QATAR: In their World Cup Group E debut on Wednesday, Japan stunned Germany with a 2-1 victory thanks to two late goals.
At the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, midfielder Ilkay Gundogan converted a penalty kick in 33 minutes to give Germany the lead. Forward Kai Havertz managed to kick the ball into the goalpost just before halftime, but Germany was denied the goal due to offside.
However, Japan responded in the final 15 minutes with goals from striker Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano to earn their first victory over Germany and cause an early upset in the tournament.
The shocking outcome was a repeat of their nightmare at the 2018 World Cup when they lost their opening match to Mexico as the defending champions and were doomed to a surprise group-stage exit after another loss to South Korea.
Japan returned strongly in the second half
The Interior Minister of Germany, Nancy Faeser, sat next to FIFA president Gianni Infantino. She was wearing the “OneLove” armband despite the continuation of FIFA’s threat of sanctions for the protests. During the pre-match team photo, German players put their hands over their mouths as a sign of dissent against FIFA’s ban on One Love armbands.
The early dominance of Hansi Flick’s team reaped the rewards when David Raum was picked out in a lot of space in the box by Joshua Kimmich. Japan’s goalkeeper Shuichi Gondan was clumsily brought down as he turned, and Gundogan scored the penalty in the 33rd minute.
After Jamal Musiala’s penetrating run, he missed a shot in the second half and Gundogan’s attempt for a goal clipped off the goalpost. After that, Gondan made amends by making four saves in a row to deny Serge Gnabry and Jonas Hofmann, keeping his team in the game.
In his fourth World Cup, Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer quickly saved from Hiroki Sakai. He did well to block a shot from Takumi Minamino, only for Takumi’s fellow substitute Doan, to smash in the loose ball.
Asano showed incredible technique and strength to hammer the ball into the tiniest of spaces, bringing down a high free kick and holding off defender Nico Schlotterbeck as Japan pressed on.
From that point on, Germany launched an all-out attack without success, and they now face Spain in a game they may need to win. Japan’s next match is against Costa Rica, and they’ll already be hoping for an entry into the last 16 stages.