Football powerhouses Germany and Belgium have crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage on a crazy day of drama in Qatar. Germany were sent packing in highly controversial scenes despite a 4-2 victory over Costa Rica, with a contentious goal for Japan sending them to a 2-1 win over Spain and knocking the Germans out.
Japan's incredible upset of Spain saw them finish top of Group E on six points, with Spain also advancing on four points. But it was heartbreak for Germany, who also finished on four points but with an inferior goal difference to that of Spain.
'INCREDIBLY SAD': Socceroos rocked by tragedy at World Cup
However the Germans will be seething over the manner in which Japan beat Spain, with their second goal coming from a highly contentious decision from the VAR. Replays appeared to show the ball going completely over the touchline before it was kicked back into play and bundled into the back of the net.
However VAR left the football world speechless when the goal was allowed, sending Japan into absolute raptures. In the simultaneous game, Germany managed to erase a 2-1 deficit to win 4-2, but it wasn't enough as Japan held on for an extraordinary win over Spain.
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'.
However further angles have since come to light that seem to support VAR's decision. In one high shot, there doesn't appear to be any grass between the ball and line. Under officials rules, the ball must be completely over the line to be deemed out of play.
FIFA have since moved to address the furore, claiming the “curvature of the ball” kept it in play. But former referee Keith Hackett told the UK Telegraph: “It should never have been a goal. It might be time to think about binning VAR.”
Former referee Peter Walton 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."
Spain coach Luis Enrique said after the game: “I thought the images must be wrong or fabricated. I saw an image and said, ‘That picture can’t be true’.
“I have nothing else to say. I have full respect [for the officials]. I knew something was going on because VAR was taking so long. But we went into collapse mood.”
Spain had looked in total control at half-time after taking the lead through an Alvaro Morata header. But Japan turned things around in the space of five minutes in the second when substitute Ritsu Doan equalised.
Ao Tanaka then netted the second, with the goal allowed to stand following a lengthy VAR review. Spain pushed for an equaliser and Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda was forced to make a number of clutch saves as Japan celebrated another remarkable victory and a place in the last 16.
Belgium go crashing out in shock scenes
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez earlier announced his resignation after their shocking exit in the group stage. Belgium were cruelled by a host of missed chances from Romelu Lukaku in a 0-0 draw with Croatia that sealed their fate.
The exit ensures the last hurrah of Belgium's 'golden generation' ended in a dismal group-stage exit. Croatia, the finalists at the 2018 World Cup, progressed at their expense, progressed at their expense on five points, while Morocco finished shock winners of Group F on seven points.
"That was my last game as national coach today. Of course it's very emotional," Martinez said after Belgium missed out on the knock-out rounds at a World Cup for the first time since 1998. The 49-year-old, who led Belgium to third place in 2018, explained afterwards he had already made the decision before the World Cup to quit after the tournament.
"You can imagine that I had many offers after finishing third in 2018, but I wanted to be loyal and fulfil my contract. Now our journey is over," he said. "But my decision has nothing to do with the elimination in the group stage."
Belgium, ranked second in the world and finishing as semi-finalists four years ago, needed a win at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium to keep their hopes alive. But they couldn't break down the Croats, who finished as group F runners up behind Morocco.
Moroccan clinched a spot in the last 16 for the first time since 1986 after defeating the already-eliminated Canada 2-1. Morocco, who needed a win or a draw on Thursday, capitalised ruthlessly on their opponents' blunders.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.