Japan celebrates during a Group E match of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 against Germany at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
Brad Smith | ISI Photos | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
Japan stunned Germany with a late comeback in the World Cup opener, goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano winning 2-1 at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Japan had never defeated their European opponents but they capitalized on German mistakes and missed chances to claim a famous victory in the first game of Group E.
Striker Thomas Müller said after the game: “It’s ridiculous that we’re here with a defeat. We played well for a long time, but a game is also shaped by the chances that you convert into goals.”
Japan also had an early ‘goal’ offside from Daizen Maeda, but Hansi Flick’s side soon took the lead after goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda clumsily challenged a penalty and Ilkay Gündogan struck from the spot (33′).
Germany thought they had scored a second at the end of the first half, but Kai Havertz’s goal was also ruled out for offside.
The four-time world champions continued to see chances come and go – Gundogan hitting the post on the hour – before Japan used their lightning-fast attack to score twice late.
Did you know?
- Germany has not lost a World Cup game since 1978 when they were leading at half-time.
Four minutes after being substituted on, Doan (75th) converted a save from Manuel Neuer into the goal from close range. Germany was then caught with a ball over the top, allowing Asano (83′) to smuggle the ball home at a tight angle.
Ritsu Doan of Japan scores her first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match against Germany at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
Marc Atkins | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
Each Japanese goal was greeted with a team packet on the corner flag and the celebrations continued until the end. “This is a big surprise. We saw the Saudis win over Argentina – the Asian countries are reaching the global standard,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu.
Germany continue their poor World Cup form after finishing bottom of their group at the 2018 tournament.
How Japan won a famous victory
Japan started brilliantly and had the ball in the net within seven minutes. Gundogan was deflected by the ball in midfield before Junya Ito drove down the right flank. Maeda then slid his cross home but he was a meter offside.
Germany quickly found their feet and had a number of chances after 20 minutes. Joshua Kimmich saw his shot plowed away from Gonda from distance before Gündogan skied the rebound. The Man City midfielder then saw a try go straight for Gonda before another try was well blocked a minute later.
Great moments in the game…
- 7 minutes: Maeda’s early goal is ruled out for offside.
- 32 minutes: Germany awards a penalty after a Gonda foul on Raum, scored by Gündogan.
- 45+3 mins: Havertz’s goal is also ruled out for offside.
- 61 min: Gündogan only sees his shot at the post.
- 75 min: Doan equalizes for Japan shortly after coming on.
- 83 min: Asano hits the winning goal for Japan after a long ball over the top.
But for all of Gonda’s good work in the first half, his sloppy keeper then gave Germany a penalty as he rushed for space, knocking him over before catching the defender again and almost landing on top of him.
After two earlier attempts were blocked, Gündogan stepped forward and expertly executed his penalty to put the four-time World Cup winner in front.
Germany then began to dominate, believing they added a second in the third of four minutes at the end of the first half. Havertz scored after a Serge Gnabry cross, but the goal was rightly ruled offside after a VAR check.
Japan could have made the end of the first half even more interesting, but Maeda deflected a header just wide.
Takuma Asano of Japan scores his team’s second goal behind Manuel Neuer of Germany during a Group E match of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
It was an end-to-end start to the second half and Gundogan should have added another on the hour. The impressive Jamal Musiala drove down the left flank before setting up the midfielder from 15 yards. However, Gundogan’s attempt smashed the bottom post and went wide of goal. In the 70th minute, Gonda also parried Jonas Hoffmann and Gnabry in quick succession.
But the Japan comeback was on the horizon, and Neuer’s first save of the game came shortly after, denying Asano. He also made another excellent stop ahead of Japan’s equalizer, handing off Takumi Minamino’s cut-back, but Doan lurked in the box to go home from close range.
However, Neuer would have wanted to do better for Japan’s winners. A long ball over the top to the right got Asano behind the defense and the striker smashed into the box. He fended off Nico Schlotterbeck before pushing the ball past the goalkeeper into the far corner.
It was an insane end to the game as Germany pushed for an equaliser. Leon Goretzka volleyed a shot wide of the post when Neuer came up to put another body in the box, but it proved ineffective. Each rebound was celebrated like a goal by the Japanese bench as they battled for an important three points.
Germany covers mouth in protest against freedom of expression before kick-off | Minister wears OneLove armband
Before kick-off, German players covered their mouths in their team picture in an apparent protest against freedom of expression.
It came after several European football federations were threatened with FIFA sanctions if they wore a “OneLove” armband during the World Cup.
The DFB later tweeted about the gesture: “With our captain’s armband, we wanted to set an example for values that we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect.
“Getting loud together with other nations. This is not about a political message: human rights are non-negotiable. That should go without saying. But unfortunately it still isn’t. That is why this message is so important to us. Banning us.” from the association is like a mouth ban. Our stance stands.”
Federal Minister of the Interior and Homeland Nancy Faser also wore a OneLove armband at the game after FIFA threatened sporting sanctions for wearing the armband.
Flick and Neuer admit: We are under pressure
Germany coach Hansi Flick:
“With this defeat and zero points we are under pressure, no question. We can only blame ourselves. It’s a big disappointment.
“We were on the right track in the first half, had 78 percent possession and were 1-0 up. Then we had good chances in the second half that we didn’t take.
“Japan were just more efficient today. We made mistakes that we should never make at a World Cup and those are the things we need to improve on.”
Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer:
“I’m totally frustrated and angry that we missed this game, it wasn’t necessary. We didn’t have that flow of play after the break and didn’t play as confidently as we did in the first half.
“We’re under pressure from the start now. That was also the most important game, how to start a tournament, but we blew it.”
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu:
“We wanted to start playing aggressively, we wanted to dominate the game. But Germany is very strong, so we had to defend tenaciously and take our chances.
“In the end they came at us full force, earlier we might have lost but the players played in Germany and Europe, they learned so much from it so we persevered.
“United as a unit, we had to stay strong until the final whistle blew and we took our chance.”
Experts: “A massive shock”
Sky Sports’ Gary Neville on ITV:
“Absolutely, I expected Germany to win this game. It’s a huge shock. Japan are no slouch but it just goes to show that if you’re not quite there you’re in for a big surprise. Which surprises me with the second goal has, that was.” Manuel Neuer twisted his body to let the ball pass him.
“Usually Neuer is strong and a brilliant goalkeeper. The result will send shockwaves through the tournament.”
Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness on ITV:
“It’s an almighty blow. If you’re a coach, and if you’re the Spanish manager, the result partially filled his team talks [against Costa Rica]. He’ll remind them that if they don’t make it, they could make a mistake tonight.”
Sky Sports’ Roy Keane on ITV:
“Of course the result didn’t come out of nowhere, but when you play against Germany – we talked about them learning from the mistakes of the last World Cup – you’re 1-0 down.
“It’s a long way back and all that [Japan] Manager deserves great credit. He had to make these changes and it was part of his game plan as he needed to freshen things up.
“They were clinical. There were question marks over Neuer for the second goal, but you can’t give them the win.
“There was never any doubt that they would bring the spirit, the fight and the energy to the party, but they showed intelligence and great quality.
“Often you see substitutes who can’t keep up with the game, but everyone has had an impact to lift their teammates around them. They all influenced the game.
“They raised their land.”
What does the result mean?
After the first two games of Group E, Germany is in third place Spain beat Costa Rica 7-0 later on Wednesday. Japan is in second place behind the 2010 winners.
Both teams play again on Saturday when Germany take on Spain – seen as a shootout for first and second place in the group but now Germany could be on the brink of elimination if they lose – while Japan take on Costa Rica.
In the final group games on Thursday 1 December, Germany meets Costa Rica while Spain meet Japan, who will be hoping for another upset against one of Europe’s most successful sides.
Opta Stats – Japan’s Historic Victory
- Japan won a World Cup game from behind for the first time, having previously drawn two and lost 11 of their 13 games.
- Germany have lost their opening game in just one of their first 18 World Cup tournaments (S13 U4) and have lost their first game in each of the last two World Cups.
- Through Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano, Japan became the first team to score two substitutes in a single World Cup match against Germany.
- Since 1966, only Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi in 2006 (10 v Brazil) has made more saves in a single World Cup game for Japan than the eight Shuichi Gonda today.
Player of the Match – Jamal Musiala
He might have been on the losing team, but Germany’s Musiala lit up the Khalifa International Stadium. He showed excellent skills throughout, particularly in the second half, and is set for a breakthrough tournament in Qatar.