Germany 1 – 2 Japan

Germany 1 – 2 Japan

Japan stunned Germany with a late comeback in their World Cup opener, with goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano seeing them win 2-1 at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Japan had never previously beaten their European opponents, but they capitalized on German mistakes and missed chances to secure a famous win in their first Group E match.

Striker Thomas Muller said after the game: “It’s ridiculous that we’re here with a defeat. We played a good game for long periods, but a game is also characterized by the chances you convert into goals.”

Japan had an early ‘goal’ from Daizen Maeda disallowed for offside as well, but Hansi Flick’s side soon went ahead after a clumsy challenge from goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda on David Raum gave them a penalty and Ilkay Gundogan slotted in from the spot (33).

Germany thought they had scored a second at the end of the first half, but Kai Havertz’s strike was also ruled out for offside.

The four-time World Cup winners continued to see chances come and go – Gundogan hit the post on the hour – before Japan used their lightning-quick attack to score twice late on.

Did you know?…

  • Germany have not lost a World Cup game when they led at half-time since 1978.

Four minutes after coming on as a substitute, Doan (75) turned home from close range after a Manuel Neuer save. Germany were then caught with a ball over the top, allowing Asano (83) to smuggle the ball home at a tight angle.

Each Japan goal was met with a team bundle at the corner flag and there were joyous celebrations at full time. “It’s a big surprise. We saw the Saudi victory over Argentina – the Asian countries are reaching the global standard,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said.

For Germany, their poor World Cup form continues, having finished bottom of their group in the 2018 tournament.

How Japan secured a famous victory

Japan's Ritsu Doan celebrates after scoring his team's equaliser
Doan celebrates after scoring Japan’s equaliser

Japan started brilliantly and had the ball in the net within seven minutes. Gundogan was muscled off the ball in midfield before Junya Ito drove down the right flank. Maeda then headed in his cross but he was a yard offside.

Germany soon began to find their feet and had a number of chances after 20 minutes. Joshua Kimmich saw his effort from distance palmed away by Gonda before Gundogan headed home the rebound. The Man City midfielder saw an effort go straight at Gonda, before another effort a minute later was well blocked.

Big moments in the game…

  • 7 min: Maeda’s early goal ruled out for offside.
  • 32 min: Germany awarded penalty after Gonda foul on Raum, scored by Gundogan.
  • 45+3 min: Havertz’s goal also ruled out for offside.
  • 61 min: Gundogan sees his effort hit the post.
  • 75 min: Doan scores the equalizer for Japan shortly after coming on as a substitute.
  • 83 min: Asano scores the winner for Japan after a long ball over the top.

But for all Gonda’s good work in the opening half hour, his sloppy goalkeeping gave Germany a penalty as he ran out to meet Raum, tipped him before catching the defender again and almost landing on top of him.

Having blocked two previous attempts, Gundogan stepped up and sent his expert spot-kick to see the four-time World Cup winners in front.

Germany's Ilkay Gundogan celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal
Germany’s Ilkay Gundogan celebrates after scoring his team’s opening goal

Germany then began to dominate and thought they had a second in the third minute of four added at the end of the first half. Havertz headed in after a cross from Serge Gnabry, but after a VAR check the goal was rightly ruled offside.

Japan could still have made the end of the first half more interesting, but Maeda headed just wide.

Kai Havertz is ruled offside after putting the ball in the net
Kai Havertz had a goal ruled out for offside at the end of the first half

It was an end-to-end start to the second half and Gundogan should have added another on the hour. The impressive Jamal Musiala drove down the left before setting up the midfielder from 15 yards out. However, Gundogan’s effort smashed the base of the post and went wide. In the 70th minute, Gonda also denied Jonas Hoffman and Gnabry in quick succession.

But the Japan comeback was on the horizon, with Neuer making his first save of the game soon after, denying Asano. He made another superb stop in the build-up to Japan’s equalizer too, getting a hand to Takumi Minamino’s cut-back, but Doan sneaked into the area to tap in from close range.

Takuma Asano on the right scores Japan's second goal of the match
Takuma Asano scored from a tight angle past Manuel Neuer

However, Neuer would have wanted to do better for Japan’s winner. A long ball over the top down the right picked out Asano behind the defence, while the striker drove into the area. He held off Nico Schlotterbeck before squeezing the ball past the goalkeeper and into the far corner.

It was a crazy end to the game as Germany pushed for an equaliser. Leon Goretzka volleyed wide of the post as Neuer came up to provide another body in the area, but it proved ineffective. Each clearance was celebrated as a goal by the Japan bench as they held on for a vital three points.

Germany covers mouth in free speech protest before kick-off | Minister wears OneLove bracelet

Germany players cover their mouths as they pose for their team photo, in protest of FIFA banning the One Love armband from being worn in Qatar
Germany players covered their mouths as they posed for their team photo, protesting FIFA banning the OneLove bracelet from being worn in Qatar

Ahead of kick-off, Germany players covered their mouths on their team picture in an apparent protest of freedom of speech.

It came after a number of European football associations were threatened with FIFA sanctions if they wore a ‘OneLove’ armband during the World Cup.

The DFB later tweeted about the gesture, saying: “With our captain’s armband, we wanted to set an example for the values ​​that we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect.

“Be loud with other nations. This is not about a political message: human rights are non-negotiable. It should be self-evident. But unfortunately it still isn’t. That’s why this message is so important to us. Banning us from the bandage is like banning our mouths. Our stance is firm.”

The German Federal Minister for the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser also wore a OneLove armband at the match after FIFA threatened sporting sanctions for wearing the armband.

Flick and Neuer admit: We are under pressure

Germany manager Hansi Flick:

“With this defeat and zero points, we’re under pressure, no doubt about it. We can only blame ourselves. It’s a big disappointment.

– We were on the right track in the first half, we had 78 percent possession and were ahead 1-0. Then we had good chances in the second half which we didn’t take advantage of.

“Japan were simply more efficient today. We made mistakes that we should never make, especially in a World Cup, and those are the things we need to improve on.”

Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer:

“I’m totally frustrated and angry that we let this game slip away, it wasn’t necessary. After the break we no longer had this flow of play and didn’t play with the same confidence as in the first half.

“We are now under pressure from the start. It was also the most important match for how you start in a tournament, but we messed it up.”

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu:

“We wanted to start playing aggressively, we wanted to dominate the game. But Germany are very strong, so we needed to defend persistently and take our chances.

“At the end they came at us full force, earlier we might have lost but the players have played in Germany and Europe, they have learned so much from that so we kept at it.

“United as one, we had to stay tough until the final whistle and we were able to seize the opportunity.”

Pundits: “A massive shock”

Japan's Ritsu Doan (bottom right) celebrates after scoring the team's first goal
Germany had never lost to Japan before in international football

Sky Sports’ Gary Neville on ITV:

“Absolutely, I expected Germany to win that game. It’s a huge shock. Japan are no mugs, but it just goes to show that when you’re not quite on target, you’re in for a big surprise. What surprised me about the other the goal was Manuel Neuer turning his body to let the ball pass him.

“Usually Neuer stands strong and is a brilliant goalkeeper. The result will send shockwaves through the tournament.”

Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness on ITV:

“It’s an almighty blow. When you’re a coach, and if you’re a Spanish manager, the result has partly filled his team talk [against Costa Rica]. He’ll remind them that they could slip tonight unless they turn it on.”

Sky Sports’ Roy Keane on ITV:

“Obviously the result has not just come out of nowhere, but when you play Germany – we talked about them learning from previous mistakes in the last World Cup – you’re 1-0 down.

“It is a long way back, and that [Japan] the leader deserves great credit. He had to make those changes and it was part of his game plan as he had to freshen things up.

“They were clinical. There were question marks about Neuer for the second goal, but you can’t begrudge them their win.

“There was never any doubt that they would bring spirit, fight and energy to the party, but they have shown intelligence and great quality.

“A lot of times you see substitutes who don’t get the game going, but everyone had an impact in lifting the teammates around them. Everyone affected the game.

“They have lifted their country.”

What does the result mean?

Spain and Costa Rica play at 16:00, which will give a better overview of where both teams sit in Group E. But immediately after the match, Germany were at the bottom of the table with Japan at the top.

Both teams play again on Saturday as Germany face Spain – which had been seen as a shootout for first and second place in the group but could now see Germany on the brink of an exit if they lose – while Japan face Costa Rica.

In the final group games on Thursday, December 1, Germany face Costa Rica while Spain face Japan, who will be hoping to pull off another upset against one of Europe’s most successful teams.

Opta Stats – Japan’s historic win

  • Japan came from behind to win a World Cup match for the first time ever, having drawn two and lost 11 of their 13 games when they had trailed before today.
  • After losing the opening game in just one of their first 18 World Cup tournaments (W13 D4), Germany have lost their first game in each of the last two World Cups.
  • Through Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano, Japan became the first team to score two substitutes in a single World Cup match against Germany.
  • Since 1966, only Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi in 2006 (10 vs Brazil) has saved more in a single World Cup match for Japan than the eight Shuichi Gonda made today.

Player of the match – Jamal Musiala

He may have been on the losing side, but Germany’s Musiala lit up the Khalifa International Stadium. He showed superb skills throughout, especially in the second half, and should have a breakout tournament in Qatar.

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