In their opening 2022 World Cup game on Wednesday afternoon, Japan defeated four-time champions Germany 2-1 thanks to two late goals.
Germany took the lead in the Group E match thanks to a penalty kick from Ilkay Gundogan in the 33rd minute, but Japan roared back in the second half, drawing even through Ritsu Doan in the 75th, and winning it eight minutes later thanks to Takuma Asano.
With Spain as their opponent on Sunday, Germany, who was eliminated from the 2018 World Cup in the group stage, will look to rebound. Japan will play their next match against Costa Rica the same day.
Daizen Maeda successfully tapped the ball into the Germany goal from close range in the eighth minute of the match, but the offside flag was correctly raised.
Ilkay Gundogan’s sloppy play in the middle of the field had allowed Japan to get ahead, and a wonderful cross from Junya Ito was converted, but he was clearly in front of the last defender.
Antonio Rudiger’s header off a left corner presented Germany with their first half-chance in the 16th minute, but it was always going wide of the opposition’s goal.
In the 28th minute, Gundogan fired one into the hands of the Japan goalkeeper. Shortly after, with Germany applying pressure, the Manchester City midfield player saw a goal-bound shot blocked.
When Shuichi Gonda tripped David Raum and brought him to the ground in the 31st minute, Hansi Flick’s team was given a penalty. In the 33rd minute, Gundogan stepped up to put his team ahead by sending the Japan goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot.
Early in the second period, Germany threatened with a second goal, but Joshua Kimmich’s shot went over the Japan crossbar. Then, Jamal Musiala’s shot from outside the box went high of the target. In first-half stoppage time, Kai Havertz pounced on a low Serge Gnabry cross and turned it into the goal from close range, but the offside flag denied the Chelsea attacker a goal.
As both sides had chances to score before the halftime whistle, Maeda then narrowly missed the German post a few moments later. Following deft work from Thomas Muller, Gnabry blasted the Japan goalkeeper’s crossbar early in the second half. Musiala then hit the stands in the 51st minute after displaying excellent footwork inside the box.
Just before the hour mark, Gundogan burst to the edge of the box and had a great opportunity to add a second goal, but his low shot hit the post and went wide.
Japan’s excellent goalkeeping prevented Germany from scoring 20 minutes from time. The keeper made a string of outstanding saves in quick succession, most notably two outstanding stops from Gnabry.
Then, Manuel Neuer expertly stopped Ito going down the other end before Hiroki Sakai miraculously missed the post with the rebound. However, Japan tied the game in the 75th minute when Doan scored from close range after Neuer was unable to stop a low cross from reaching the penalty area.
The second goal for Hajime Moriyasu’s team came in the 83rd minute when Asano met a long ball from Ko Itakura, held off Nico Schlotterbeck’s challenge, and finished high into the goal.
In the 95th minute, Leon Goretzka gave Germany its best opportunity to tie the game, but the midfielder’s shot went just wide of the post. Japan held on to secure a historic victory in Qatar, fending off a late chance from Niklas Sule, who had a close-range attempt blocked.
Now that Japan has a chance to advance to the competition’s knockout round for the fourth time, Flick’s team must defeat Spain.
What a great way to start off Group E! Germany is currently last in the group after that loss, while Japan is first after one win! If the remaining games are anything like this one, we’re in for a real treat and a very competitive set of fixtures. Spain and Costa Rica have yet to play their corresponding match.