Germany World Cup

Japan’s World Cup comeback stuns Germany

After Saudi Arabia’s triumph against Argentina, Qatar 2022 witnessed another come-from-behind shock.

Ilkay Gündogan’s penalty put Germany ahead in the first half, but substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano tied it in the second.

Japan’s 2-1 win shows how unstable Germany is, even when in control.

Reaction speed

1. Japan subs matter

Four years ago, Japan was close to eliminating Belgium and reaching the World Cup quarterfinals. This time, they shocked four-time world champion Germany. Their 2-1 triumph was due to their ability to stay cool and make game-changing changes.

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu made all the right alterations after goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda gave up a foolish penalty in a first half when Germany created nothing. Kaoru Mitoma provided ingenuity and innovation down the left; Takuma Asano was a tornado of energy and accuracy; Takehiro Tomiyasu provided solidity at the back; and Takumi Minamino (in his own, sometimes messy manner) wrecked havoc and helped score the equaliser.

Japan switched from a counterattacking strategy to a pressing, hit-in-transition style in the second half. Without the five replacements, they may not have won.

2. German assault fails

Mario Gotze, Youssoufa Moukoko, and Niclas Fullkrug completed for Germany. A onetime prodigy who was written off three years ago and is only now making a tentative comeback, a person who turned 18 on the day the World Cup began, and a guy earning (at 29) just his second Germany cap.

Plan B for coach Hansi Flick must be concerning. Flick switched to Plan B when Plan A didn’t work.

Kai Havertz was torn between obeying orders and instinct, while Thomas Muller impeded Serge Gnabry. Jamal Musiala, 19, showed flashes of brilliance but was limited to the left wing, which underused his skill.

Nico Schlotterbeck and Manuel Neuer’s defensive blunders and Germany’s unusual collapse will be analysed (conceding at the near post.) Germany’s front six couldn’t influence the second half (Plan A). Plan B is like making Thanksgiving dinner with gas station food.

Germany can’t afford another slide

This is a competition that always looks back, so it’s natural that Germany’s early departure in Russia 2018 — against South Korea — will be a talking point.

When you add in Euro 2020, when Germany lost to Gareth Southgate’s England, self-doubt will seep in.

Germany and the German people are unfamiliar with this stance. Spain may be dangerous (or not; it’s hard to tell with Luis Enrique), but they control their own fate. Yes! Costa Rica and Spain play very different football. Whoops! If Germany plays like they did after halftime, it won’t matter.

Neuer, Sule, Rudiger, Schlotterbeck, Raum, Kimmich, Gundogan, Gnabry, Muller, Musiala, Havertz 5; Goretzka, Moukoko, Hofmann, Gotze, Fullkrug 5.

Subs: Minamino 6, Asano 8, Tomiyasu 8, Mitoma 8, Doan 7. Japan: Gonda 6, Sakai 7, Itakura 7, Yoshida 6, Nagatomo 5, Endo 7, Tanaka 7, Ito 8, Kamada 6, Maeda 5, Kubo 5.

Performance rankings

Junya Ito

Ito provided more in transition and interrupting Germany’s build-up than Mitoma or Asano. What more could you want?

Nico Schlotterbeck

Not only being beat on the second goal (maybe he thought Neuer had it covered, but he didn’t), but his positioning and clearances got unpredictable as Japan pushed the pace in the second half.

Some highlights

FIFA’s threat of punishment over the OneLove armband persisted when Manuel Neuer was searched prematch, Germany players covered their lips during a team picture, and German minister Nancy Faeser slipped hers past security to sit near to FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda fouled Germany’s David Raum, maybe twice, leading to the initial penalty.

Germany coach Hansi Flick: “Niklas [Sule] must pay attention. Because he fell a few steps, he played him onside. Today, we paid for individual faults. 78% of the first-half possession gave us the advantage. We missed several scoring opportunities while we were ahead. Today, Japan outworked us. Second-half errors must not be repeated. We must train players today. Our travel home won’t be pleasant.

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu: “They came at us full force at the end; in the past, we would have lost, but the players have learnt so much from playing in Germany and Europe, so we hung on.” We needed to stick together until the last whistle to seize our chance.

“We intended to start quickly and control the game, but Germany is powerful, so we had to defend and take opportunities. We have several strategies and situations. We planned and prepared for the possibility of going a goal down.

Shuichi Gonda: “We struggled a much. Everyone aspires to play in the World Cup. Subs revived the team. Maybe one guy is weak, but we did it together.”

Summary (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

Thomas Müller scored a penalty against Portugal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup group stage.

Gundogan’s goal was Germany’s 12th penalty (in regulation/extra time) in the World Cup. Gundogan’s previous 5 Germany goals were penalties.

– Germany has scored the opening goal in the most World Cup matches (68). Thursday is Brazil’s 67th birthday.

Japan have never won a World Cup game while conceding first (0-7-2, W-L-D.)

Germany was 20-0-1 when leading at halftime in prior World Cup matches (W-L-D). West Germany’s last halftime World Cup defeat came against Austria in 1974.

Asano scored Japan’s latest World Cup game-winner.

Germany lost its second consecutive World Cup match against an AFC side (AFC). South Korea won their final World Cup match. Germany has never lost against an AFC side at the World Cup before these two.

– Asian replacements scored in a World Cup match for the first time.

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Photo Credits: Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images