Japan’s Controversial Game-Winning Goal Against Spain


Sophie Lyons, Author

In the last match between Spain and Japan on December 1, 2022, of the Qatar World Cup, the Japanese team scored the winning goal that ended the game 2-1. A shocking, and somewhat humiliating game for the Spanish. But was this defeat a justified result? Many fans have their opinions. Unfortunately for Spain, only the referee’s opinion mattered as they counted the goal as valid.

The first goal of the game was made by Spain’s Alvaro Morata in the 11th minute. Japan was unable to score for the rest of the half. Luckily, Ritsu Doan scored his second goal in the World Cup and tied the score 1-1 in the 48th minute. Before Spain could recover from this shock, Japan scored once more only 4 minutes later. However, this was met with a lot of controversies. The linesman thought the ball had passed the goal line before Kaoru Mitoma recovered the ball and passed it to Ao Tanaka who scored. Because of the importance of this goal, the on-field referee checked with VAR.

VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee. Multiple people behind the scenes of soccer games review actions to make the decision if a goal or a red card should stand. FIFA’s ball technology was not able to find if the ball had fully crossed the line so VAR had to rely on images taken from the many cameras around the field. While the images showed many different results, VAR decided to go with a birds-eye-view look at the ball. While most of the ball had crossed the line and decidedly been out, a small part from the curvature of the ball did hang over the line. As small as the piece was, VAR decided that it was still inside the field, therefore the goal counted.

However, a picture taken by the Associated Press appeared an hour after the game that looked as though the ball was completely out. It was taken from the back towards the front of the 18-yard box. Although many people claim this should be taken into consideration, no calls made by the referee can be taken back after the game is over. The reason this was such a big deal, was because this goal kicked Germany out of the World Cup! Anything but a win for Japan would have let Germany advance ahead of them with a win against Costa Rica. Alas, the results stand with Japan and Spain advancing to the round of 16 and Germany and Costa Rica going home.

Despite the arguments surrounding the goal, Japan has made it out of the Group Stage along with Spain. These unpredictable calls are what make the World Cup interesting and are why there are around 5 billion people watching this tournament!