Germany vs Japan 1-2: Blue Samurai Wrap New World Cup Upset

Captain Tsubasa’s prophecy, with Japan beating Germany in a World Cup, became a reality some 30 years after the famous manga’s first publication as the Blue Samurai shocked Hansi Flick’s side on Wednesday with goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano.

Ilkay Gundogan’s spot-kick had opened the scoring for Die Mannschaft in the first half, but the German inexplicably dropped the ball, failing to capitalize on their lead, and eventually left room for Hajime Moriyasu’ brave samurais to put two past Manuel Neuer. 

Both the Japanese goalscorers feature in the Bundesliga, which adds insult to injury for a German side that will now start to pray whenever their path crosses that of an Asian side: Four years ago in Russia, they had met their fate and had been kicked out of the competition by South Korea.  

Still, the game at the Khalifa International Stadium didn’t seem meant to end like that. Just like heavyweight Argentina yesterday, the Germans had started off on the right foot and found the back of the net relatively early. Differently than the Albiceleste though, the Germans held to their lead for longer.

They seemed solid, organized, and well led by a vibrant Jamal Musiala who is becoming the next big thing in German football. But then, something broke in Flick’s perfect machine.

Japan started to play on the counter, then gained more and more courage by the minute. Doan’s equalizer was the result of a fast team effort while Asano’s winning strike, a perfect blend of timing, technique, and power, will surely compete for the best goal of the tournament award.

Die Mannschaft made a statement even before setting their feet on the pitch as they posed with their hands on their mouths for the pre-match photo, just as to say that they could not talk. It was their way to protest as they were discouraged by the FIFA to wear a armband in support of the LGBTQ communities. 

After the world football organization cameras carefully avoided to show their protest, the proceedings could kick off. There was an early goal from Daizen Maeda that was cancelled for offside, then the Germans placed themselves in control. Antonio Rudiger’s header ended a few inches too wide of the post, then Musiala tested goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda and Gundogan was caught offside as he pounced on the rebound.  

On 30 minutes, the deadlock was broken as Joshua Kimmich conjured a brilliant cutting cross for David Raum, and Gonda literally collapsed on him, causing a crystal-clear penalty. Gundogan’s conversion was perfect and earned the Man city star his 17th goal for Die Mannschaft.

Germany increased the pressure as the Blue Samurai felt the hit. Their last action in the first half resulted in a Musiala’s pass for Kai Havertz, who tapped the ball in from an offside position. The score remained at 1-0.

The feeling at the Khalifa Stadium was that Germany needed to score a second to prevent any surprise comeback from a Japanese side that seemed well alive. They came close to that on 59 minutes, when a spectacular combination between Musiala and Gundogan ended with the Manchester City midfielder hitting the post with a sharp shot.

Immediately after that, Japan had a chance on the counter, but substitute Takuma Asano wasted it. He should have done better than that, but he would absolutely redeem himself later. In the meantime, Gonda kept the Blue Samurai alive with a spectacular string of saves, denying Jonas Hofmann from close range and then Serge Gnabry twice in the same action.

Manuel Neuer’s save on 72 minutes came as a warning sign for Hansi Flick’s lineup. The captain palmed away a close range shot from Junya Ito. It was his first real intervention in the game, and many believed it was going to be the only one.

Nothing could be more wrong, as soon enough Japan had their equalizer from a combination powered by three substitute players. Kaoru Mitoma served Takumi Minamino from the left and the Monaco player whipped the ball in the middle of the box. Neuer’s big hand came to the rescue once again, but Doan was quick top pounce on the rebound and make it 1-1.

Five minutes later, things took an even more unexpected turn as Asano came up with the goal of the day – and, perhaps, of the tournament. The 28-year-old, who currently plies his trade at Bochum, received the ball form a set piece behind the midfield line, controlled it, resisted to Nico Schlotterbeck’s charge, and fired it past Neuer at the near post.

The rest of the match was a scene seen four years ago already during the Russian World Cup. The German fans in disbelief. Die Mannschaft coming up with a desperate, yet chaotic assault. Manuel Neuer leaving the posts in the final minutes to vainly lend a hand. It was no use. This World Cup is just full of surprises.   



November 23, 2022 – FIFA World Cup Group F

SCORERS: 33′ Gundogan (G, pen.), 75′ Doan (J), 83′ Asano (J)

GERMANY (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Sule, Rüdiger, Schlotterbeck, Raum; Kimmich, Gundogan (67’ Hofmann); Gnabry (90′ Moukoko), Muller (67’ Goretzka), Musiala (78’ Goetze); Havertz (78’ Fullkrug) (Trapp, Ter Stegen, Ginter, Keher, Klostermann, Brandt, Sané, Gunter, Adeyemi, Bella-Kotchap) Coach: Flick
JAPAN (4-2-3-1):  Gonda; Sakai (75’ Minamino), Yoshida, Itakura, Nagatomo (57’ Mitoma); Endo, Tanaka (72’ Doan); J. Ito, Kamada, Kubo (46’ Tomiyasu); Maeda (57’ Asano) (Kawashima, Yamane, Taniguchi, Shibasaki, Morita, Machino, Ueda, Schmidt, Soma, H. Ito) Coach: Moriyasu
REFEREE: Mr. Barton (El Salvador)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: No Yellow Cards; Added Time: 1st Half 6′, 2nd Half 7′
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