Germany is one of the biggest and most decorated soccer countries in the world. The four-time World Cup champions and three-time European champions are successful, but ever since they won the World Cup in 2014, they have struggled. Those struggles continued into the 2022 edition as Germany was knocked out in the group stage for the second consecutive time.
This time, Germany was last in Group E with one point entering their final match. Needing a win and help, Germany did their part by defeating Costa Rica 4-2. But Japan played the same strategy they used to defeat Germany to beat Spain 2-1 to win the group and place Spain in second.
The difference between Japan and Germany was literally centimeters. Japan’s second goal came from a pass that looked like it was out of bounds if you’re looking at the ball from any other angle but from the top. But from the top, the outer edge was deemed to be over the line and barely in, so Japan got their second goal. If that goal hadn’t counted, Japan and Spain would’ve drew 1-1 and Germany would’ve overtaken Japan on goal differential.
If this ball is ruled out Germany would be moving on to the Round of 16 😱 pic.twitter.com/PcceKn0AIW
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 1, 2022
Despite Germany’s failure, that shouldn’t take away from what Japan did. Despite losing to Costa Rica 1-0, they beat two former World Cup champions within a week and did it by letting those sides have the ball the majority of the time. Japan only had the ball for 26% against Germany while having the ball 18% of the time against Spain. In fact, according to Opta, only twice has a team lost in the World Cup while attempting 700+ passes. That was Japan’s victories over Germany and Spain this year.
2 – Since detailed World Cup records began (1966), there are only two instances of a team losing a game despite attempting 700+ passes:
Spain vs Japan tonight
Germany vs Japan last week
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 1, 2022
With Japan atop of Group E, they will face Croatia on Monday. Spain will go against Group F winners Morocco on Tuesday.