For the second time in a little over 24 hours there has been a shock result in the Qatar World Cup. Yesterday (November 22) Argentina saw a half time lead over-turned by a lively Saudi Arabia side, in a victory which launched a spontaneous national holiday in that country.
Almost mirroring that feat, Japan clawed their way back into a game with Germany, again coming from a goal behind at the interval, to complete a fantastic turn around and run out 2-1 winners. It is yet another twist in a tournament that is proving to be anything but predictable.
Japanese not likely to have been taken lightly
The Germans will not have underestimated their opponents, with eight of the Japanese squad currently playing in the Bundesliga, and five of those started the contest. They would nevertheless, have expected to have been strong enough to see them off.
Germany made a decent enough start, in the first game of Group E, at the Khalifa International Stadium, near Doha. They dominated possession, as might be expected from a team containing the likes of: Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Ilkay Gundogan, Kai Havertz, and Antonio Rudiger. Also in the side was exciting 19-year-old Jamal Musiala, who has been earning rave reviews back in his home country.
Controversial penalty gives Germany advantage
The 2014 World Cup winners took the lead on the half hour with a goal, that in keeping with this 2022 competition, was controversial. The referee awarded a spot-kick when he adjudged that Japan’s goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda had brought down David Raum. The decision looked incredibly harsh as Raum had initially thrown himself to the deck looking for a penalty with a blatant dive and it appeared that it was actually he who instigated a collision, by stepping in front of the keeper, as Gonda went to collect the loose ball. If anything the decision should have gone the other way, but the VAR operators once again demonstrated a lack of appreciation of some of the finer points and Gundogan confidently dispatched the kick. At that stage all seemed well for the European outfit.
Inspiration taken from the Saudis
Early in the game Japan had shown that they could penetrate the German backline when Daizen Maeda has the ball in the net, but rather needlessly had got himself into an offside position. That may however have been part of a half time team talk and just as Argentina had failed to “kill off” the Saudis the day before, the Japanese were still very much in the game and with inspirational captain Maya Yoshida directing things, they would have had belief of a comeback.
They will also have had heart from their performances at the 2018 World Cup in Russia when they reached the last-16, before losing agonisingly to Belgium courtesy of a 94th-minute winner.
Driven on by magnificent support
With fabulous support from their enthusiastic followers, Japan began to grow into the second half and it become clear that an edginess was creeping into the Germans game, the longer it went. With just over 20 minutes to go, the Japanese made a double change with Takuma Asano and Kaoru Mitoma replacing Maeda and Yuto Nagatomo.
Japan get reward for staying in the contest
On 75 minutes former Liverpool player Takumi Minamino hit a cross-shot which Neuer should have dealt with better, rather than simply palm it into the path of another substitute Ritsu Doan, who gleefully smashed the ball into the roof of the net! The effect was to add belief to the Japanese play and visibly shake the Germans, who were probably have flashbacks of their Russian tournament, when they finished bottom of their group and went home at the group stage.
If they were those flashbacks would have become even stronger just eight minutes later when a simple long ball over the top sent Asano through; he held off a half-hearted challenge before hammering the ball past the static keeper from a tight angle and the place erupted. Seven minutes remained at that point and a further seven were added on for stoppage time, but Japan saw it out and completed a famous victory.
Glorious celebrations mark a famous victory
They celebrated with their terrific supporters who had backed their team throughout and created a great atmosphere, particularly in the second period. Credit should go to coach Hajime Moriyasu who made some inspired substitutions. They only had 26% possession, but as always it is what you do with that possession that counts, and their relentless pressing game definitely took its toll on the Germans, who now look extremely vulnerable.
They play Spain next and a defeat there will almost certainly see them exit early for the second tournament running, whilst Japan will have strong belief that they can at the very least secure a runners-up spot.