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Asian Reporter web extra, December 3, 2022

Japan’s Kaoru Mitoma (top, #9) passes the ball to earn the assist on Ao Tanaka’s game-winning goal during a World Cup Group E soccer match between Japan and Spain at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on December 1, 2022. From most angles, it looked like the ball went out of play just before Japan scored its winning goal in the 2-1 victory against Spain in the World Cup. Associated Press photographer Petr David Josek took a photo from above that appears to support the referee’s decision to allow it. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

AP photo catches key moment before Japan’s World Cup goal

By Ciarán Fahey

The Associated Press

December 3, 2022

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — From most angles, it looked like the ball went out of play just before Japan scored its winning goal in the 2-1 victory against Spain in the World Cup.

Associated Press photographer Petr David Josek took a photo from above that appears to support the referee’s decision to allow it.

Josek’s image was taken Thursday night from a narrow catwalk, high above the field at the Khalifa International Stadium. A catwalk is an elevated platform just under a stadium’s roof that allows a small group of photographers to shoot a game from above.

With Spain up 1-0 at halftime, Josek stayed where he was in the second half, rather than moving to the other end in anticipation of another goal from the 2010 World Cup champions.

"I decided to stay because obviously if Japan can turn things around, it’s a bigger story," Josek said. "I’m happy about that decision."

It meant Josek had a perfect vantage point for the image that defined Japan’s comeback. Many people watching the game – including the referee’s assistant – thought the ball went out of play just before Kaoru Mitoma sent a cross to Ao Tanaka for what proved to be the winning goal from close range.

Under the rules of soccer, all of the ball needs to have crossed the line to be out of play, which can be difficult to establish in some situations. Video review officials needed about two minutes to confirm the whole ball hadn’t gone out of bounds. It was a millimeter decision.

"When I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh god, I’m pretty lucky.’ That was the exact point of where the ball was coming back," Josek said. "I was pretty lucky to get it at that exact moment."

Normally based in Prague, Josek is among AP’s team of photographers covering World Cup games in Qatar from multiple positions. On the catwalk, Josek had to wear a harness and a helmet, while all his cameras and equipment – weighing around 26 pounds in total – had to be secured, too, to avoid any of it falling and injuring the players below.

"You have a strap with a big hook that you just kind of hook yourself onto in case you were to fall. It catches you from falling," Josek said. "It’s physically demanding. You have to hand-hold a (large) 400-millimeter lens because you can’t use a monopod. And you’re doing that for two hours standing on an uneven surface."

* * *

Explainer: Why Japan’s World Cup goal was judged valid

By Graham Dunbar

The Associated Press

December 3, 2022

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The most controversial goal of the World Cup so far was scored by Japan, and it eliminated Germany.

The Japanese came from behind to beat Spain 2-1 on Thursday and advance to the Round of 16 on a goal that many felt went out of play before the ball went into the net. The victory also meant that four-time champion Germany, playing at the same time, was knocked out of the competition in Qatar.

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) confirmed Friday that an overhead camera positioned along the goal line verified the ball stayed in play.


After trailing 1-0 at halftime, Japan substitute Ritsu Doan scored in the 48th minute. A draw wasn’t enough, though. They needed another goal.

Three minutes later, Japan was again swarming the Spain net as the ball rolled across the goalmouth. Two Japanese players slid trying to hook the ball back in front and Kaoru Mitoma succeeded.

Mitoma’s kick sent the ball down into the turf and bouncing up in a slow loop for the onrushing Ao Tanaka to guide into the net with his right knee.


The soccer rule from the International Football Association Board related to the incident comes in "Law 9: The Ball In and Out of Play."

Section 9.1 states: "The ball is out of play when it has wholly passed over the goal line or touchline on the ground or in the air."

The entirety of the width, or circumference, of the ball has to cross the line to be out of play. It does not have to be touching the white line.

A field-level camera angle on Thursday showed green space between the line and the ball, making it look out of play.

"If it was not a goal I would not have been disappointed," Tanaka said.


World Cup match officials get the benefit of 42 broadcast cameras to review all plays during the 64 games in Qatar, "eight of which are super slow motion and four of which are ultra slow motion," FIFA said.

The VAR technology has been in use since the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The VAR team includes four officials who review all plays in front of a bank of screens. They alert the on-field referee to "clear and obvious errors" and missed incidents in "match-changing" events.

They are not allowed to intervene for every potential infringement of the rules — only the ones that relate to goals, potential penalties, red cards, and cases of mistaken identity in the awarding of yellow and red cards.

Every goal at the World Cup is reviewed to ensure the build-up play is valid.

It took more than two minutes for the VAR team to confirm the Japan goal was good.


Other sports have different ways to decide if the ball is in play.

In tennis, the camera-based Hawk-Eye system verifies if any part of the ball was touching the line and therefore inbounds.

In basketball, a player can keep the ball in play as long as no part of the player’s body is touching the ground outside the court.

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