Japan secured the second major upset of the 2022 FIFA World Cup after they came from behind to claim a 2-1 win over Germany in their Group E opener. The Blue Samurai took advantage of a late drop in concentration to register a pivotal win in their opener in Qatar.
Just over 24 hours after Saudi Arabia executed the first upset of the tournament, it was the turn of their fellow Asian side to show they are no pushovers in Qatar. They faced a talented Germany side that has been labelled as one of the favourites for the title.
Germany started the match on top but had an early scare as Celtic’s Daizen Maeda swept home from inside the box within ten minutes, but the striker was at least a yard offside when he attempted the shot.
The 2014 champions began to dominate proceedings and duly went in front shortly after the half-hour mark from the penalty spot. Manchester City man Ilkay Gundogan stepped up to score from 12 yards after David Raum had been hauled down by Japan’s goalkeeper.
Germany remained in control and thought they had scored a second in added time as Kai Havertz fired home from a Serge Gnabry cross-cum-shot only for the assistant’s flag to go up against the Chelsea man.
Die Mannschaft continued with their relentless control and teenage sensation Jamal Musiala came close to doubling their advantage after some slick footwork but his shot rose over the crossbar. Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda set a new national record for most saves in a World Cup match as he continually denied Serge Gnabry at the start of the half.
The Blue Samurai delivered a reminder to the Germans that they were still in the match when Junya Ito drew a fantastic save out of Manuel Neuer and Hiroki Sakai failed to score from the rebound. Two minutes later, Japan were level.
Former Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino received a fine reverse ball from Kaoru Mitoma before smashing an effort goalwards. Neuer parried the ball into the path of Ritsu Doan, who gratefully fired the rebound into the back of the net in the 75th minute.
Eight minutes later, the Blue Samurai took the lead for the first time in the game through former Arsenal man Takuma Asano. The forward took an exquisite first touch to bring a long ball under his control before holding off Nico Schlotterbeck and firing into the roof of the net from the tightest of angles.
Japan held on for a famous win that puts them in a very comfortable position after their opener. For Germany, their failings of the 2018 World Cup where they failed to make it out of the group stage are still fresh in their minds. They will take on Spain in their second group game while the Blue Samurai face Costa Rica.