pass across his box to Balde. Japan pinched in off them, and Doan let fly with his left foot from around 22 yards out. Simon got two hands to it, but it went through him. Poor goalkeeping.
We're back under way!
Japan will be hoping to stay in this and take the game into the last 20 minutes.
Spain are making a change
Carvajal on for Azpilicueta, which I imagine is just a case of managing minutes.
HT: Japan 0 Spain 1
Spain looked irrepressible, and unpressable, during the first 20 minutes when they took the lead through Morata's header. They have slack off since and a few moments of complacency have given Japan a glimmer, but Luis Enrique's team are heavily odds-on to finish the job from here.
Germany lead Costa Rica, so as things stand it is a Spain-Germany 1-2 in Group E. Japan's slip-up against Costa Rica looks like costing them.
Taniguchi then catches Gavi late and picks up a booking. Spain do tempt those kinds of tackles by leaving it so late to release the ball. Then Morata is clipped by Yoshida, and the former Southampton man is booked.
Taniguchi with an excellent block as Olmo pulled the trigger from the edge of the area. Spain reasserting their dominance as we approach half time. Balde has been sharp for Spain at left-back.
Busquets gave Pedri a bit of a hospital pass under pressure from Itakura, but he let the ball run across his body and bought the foul. Then Spain left-back Balde gives the ball away with a square pass, but he recovers well to usher the ball out against Ito.
Japan starting to sense there might be something in this for them. Ito providing an outlet down the right, before Kamada gets into the area and sees a shot blocked. Ito would have been ruled offside in any case.
Spain have let their guard down a little, but every time they do mess up a pass they contract and win the ball straight away.
Oooh, and they were almost punished for complacency there as Simon tried a trick in his six-yard box under pressure. In fairness to the goalkeeper, he wrapped his foot around a great pass to Azpilicueta.
Japan manage to get their foot on the ball at the back and exchange some passes. Busquets then sticks out a leg to snuff out a serious counter-attack. Spain have had 79 per cent possession so far. Busquets then caught late on halfway.
Japan not happy that Busquets is given a foul after he was closed down by Morita. It wasn't the softest first touch from the midfield, Morita was entitled to go for it. Busquets then gets away with a risky pass played blind to goalkeeper Simon but he gets away with it. Spain build again.
This time Spain's high line catches Japan offside when they were in a promising position. Rodri stepped up at the right time, but there was an element of good fortune about that. Might be something for teams to look at in the knockout stages. Lovely feet from Rodri to Cruyff turn and switch play near his own box.
Morata shoots straight at the goalkeeper after another free-flowing move. Spain just keeping the ball and completely controlling the game. They stretch the pitch so far from side to side and just wait for those gaps to open up.
Who is impressing you after 20 minutes?
You can give your player ratings here.
Germany have hit the front against Costa Rica, so as thing stand Spain will go through as group winners with Germany in second.
Spain finding their rhythm now, some lovely touches from Gavi and Pedri as usual, Japan struggling to deal with their stifling approach and immaculate ball retention.
That is now 30 goals in 60 Spain appearances for Morata, and he is now 5th on their all-time list of goalscorers. A few moments of sloppiness early from Spain, but the football going forward has been slick and they have been rewarded with a goal.
GOOOAAALLL! Morata bags again
Two in two for Morata and there was a little slice of west London in the opening goal. Williams plays the ball back to Azpilicueta at the corner of the penalty area, who clips a cross with his right foot to the head of Morata who could not miss from six yards out. Morata has missed those actually, but not tonight.
Promising moment for Japan. Maeda pounced on a loose touch from Busquets near the edge of his own box, and the ball was worked across for Ito to shoot from a tight angle. Didn't quite get it right and found the side-netting.
At the other end from a corner, Spain work a short one but Morata's glancing header is straight at the goalkeeper.
Spain's shape is just crystal clear when they have the ball, with both wingers stood on the touchline, and the midfield in that usual V-shape.
Lovely move from Spain down their right, Gavi and Williams combining. The pull-back did not quite drop for Morata with Japan throwing bodies in front of it, before Busquets skewed horribly over from 25 yards with his weaker left foot.
Not the best start to the game from Spain's Pau Torres who has come in at left centre-back tonight. He misplaces a past forward and then is out-paced by Maeda who delivered a low cross into the box which Spain mopped up. Japan dropping back into a 5-4-1 shape.
Spain straight into a period of possession, and they find Gavi in a pocket of space centre-right. The ball is worked out to Williams on the right and he flashes the ball across the area. Japan trying to keep distances tight and defend in their shape.
Spain gets us under way with all four teams in this group in with a shout of qualification.
The teams are on their way out...
Japan will need to show the counter-attacking prowess displayed against Germany, because I don't think they are seeing much of the ball tonight.
Spain's midfield singled out for praise
A reminder of where we stand
Spain top the standings with four points and now need only a draw in their final game to progress. A win would send them through to the knockout round in first place. Germany need to win against Costa Rica and their hopes then depend on Japan losing. If Japan draw it would come down to goal difference or goals scored by Germany and Japan.
If Japan beat Spain, they're through. They would also go through if both remaining matches end with a draw, but they're out if they lose to Spain or if they draw with Spain and Costa Rica beat Germany.
Costa Rica can still qualify if they beat Germany. Even if they draw, they would go through as long as Spain beat Japan. But if Spain lose then goal difference will apply. A draw in both games or a defeat means Costa Rica are going home.
Germany are praying for a Spain win...
You can follow their game against Costa Rice on our live blog here. Leroy Sane gets a start for Germany.
Japan have strengthened their team tonight
Five changes, after he took a bit of liberty against Costa Rice and got a punch in the guts with that late deflected goal.
Spain have kept their velvety midfield of Busquets, Gavi and Pedri together despite some rotation.
Morata comes in for Spain
Fresh off his goal against Germany, it will be interesting to watch how Spain operate with a true central striker in their team tonight. Will they sacrifice some control for goal threat?
Morata is rather like poor old Lukaku (no, that's not an expression of sympathy because they both played for Chelsea).
Clearly both are quality forwards with lots of positive attributes, but their bad nights tend to be 2/10s rather than 6/10s. Terrible misses seem to dog them as well, which is not good news in the age of the meme and 20-second highlight.
Will Spain prove too strong – pick your score here.
Luis Enrique makes five change, bringing in defenders Cesar Azpilicueta, Pau Torres and Alejandro Balde.
Strikers Nico Williams and Alvaro Morata also got the nod while captain Sergio Busquets, who is a yellow card away from a suspension, remain among the starters.
Spain: Unai Simon, Cesar Azpilicueta, Pau Torres, Sergio Busquets, Alvaro Morata, Gavi, Nico Williams, Alejandro Balde, Rodri, Dani Olmo, Pedri
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu, also makes five changes from the side beaten by 1-0 by Costa Rica.
In defence, Shogo Taniguchi comes in for Miki Yamane, Japan's third right back in three games at the tournament after Hiroki Sakai was injured in the 2-1 win over Germany. Ao Tanaka was brought in as a holding midfielder. No place for Arsenal defender Tomiyasu
Japan: Shuichi Gonda, Shogo Taniguchi, Ko Itakura, Yuto Nagatomo, Takefusa Kubo, Hidemasa Morita, Junya Ito, Daichi Kamada, Ao Tanaka, Maya Yoshida, Daizen Maeda
Will Spain do Germany and themselves a favour?
Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport's live coverage of Spain versus Japan, kicking of the final round of group stage matches at the Khalifa International stadium at 7pm.
All four members of Group E - which includes Spain and Costa Rica - have a chance at making the Round of 16, but none has as persuasive an argument as Spain. Currently topping the group with four points and the most promising goal difference, should things come to that, the Spanish started the tournament with an emphatic 7-0 victory over Costa Rica. Spain's opener showcased the young talent at their disposal, as well as making a statement of intent that head coach Luis Enrique has looked to maintain through the group stage.
"We are here to win seven matches," Enrique said in his pre-match press conference yesterday.
"We want to be winners of this group."
A cagey 1-1 draw against Germany has complicated things somewhat, which means that Spain head into today's match in jeopardy, and Enrique has no opportunity to shake things up and experiment as already-qualified France did - to lacklustre effect - against Tunisia on Wednesday.
Spain will also have to be wary of Japan, underdogs once more after their unexpected 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica. Japan relished taking on big beasts Germany and handing them one of the tournament's most surprising upsets, and currently second in the group, will not wish to squander the opportunity to progress to the Round of 16 for the second-consecutive World Cup.
Japan's coach Hajime Moriyasu for his part has underscored that "the past can't be changed".
"People will have different opinions depending on our performance [...] they are free to criticize, they are free to praise," Moriyasu added.
"We are going to show the Japanese spirit and pride and we are going to fight."
As things go down to the wire in Group E, you can keep an eye on Germany versus Costa Rica here (LINK), and we'll keep you up to date as and when things change in the group's hierarchy.