Minutes after Germany was served a 2-1 defeat soccer minnows Japan, panic has gripped the Bavarians’ camp with the prospects of exiting the tournament in the group stage as was the case in 2018 looking real possibility.
Germany slipped to defeat in their first World Cup group game once again as Japan battled back from behind to win at the Khalifa International Stadium. Ilkay Gundogan scored from the penalty spot around the half-hour mark and he also struck the post in the 60th minute.
Ritsu Doan fired in an equaliser with 15 minutes to go for Japan after Manuel Neuer parried Takumi Minamino’s initial effort. Takuma Asano completed the turnaround eight minutes later as the Germans became the latest side to suffer a shock defeat in Qatar. It was yet further World Cup woe for four-time winners Germany, who arrived in Qatar looking to bounce back from exiting the 2018 edition, at which they had been defending champions, in the group stage.
With the outcome, Germany have become the latest country to suffer a shock World Cup defeat as Japan won 2-1 thanks to former Arsenal man Takuma Asano. Just a day after Saudi Arabia beat Argentina, the four-time tournament winners have followed suit in being stunned by a lower-ranked nation.
In a game that was eerily similar to how yesterday’s fixture played out, Ilkay Gundogan broke the deadlock from the penalty spot, in the same way Lionel Messi had for Argentina. Germany, who went into the break 1-0 up, thought they had doubled their lead when Kai Havertz tapped home Serge Gnabry’s cross-shot from close range.
But VAR ruled the effort out for offside, just as they had done for three Argentina goals who also took a slender one-goal lead going into second half.
Germany’s second group match is a crunch clash with Spain on Sunday, when Hajime Moriyasu’s Japan take on Costa Rica. Germany are one of the sides whose captain had been set to wear the anti-discrimination, rainbow-coloured OneLove armband at the tournament before dropping the plan following threats of sporting sanctions from Fifa.
And the players made their feelings about the situation known just prior to kick-off, posing for a team photo with their hands over their mouths. The German football federation, the DFB, tweeted a picture of that gesture, and said: “Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
After the contest got under way, there was an early scare for Hansi Flick’s men when they lost possession in the seventh minute, Japan broke forward and Celtic’s Daizen Maeda sent the ball past Neuer, only to see the flag up for offside.
The first effort of note at the other end came 10 minutes later as Antonio Rudiger headed wide, and Japanese goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda subsequently made saves to deal with strikes from Joshua Kimmich and Gundogan.
Germany were then awarded a penalty by Salvadoran referee Ivan Barton just past the half-hour mark when Gonda was judged to have fouled David Raum, which Manchester City midfielder Gundogan dispatched in composed fashion.
Further efforts from Kimmich and Jamal Musiala went over the bar, and Chelsea’s Kai Havertz then saw a close-range finish disallowed for offside before Maeda sent a header just wide of Neuer’s goal in the final moments of the first half.
Japan looked a different side in the second half, with Arsenal defender Takehiro Tomiyasu brought on along with ex-Gunners forward Asano and Ritsu Doan – who both currently play in Germany. And Asano and Doan made an instant impact as they combined to equalise for the Asian nation.
Asano, who never featured for Arsenal due to work permit issues, forced a save from Manuel Neuer with Doan firing home the rebound in the 75th minute. Japan then took a deserved lead eight minutes later as Asano raced clear before firing into the roof of the net.
The opening stages of the second saw Daichi Kamada fire into the stand and Musiala dance past several players in the Japan box but hit his shot too high. Gundogan then nearly made it 2-0, collecting Musiala’s pass and seeing a low strike go wide off the upright.
Gonda was busy in the 70th minute as he made a save to deny Jonas Hofmann, followed by three in quick succession from to keep out Serge Gnabry attempts. It was then Neuer producing fine work soon after as he kept out a deflected Junyo Ito shot, with Hiroki Sakai blazing off-target on the follow-up.
Moments later, a similar situation saw Japan equalise, with former Liverpool man Minamino’s effort being parried by Neuer and fellow substitute Doan able to make the most of the loose ball, blasting into the net.
And Japanese fans were then sent into delirium once again soon after as Asano controlled a long ball forward, held off Nico Schlotterbeck and fired in. Leon Goretzka struck narrowly wide in stoppage time as Germany’s late efforts to save themselves from defeat proved in vain.
After losing two group stages matches in the 2018 World Cup, Germany have yet again come unstuck in their opener. South Korea inflicted a 2-0 loss on Germany in Russia, with the 2014 winners failing to make it out of the group.
And they are once again in danger of failing to progress into the knockout stages with Germany still having to play Spain and Costa Rica.
In a bitter blow for Germany, both Doan and Asano are plying their trade in the Bundesliga, with the pair contracted to Freiburg and VfL Bochum.
Revelling in Doan’s strike, German side Freiburg tweeted: “Congratulations Ritsu Doan.”
- A Tell / Agencies report