Luis Enrique’s Spain made the trip to the Khalifa International Stadium a short time ago.
Boasting four points from their opening two fixtures, La Roja went toe to toe with the aforementioned Japan, in the knowledge that another victory would see them guaranteed of table-topping status come the conclusion of the action in Group E.
Japan, though, had just days ago proven themselves capable of giant-killing, courtesy of a remarkable turnaround downing of Germany.
And, when all was said and done on Thursday evening, it was indeed the Samurai Blue who, once more, emerged triumphant on the grandest stage.
After falling behind early on upon Alvaro Morata nodding home his third of the tournament from close range, Japan soon showcased their remarkable fighting spirit once more.
First, minutes into the 2nd-half, Ritsu Doan levelled things up courtesy of a wonderful left-footed strike.
Then, before Spain even had time to gather themselves, the comeback was complete, upon Ao Tanaka slotting home amid controversial circumstances:
From here, as expected, it was the Spaniards who controlled proceedings, pushing hard for a leveller of their own amid ongoing chaos in Germany’s meeting with Costa Rica.
Upon the final whistle sounding in Al Rayyan, though, Enrique’s troops simply couldn’t carve out as much, in the face of a resolute Japanese backline.
Despite Germany’s eventual three-point haul of their own, this meant that, incredibly, it was Japan who advanced as Group E winners, with Spain limping through as runners-up.
- Shuichi Gonda - 6.5
- Ko Itakura - 6
- Maya Yoshida - 6.5
- Shogo Taniguchi - 6.5
- Junya Ito - 6
- Hidemasa Morita - 7
- Ao Tanaka - 7.5
- Yuto Nagatomo - 5.5
- Daichi Kamada - 6
- Take - 5.5
- Daizen Maeda - 6.5
Substitutes: Ritsu Doan - 7.5, Kaoru Mitoma - 7, Takuma Asano - 5.5, Takehiro Tomiyasu - 6, Wataru Endo - 5.5
- Unai Simon - 5
- Cesar Azpilicueta - 6.5
- Rodri - 6.5
- Pau Torres - 5.5
- Alejandro Balde - 5
- Sergio Busquets - 5.5
- Gavi - 6.5
- Pedri - 6
- Nico Williams - 5
- Dani Olmo - 5.5
- Alvaro Morata - 7
Substitutes: Dani Carvajal - 6, Ferran Torres - 5.5, Marco Asensio - 5.5, Ansu Fati - 5, Jordi Alba - 5.5