Japan come from behind to cause another World Cup upset

By Will Shopland   @Will_Shopland

Japan came from behind to cause another World Cup upset by beating Germany 2-1. Ilkay Gundogan put Germany 1-0 up from the penalty spot, but a second half come back saw two Bundesliga players punish Germany. Thoughts of leaving a consecutive World Cup in the group stage are starting to settle in.

Ritsu Doan. Photo: El Loko Foto, CC BY-SA 4.0

Germany were set to kick off their 2022 World Cup group stage against Japan in Group E, which many believe to be the toughest group in the tournament. Germany would have known the quality of Japan coming into this game with 8 players in the squad based in Germany. The Samurai Blue are touted as one of the dark horses of the competition. A win was imperative for Flick’s side, who were eliminated at this stage in 2018.

A positive start to the game for the Germans turned shakey after 8 minutes. Ilkay Gündogan was dispossessed just inside the Japanese half. Kamada burst forward with support on either side. He found Junya Ito, who proved quicker than the rapid David Raum. His cross found Daizen Maeda, who tapped into the back of the net. However, the verdict was just offside as the linesman’s flag came to the relief of Ilkay Gündogan and the Germans.

After the early scare for the Germans, they would be given a significant helping hand on the half-hour mark. David Raum found himself in acres of room inside the Japanese box, but his touch forced him backwards. With him going nowhere the danger looked nearly over. That was until the Japanese goalkeeper Shūichi Gonda decided to close down Raum, which ended in the Leipzig man on the floor. The referee gave the penalty and it would be Ilkay Gündogan to fire down the middle to give Germany a 1-0 lead.

With 1 minute of the first half left, it looked as though Germany had the game under control when Kai Havertz slotted the ball into an empty goal. Serge Gnabry latched onto the end of a loose ball and his shot come cross fell perfectly to the feet of the Chelsea man. However, after a lengthy VAR check, the goal was eventually ruled out for a clear offside.

Going into the break Germany would most certainly would have felt the happiest. Despite the Japanese game plan of closing down when Germany get into their half looking like it would frustrate the favourites, it would be a foul on Raum that would be their undoing. The German left-back seemed to be invisible during the first half and he made japan pay. However, Germany would have known a second goal would be vital to see the game off, especially after witnessing the Japan counterattack.


It would only take Germany three minutes to come so close to doubling their lead. Serge Gnabry serged down on goal and had the goal at his mercy. However he never really looked like he got the ball out of his feet and his panicked shot struck the bar. He would turn to see a furious Thomas Muller screaming and questioning why he did not pull the ball back to him on the edge of the box.

With Germany intent on getting their second goal Japan would have Shūichi Gonda to thank halfway through the second half. The goalkeeper made up for giving the penalty away in the first half with a flurry of saves in quick succession. His best coming after a cross from Raum found Gnabry running in unmarked. His header to the bottom corner forced a quick reaction save to his bottom left corner, and he jumped up well to make the second save on the rebound.

After Germany failed to take their chances, Japan would spare their blushes by missing a huge chance with Sakai. However, Germany would be caught out again, and this time they would be punished. Japan had found it hard to make chances throughout, but when they looked to attack the way they used their pace and creativity had caught out Germany. When a cross flashed in Neuer would have thought he had done enough by clawing the cross away. However, it would only go as far as Freiburg’s Ritsu Doan, which led to the Khalifa International Stadium erupting.

If that noise was anything to go by, the next goal would have comparisons of the Krakatoa explosion. It would be another German-based player to break the hearts of the nation. Takuma Asano of VfL Bochum ran clean through the German backline that believed him to be offside. Nevertheless, it would be Niklas Süle playing him onside, as he raced through on goal. His shot cannoned into the roof of the net to set up another World Cup upset.

As the full-time whistle went Germany would have been wondering how so many chances went begging without seeing the game off. However, the spirit and skill of the Japanese saw them punish Germany. Shūichi Gonda, who was the villain in the first half, may have been the catalyst for the comeback with his flurry of saves in the second. Germany fail to win, and this will start to feel too much like the 2018 World Cup all over again. Japan give themselves a fantastic start in an aim to reach the last 16.

More about the match

German press player reviews: Musiala, Kimmich, Gnabry, and Gündogan earn praise while Schlotterbeck takes heat
Germany player ratings versus Japan
FAZ and Zeit editorials after loss: “Boycotting made easy.”
Flick discusses reasons behind Germany’s defeat to Japan
Kicker Editorial: Flick erred in subbing off Gündogan
German players and pundits deliver unsparing criticism following loss to Japan
German players cover mouths in team photo ahead of Japan game amid armband spat
Confirmed lineups: Germany – Japan
Flick and Kimmich share thoughts on OneLove armband ban
Flick confirms Müller is an option for Germany’s opener against Japan
Confirmed: Sané to miss out against Japan
Musiala: “We have the quality to go far in the tournament”
Germany vs. Japan preview: Team news and predicted lineups
Kehrer speaks about favorite position, says West Ham move “paid off”
Gnabry: “We are in good shape”
Bierhoff gives update on Füllkrug after absence from training

More about the teams

Report: Arminia Bielefeld eyeing permanent transfer for Japanese winger
Germany learn World Cup Group Stage opponents
Eight players from the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga included in Japan’s World Cup squad
Süle praises Flick: “He has a knack for creating unity”
Watch: German players train with 17 girls from 8 nations
REWE ends sponsorship deal with DFB in reaction to OneLove armband spat



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