Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka earned Japan a stunning 2-1 victory over Spain in World Cup Group E on Thursday as both teams reached the last 16.
Japan topped the group standings, thanks in no small part to a highly controversial goal that knocked out Germany, and will face Croatia next.
Maya Yoshida was convinced Japan would send Germany packing - after studying the history books and stumbling on a group stage curse affecting big nations.
“There is data which shows that, since 1998, two big countries in the same group have never both gone through,” the former Southampton defender said. “Statistically there’s evidence that showed we should be confident.
“I was the only one that knew the statistic. I didn’t tell anyone! I just read an article and it stuck with me, I kept it in my head.”
Although Yoshida’s claims were slightly embellished, there is plenty of evidence of big nations coming unstuck when paired together in World Cup groups. Argentina failed to get out of a group with England in 2002 and, in 2010, France exited at the first hurdle after being paired with Uruguay.
At the 2014 finals in Brazil, both England and Italy crashed out of Group D while reigning champions Spain were knocked out of a group also containing the Netherlands and Portugal, paired in Group G with Germany, were also eliminated.
Japan World Cup 2022 squad
Goalkeepers: Shuichi Gonda, Daniel Schmidt, Eiji Kawashima
Defenders: Miki Yamane, Hiroki Sakai, Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ko Itakura, Shogo Taniguchi, Hiroki Ito, Yuto Nagatomo, Yura Nakayama
Midfielders: Wataru Endo, Hidemasa Morita, Ao Tanaka, Gaku Shibasaki, Kaoru Mitoma, Daichi Kamada, Ritsu Doan, Junya Ito, Takumi Minamino, Takefusa Kubo, Yuki Soma
Forwards: Daizen Maeda, Takuma Asano, Ayase Ueda
Who is their best player?
Going into the the tournament, Brighton newcomer Kaoru Mitoma had been dazzling for both his country, and his new club.
Former Brighton manager Graham Potter spoke about Mitoma after the winger made his debut as a substitute, claiming that he was "going to cause full-backs a problem".
"He has got that ability to go by people that is quite unique," Potter added.
In their 2-1 win against Germany it was goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda who took the official player of the match accolade, but Telegraph readers voted winning goalscorer Takuma Asano as their top performer.
What are Japan's fixtures and results?
Japan will face Croatia in the last 16 of the World Cup in Qatar. The match will be played at Al Janoub Stadium on Monday, December 5 and will kick off at 3pm.
November 23: Germany 1 Japan 2
November 27: Japan 0 Costa Rica 1
December 1: Japan 2 Spain 1
What is Japan's World Cup record?
Japan have appeared at every World Cup since 1998, and have progressed to the round 16 in 2002 – during the tournament they jointly hosted with South Korea – 2010, and 2018. 2018's iteration saw them exit the tournament after a particularly lively match against Belgium, who ended up finishing third in Russia.
In 2019, Japan competed in both the AFC Asian Cup, where they reached the final, losing to Qatar, and the Copa America, which they were invited to participate in for the second time.
Japan qualified for the 2022 World Cup by coming second in Group B of the AFC qualification tournament.
Argentina | Australia | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon | Canada | Costa Rica | Croatia | Denmark | Ecuador | England | France | Germany | Ghana | Iran | Japan | Mexico | Morocco | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Senegal | Serbia | South Korea | Spain | Switzerland | Tunisia | Uruguay | USA | Wales
Japan are currently a best price of 80/1 to win the World Cup.