(MENAFN- The Peninsula) fawad hussain |
Doha: After Asia's Saudi Arabia, it was the turn for continental giants Japan to pull off a major upset at the FIFA World Cup – and that too almost in a similar fashion.
The clocks apart, just like the Green Falcons made a stunning comeback after conceding a first-half penalty strike against Lionel Messi's Argentina on Tuesday, Japan made a great fightback against four-time winners Germany in the second half to record one of their best wins ever.
The 2-1 win for the Samurai Blue is their first-ever victory over Germany, who also lost their opening matches in World Cup 2018 and Euro 2020.
But it never looked that Hansi Flick's men would receive such a fate after they dominated in the match except for last quarter of the game where Japan were at their best.
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu never doubted his team's potential and that's what they proved in front of 42,608 spectators at the Qatar's iconic Khalifa International Stadium, which saw scenes of jubilation and surprise.
“In the past maybe we would have lost but the players have been playing in Germany and Europe they've learned so much from that, so we held on,” said Moriyasu referring to his players who play at Bundesliga.
“United as one, we needed to hang tough until the final whistle went and we were able to grasp our opportunity.”
In a game where Germany made over 25 attempts including at least nine shots on target and enjoyed 76.8% possession, Japan emerged as winners after goals from substitutes Ritsu Doan (75th minute) and Takuma Asano (83rd) for a memorable World Cup win in their seventh consecutive appearance in the global tournament.
Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda played a key role thwarting several dangerous attacks throughout the match.
“We want to go to the quarter-finals, this is the first step,” said Gonda.
“Japan has its own character and the way we do it is as a team. Doan and Asano scored but we did it together.”
Before Doan's strike from six yards, it looked the game was going Germany's way who were leading through Ilkay Gundogan's 33rd penalty strike.
“We played a good game over long periods of time but a game is also marked by the chances that you convert into goals,” said Germany striker Thomas Mueller.
Japan built the momentum from the opening goal and scored the decisive one through Asano, who closed down the last German defender before firing the ball past Manuel Neuer.
“It is ludicrous that we are here with a defeat,” said Neuer, who became the first goalkeeper to play in four consecutive World Cup finals for his country.
“There was a bit of urgency missing in our effort to score the second goal and we allowed Japan back into the game. After the break we did not play with the same confidence.”
As expected, Germany had a bright start clearly dominating Japan in the first competitive international between the two sides.
The ball remained in the half of the Samurai Blue for the most part of the first session as they relied too much on counter attacks allowing the Germans to attack at will.
Barring an 8th minute action when Daizen Maeda slotted in after receiving a low cross from Junya Ito before being ruled off side, there was nothing much from the Asian side.
It was Germany, playing their 111th World Cup game, who were in the driving seat and Japan must have returned to the dug-out satisfied, trailing by one goal only.
They got their first chance in the 16th minute but Antonio Rudiger headed the ball out following a corner.
Gonda remained a busy man, parrying a shot from edge of the box by Germany's Joshua Kimmich before making a brilliant save from Gundogan's attempt.
But Gonda made a mistake putting down Raum with referee immediately handing a penalty, from which Gundogan comfortably put the Germans ahead sending Gonda the wrong way.
Chelsea's Kai Havertz thought he had doubled the lead for the Europeans in fourth minute of stoppage time but his goal was disallowed by VAR.
Japan's best came just before the half-time whistle but Maeda's header following a dangerous cross missed the target.
A Serge Gnabry shot hit the woodwork while Jamal Musiala's try sailed over the bar as Germany looked even better in the start of second half.
Gundogan was just inches away from his second goal of the match as his low strike after a ball from Musiala went out after hitting the post.
Neuer easily picked the ball after a corner kick but at the other end Gonda had to work hard to save his team from a double deficit making several saves in quick intervals before Japan scored goals in a span of eight minutes.
Flick's side pressed hard to avoid the loss in later stages of the match but it was too late for them as Japan did well to claim three points from a tough match.
Germany, seeking to avoid the fate of 2018 World Cup when they were knocked out of the group stage, will now face Spain on Sunday, while Japan will take on Costa Rica the same day.