DOHA, Qatar – Manuel Neuer could only shake his head in disbelief as Germany found itself on the receiving end of another monumental World Cup upset, falling 2-1 after an incredible comeback by Japan.
Following a first-half in which the Germany looked fully comfortable and Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty put them a goal ahead, the four-time champion was stunned as Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano gave Japan a famous victory at Khalifa International Stadium.
Japan’s Takuma Asano scores goal vs. Germany in 83
Watch Japan’s Takuma Asano scoring a goal against Germany in the 83′ in the 2022 Men’s FIFA World Cup.
For the second straight tournament, the Germans failed to live up to their favoritism in the first game. Four years ago, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano helped Mexico to a remarkable 1-0 triumph in Moscow.
This was an even bigger shock, with Japan entering the tournament ranked 24th, the second-highest team in the Asian confederation. However, the Samurai Blue’s progress in recent years has been mightily impressive and in 2018 it took a sizable fightback by Belgium to deny them from reaching the quarterfinals.
On Wednesday, Germany took the lead after 33 minutes of a speedy and entertaining opening half. David Raum, who created trouble all evening with his pace and trickery, burst into the box and was brought down by Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.
Gundogan calmly struck from the spot and the Germans looked like they were firmly on their way. That sense was only increased as Joshua Kimmich and Jamal Musiala both had threatening chances, with Musiala in particular a busy and forceful presence.
Set pieces were a persistent problem, Germany looking to use its height advantage. A second goal, however, proved to be elusive until, and the Germans would ultimately pay the price for failing to take advantage of their early dominance.
With 20 minutes left Gonda pulled off a dramatic sequence of three consecutive saves from Jonas Hofmann and Serge Gnabry. His heroics seemed to energize his teammates, and Japan’s remarkable stamina helped them gain a real foothold in the game for the first time.
Doan struck with an impressive effort on 75 minutes, and Japan, sensing an opportunity for another shock following Argentina’s loss to Saudi Arabia a day earlier, pressed forward.
Asano’s strike was a beauty, as he ran onto a long pass, beat his defender, and smashed the ball past despairing goalkeeper Neuer.
The result, which caused mass celebrations in Japan, created the potential for chaos in Group E, which was originally seen as being one of the more predictable of the World Cup, with Germany and Spain hugely favored over Japan and South Korea.
Not so, as the tournament’s underdogs continued to roar.
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