World Cup goal controversy takes new twist as Germany’s embarrassing flop shocks

Seen here, a bird's eye view of Japan's contentious second goal in the World Cup win over Spain.
A bird's eye view of Japan's contentious second goal indicates part of the ball was in fact still in. Pic: Getty/Twitter

A crucial image has emerged from Japan's dramatic World Cup victory against Spain that changes the narrative around the controversy in Qatar. The Samurai Blue's win saw them top Group E ahead of Spain, with a highly contentious second goal from the Japanese ultimately knocking Germany out of the World Cup, despite their 4-2 win over Costa Rica in the other group game.

Spain looked to be in control of the contest after Alvaro Morata headed Luis Enrique's side into a half-time lead, however two goals from Japan in the space of five second half minutes turned the match on its head. Substitute Ritsu Doan equalised before Ao Tanaka netted the winning goal that left the football world seething.

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The goal was allowed to stand after a lengthy VAR review, despite replays and still images appearing to show the ball going out of play. Commentators and fans flocked to social media to condemn the manner in which Japan had won. Many labelled VAR's decision on the second goal 'shocking' and a 'disgrace'.

As evidenced by several camera angles, grass was clearly visible between the ball and the goal line, justifying the outrage from many football fans who were adamant the goal should not have stood. Former English Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg even told the Fox Sports broadcast in America that he thought the goal would be disallowed.

“As we see on this replay, yes it is, it’s out of play. And therefore it will be disallowed. This will get chalked off," Clattenburg said.

However, another clearer and more crucial angle later emerged - helping to explain why the ball wasn't ruled out. By law, the ball is only out of play when the entirety of it has fully cleared the line of play.

In other words, if you were to draw a line perpendicular to the ground - straight up from the end line toward the sky - and that vertical line intersects with any part of the ball, the ball is still in play. The crucial angles that offered a bird’s eye view seemed to show that the ball hadn’t done this, and that a sliver of the ball - no matter how marginally - was in fact still on the line.

FIFA also offered an explanation after the game, saying the 'curvature of the ball' kept it in play. Former referee Peter Walton also said on ITV: "There’s a misconception in law that just because the part of the ball that is on the floor is over the line is out - well it clearly isn’t because it’s the curve of the ball. We see it often with corner kicks where it’s over the line but not quite over the line.

"In this instance, what the VAR is looking for is the evidence to suggest to the referee that the ball has clearly left the field of play and on the evidence that we’re seeing, he doesn’t have that in front of him."

Germany and Belgium bundled out amid high drama

Spain pushed for an equaliser late on with Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda forced into a smart reaction save to deny Asensio, before comfortably collecting Dani Olmo's tame shot at the near post as Japan celebrated another remarkable victory and a place in the last 16, at the expense of the Germans.

Germany finished behind Spain on goal difference - thanks to the Spaniard's thumping 7-0 win over Costa Rica in the first game - with Japan setting up a last 16 showdown with Croatia after topping Group E. Spain will face Group F winners Morocco, who secured their progress with a 2-1 win over Canada.

On a night of unrelenting drama in the desert near Doha, the Germans struck first with Serge Gnabry in the 10th minute but saw the Central Americans score twice with Yeltsin Tejeda and Juan Pablo Vargas before a Kai Havertz brace put them back in front. Fellow substitute Niclas Fuellkrug added a fourth in stoppage time but it could do nothing to prevent their elimination as Spain advanced with a superior goal difference.

Germany's failure to progress past the group stages was not the only shock on a drama-charged day in Qatar, with No.2-ranked Belgium bundled out after their 0-0 draw with Croatia saw them finish third in Group F. The football powerhouses will both miss out on a $19 million payday that is awarded for advancing to the knockout stages.

with agencies

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