Spain has been accused of deliberately losing to Japan to avoid the tougher Brazilian team in the quarter-finals.
Mexico World Cup legend Hugo Sanchez said Spain lost to Japan in their final group match so they could avoid tournament favorites Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Spain, Japan, and Germany were all involved in one of the most spectacular night actions in World Cup history on Thursday, December 1st as they struggled to qualify from Group E.
Germany was eliminated from the tournament despite defeating Costa Rica in a stunning 4-2 victory, while Japan secured the top spot after a dramatic comeback that saw Spain fall in a 2-1 defeat.
Alvaro Morata opened the scoresheet for Spain in the 11th minute before Japan fought back with two goals from Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka.
Spain’s ‘dubious 1-2 defeat’ against Japan, however, included a controversial VAR call for Ao Tanaka’s winning goal; a decision that was replayed over and over again before the referee changed his initial decision and awarded a goal for Japan.
In the aftermath of Spain’s defeat to unfancied Japan, Mexico, and former Real Madrid legend, Hugo Sanchez implied that Spain purposely lost to Japan too to avoid mighty Brazil in the knockout phase.
The former Real Madrid forward who featured in three World Cups for Mexico was asked by an ESPN presenter: ‘You are assuring me that Spain looked for this result to avoid Brazil?’
The Mexico legend replied: ‘I assure you. I was not there and I’m not in the mind of Luis Enrique but he had thought about what was the best way to avoid playing Brazil in the quarter-finals. Yes, there is a risk but it’s a risk worth taking.
‘It’s not that they fear Brazil but they respect them.’
Mexico legend Sanchez, who played and managed his country, thinks Spain was happy to lose the game and received a more favorable clash against Morocco, which will come up on the 6th of December.
When other football pundits raised eyebrows at the suggestion, Sanchez reiterated his stance, saying the Spaniard manager will never admit it.
He added: ‘The coach is never going to admit it. Managers don’t say: “I let them win”.’
However, Spain’s head coach Luis Enrique condemned the notion that he deliberately allowed Japan to win to secure a future advantage.
In a post-match interview, Enrique was asked about the prospect of avoiding mighty Brazil in the quarter-finals at the expense of Japan’s defeat.
The Spaniard boss replied: “In football, you deserve it or not and we didn’t deserve it. I’m not happy at all. I would have liked to be on top and win but in five minutes Japan scored two.
Spain’s likely quarter-final opponents are now Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal team who are an easier opponent compared to Brazil.
However, Spain must overcome the unbeaten Morocco team before they can think about trampling on the next team in the quarter-final clash.
Luis Enrique’s team will hope to step on Morocco to advance in the quarter-finals when they meet the elegant African nation on Tuesday, December 6.
Spain v Morocco match will take place at Education City Stadium with kickoff time scheduled at 4 pm.