DOHA: Japan stunned Germany 2-1 in their opening World Cup match on Wednesday, punishing the four-time champions for not taking their chances after dominating the first half.
The German national team covered their mouths for a team photo before the match in a strong protest against FIFA’s decision to ban rainbow armbands.
Germany came to Qatar under great pressure to avoid the catastrophe of 2018, when it failed to get out of the group stage in Russia as the holders of the World Cup.
Hansi Flick’s side took the lead through a first-half penalty from Ilkay Gundogan and he should have been out of sight after creating an array of chances.
But Japan held out and equalized through substitute Ritsu Doan in the 75th minute.
Takuma Asano then completed a dazzling conversion eight minutes later, volleying the ball into the net to dispatch the Japanese bench and their boisterous fans.
To add to the story, Doan and Asano both play in the Bundesliga.
“The players came together as a team, we prepared well and stuck in there, and that’s what led to the win,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said.
“A lot of our fans have come to Doha and have been behind us and pushing us forward. I want us to keep our balance after this and look at what we could have done better and look forward to winning the next game.”
Germany’s future in the World Cup is once again on the line, with matches in Group E coming against Spain and Costa Rica.
“We made it very easy for Japan. I don’t know if an easier goal has ever been scored in a World Cup,” Gundogan told German television network ARD.
“This should not happen to us.”
“It is absurd that we stand here now with defeat,” Thomas Mueller told Germany’s Magenta TV.
Meanwhile, Japan are eyeing a place in the knockout round after a dramatic comeback that barely looked possible in the first half.
The Samurai Blue got off to a positive start, with Daisen Maeda slotting the ball into the net early in the eighth minute only for the referee to flag it as offside.
But it was a false dawn for Japan as Antonio Rudiger tipped the post from a corner kick, before Joshua Kimmich tested goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda, with Gundogan firing the rebound over the bar.
Gundogan peppered Japan’s goal with shots, with Gonda tipping him away before Maya Yoshida threw his body into the path of another attempt.
Gundogan put the Germans ahead after they were awarded a penalty when Gonda fouled David Raum, and he calmly slotted his kick into the middle.
Jamal Musiala gave a glimpse of his immense talent when he turned and fired a shot over the bar in the first half.
Kai Havertz put the ball into the net before the end of the first half, but the video assistant referee technology pushed the goal away for offside.
Musiala came back to torment Japan after halftime, cutting through the defense before exploding.
The 19-year-old then switched provider, placing the ball for Gundogan to attack the post.
Japan brought in their direct strikers Asano and Kaoru Mitoma to try and inject some energy into the four-time Asian champions.