Japan scores shocking upset victory over Germany at men’s World Cup

Another World Cup day, another World Cup shock.

Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals Wednesday to give Japan a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Germany.

Both Doan and Asano play for German clubs.

“I believe it’s a historic moment, a historic victory. If I think about the development of Japanese soccer, thinking of players, for them this was a big surprise,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu, who had five Germany-based players in his starting lineup and three, including the scorers, on the bench.

“They’re fighting in a very strong, tough, prestigious league. They’ve been building up their strength. In that context we believe that those divisions [Bundesliga and second division] have been contributing to the development of Japanese players,” Moriyasu said. “I’m very grateful for that.”

Ilkay Gundogan had given four-time champion Germany the lead with a first-half penalty. But Doan, who plays for Freiburg, pounced on a rebound to equalize in the 76th minute after Germany’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer blocked a shot from Takumi Minamino.

Then Asano, who plays for Bochum, sprinted clear of Nico Schlotterbeck and beat Neuer from a narrow angle in the 83rd minute of the first competitive meeting between the two nations.

The match was played a day after Argentina’s 2-1 upset loss to Saudi Arabia.

It was only the third time Germany had lost its tournament-opening game after defeats against Algeria in 1982 and Mexico in 2018. In the other World Cup openers for Germany, the team had won 13 matches and drawn four.

Germany outplayed Japan for much of the match with 24 attempts on goal compared to Japan’s 11. Despite giving away the penalty for a clumsy challenge on left back David Raum, Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda made a string of saves and was player of the game.

“We fought as a team,” Gonda said. “We have to make sure we never stop.”

Germany protests controversies surrounding Qatar

Germany’s soccer players cover their mouth before their World Cup match against Japan, as a form of protest against the banning of the rainbow armband many captains wanted to wear at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar to support the LGBTQ+ community. (Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press)

Germany’s players covered their mouths for their team photo before their opening World Cup match in an apparent rebuke of FIFA’s clampdown on plans to wear armbands to protest discrimination in host nation Qatar.

The team lined up in the traditional formation before Wednesday’s game against Japan and each of the 11 players covered their mouth with their right hand. It seemed to be a response to FIFA’s warning to the seven European federations that players would be penalized if they wore colorful “One Love” armbands as a symbol of inclusion and diversity.

Qatar has been under scrutiny for its human rights record and laws criminalizing homosexuality.

Nancy Faeser, Germany’s sports minister, attended the match at the Khalifa International Stadium and was sitting beside FIFA president Gianni Infantino while wearing the same “One Love” armband that FIFA had outlawed with its threats of consequences.

Germany has been playing at the World Cup for the first time since its shocking group-stage exit as defending champion in 2018, while Japan is appearing in its seventh straight World Cup and is looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time.

Japan next plays Costa Rica, while Germany faces Spain on Sunday.

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