Rafu Wire Service Reports
DOHA, Qatar.–Another World Cup day, another World Cup shock.
Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals Wednesday to help Japan come from behind and upset Germany 2-1.
Both Doan and Asano play for German clubs.
“I believe it’s a historic moment, a historic victory. If I think about the development of Japanese soccer, thinking of players, for them this was a big surprise,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu, who had five Germany-based players in his starting lineup and three, including the scorers, on the bench.
“They’re fighting in a very strong, tough, prestigious league. They’ve been building up their strength. In that context we believe that those divisions (Bundesliga and second division) have been contributing to the development of Japanese players,” Moriyasu said. “I’m very grateful for that.”
Ilkay Gundogan had given fourtime champion Germany the lead with a first-half penalty. But Doan, who plays for Freiburg, pounced on a rebound to equalize in the 76th minute after Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer blocked a shot from Takumi Minamino.
“I went on to the pitch strongly determined, telling myself there’s no one but me who can do it,” said Doan, turning his attention to Japan’s remaining group matches. “We won’t get carried away and will play with strong determination again.”
Then Asano, who plays for Bochum, sprinted clear of Nico Schlotterbeck and beat Neuer from a narrow angle in the 83rd minute.
“I had decided I’d be taking shots whenever there was a chance. I had chances before that too and that mindset led to the winner,” Asano said.
It was the first competitive meeting between the two nations. They played two friendlies in the past, with Germany winning 3-0 in 2004 before a 2-2 draw in 2006.
Germany outplayed Japan for much of Wednesday’s match and had 24 attempts on goal compared to Japan’s 11. The Japanese had only 24% possession.
“It’s brutally disappointing, not only for the players, but also the coaching team,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said. “We deserved to go in front. It was more than deserved. Then you have to say that Japan gave us a lesson in efficiency.”
Captain Maya Yoshida said the Samurai Blue were inspired by fellow Asian side Saudi Arabia’s stunning win against another traditional powerhouse, Argentina, the previous day.
“We changed the formation and also got the inspiration from Saudi Arabia coming back from 1-0 down (against Argentina) to achieve a big result,” Yoshida said, while stressing that his team’s job is far from done.
Before their game, Germany’s players covered their mouths during the team photo to protest against FIFA following its decision to stop plans to wear armbands that were seen as protesting discrimination in host nation Qatar.
Nancy Faeser, Germany’s sports minister, attended the match at the Khalifa International Stadium and was sitting beside FIFA president Gianni Infantino while wearing the same “One Love” armband that FIFA had outlawed with its threats of consequences.
It was only the third time Germany had lost its tournament-opening game after defeats against Algeria in 1982 and Mexico in 2018. In the other World Cup openers for Germany, the team had won 13 matches and drawn four.
Despite giving away the penalty for a clumsy challenge on left back David Raum, Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda made a string of saves and was player of the game.
“We fought as a team,” Gonda said. “We have to make sure we never stop.”
Japan will next play Costa Rica on Sunday, while Germany will face Spain. The Spanish routed Costa Rica 7-0 in the other Group E match.
Germany was playing at the World Cup for the first time since its surprising group-stage exit as defending champion in 2018, while Japan is appearing in its seventh straight World Cup and is looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time.