Japan stunned Germany 2-1 in their World Cup opener, with Bundesliga players Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano coming off the bench to stun the four-time champions.
Germany made headlines by covering their mouths in a pre-match protest against FIFA’s decision to ban Manuel Neuer from wearing the OneLove armband, and they looked set to get off to a good start in Group E when Ilkay Gundogan converted a penalty in the first half.
Hansi Flick’s team then blew several golden chances to end the game before Freiburg forward Doan made them pay with a rebound 15 minutes from time.
With Germany chasing a winner, Asano raced onto a long ball before firing past Neuer, putting Die Mannschaft under immense pressure ahead of Sunday’s match against Spain.
When Daizen Maeda prodded Daichi Kamada’s early cross home, Germany was saved by the offside flag, but Japan were masters of their own downfall when Flick’s team went ahead after 33 minutes.
Goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda’s clumsy foul on David Raum earned Germany a penalty kick, which Gundogan calmly converted.
A VAR review denied Germany a second goal after Kai Havertz tapped in from offside after Gonda saved from Joshua Kimmich, before Gundogan hit the base of the post after the restart.
As Germany continued to create chances, Gonda denied Gnabry three times in a row, but Japan stunned them at the other end when Doan capitalized on a rebound to fire into the roof of the net.
With seven minutes remaining, Niklas Sule’s poor positioning allowed Asano to stay onside from a long ball, and he hammered past Neuer to seal a famous win.
What does it imply? Germany is under pressure following its collapse.
The identity of Germany’s second Group E opponent, Luis Enrique’s Spain, made a positive result in Wednesday’s opener critical, but Japan’s combination of poor defending and effective attacking play cost them three points.
Germany’s defeat was their first after taking a half-time lead in a World Cup game since 1978 (a 3-2 loss to Austria), ending a run of 21 such games without defeat.
Flick’s team also became the first in World Cup history to lose a game after scoring more than three expected goals (xG).
He began in Bochum and has now arrived here.
Asano, a Bochum winger, had not scored in six Bundesliga appearances this season, but his 57th-minute introduction at the Khalifa International Stadium changed the game.
Despite his limited playing time, Asano led his teammates in shots (five) and touches in the Germany area (five), and he showed no nerves when going one-on-one with Neuer as he fired Japan to victory.
Blue Samurai score on the counter-attack
Germany was always expected to set the pace in their first major tournament under former Bayern Munich coach Flick, and Japan was held to only 26.2% possession on Wednesday.
That figure is the second-lowest recorded by the winning team in a World Cup match, with South Korea having only 26% when they upset Germany in 2018.
Facts about Opta:
- Japan earned their first victory against Germany (D1 L1), with nine of the ten goals scored in this match coming in the second half.
- Germany has lost a World Cup game after leading at halftime for the first time since 1978 (2-3 vs Austria), after going unbeaten in their previous 21 such games.
- Japan came from behind to win a World Cup match for the first time after drawing two and losing 11 of their previous 13 games when trailing.
- Germany has lost their first game in each of the last two World Cups, despite having only lost one of their first 18 World Cup tournaments (W13 D4).
What comes next?
On Sunday, Germany will face Spain in a crucial Group E match, while Japan will face Costa Rica.