Germany fell 2-1 to a resurgent Japan, who came from behind to begin their 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign in style. The result will make Group E even more interesting, with Spain to face Costa Rica later today.
The home team entered this contest on the back of two wins, two draws, and one defeat in their last five games, including friendlies. Hansi Flick and his men were eager to get off to a good start as he fielded a strong lineup.
Japan, on the other hand, arrived in Qatar on the back the exact same record over their last five games as their opponents. They were looking to make a statement in their opener after seeing other teams upset the giants.
Germany made a dominant start to the game and played Japan off the park with their swift and decisive passing in the first period. They kept possession for an astounding 81% of the time and completed 463 passes compared to Japan's 106. Despite their dominance, Germany scored just once in the first period.
David Raum was brought down by goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda in clumsy fashion as he tried to challenge for the ball. He went straight through Raum's back, making the decision very straightforward for the officials. Ilkay Gundogan stepped up and converted the resultant spot-kick to make it 1-0 to Germany. Kai Havertz saw a late goal disallowed as he was offside.
Japan trailed 1-0 going into half-time.
Japan showed a bit of steel and fighting spirit as they came out for the second period determined to put Germany under pressure. Their wide players covered an incredible amount of distance as the Japanese looked to stretch the German defense. They even attempted several more shots in the second period compared to just one in the first.
Germany dominated possession once again as they kept the ball for 66% of the time and attempted 12 shots with four on target. Japan hit the target the same number of times but were clinical in their attempts, scoring two late goals to complete an incredible turnaround.
Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored in the 75th and the 83rd minutes respectively to secure Japan's first win in World Cup history.
On that note, let's take a look at the five talking points from the game.
#5. Germany should have killed the game in the first half
Most people would be called crazy if they predicted that Japan would get anything from this game if asked to do so at the end of the first half. Germany utterly dominated proceedings and had the ball in the back of the net twice, but only one stood as Havertz was offside for his goal.
Japan had just 19% of the ball in the first period and could only manage one shot without hitting the target. The Germans attempted 14 shots in the first half but hit the target just five times. Most of their forwards got into great positions to take good shots but failed to do so. This allowed Japan some respite and gave them hopes of a comeback being only one goal down.
#4. Joshua Kimmich and Ilkay Gundogan were important for Germany to gain total control
Kimmich and Gundogan played 147 accurate passes between them, which is nearly 20% of Germany's total for the game. The experienced duo used their expertise to draw Japan's press onto them and quickly turned and passed the ball into open spaces. This allowed the home team to progress the ball forward fast and effectively.
Gundogan also kept his nerve as he stepped up and converted a penalty to give his side the lead midway through the first period.
#3. Japan made key substitutions at the perfect moments
Japan used all five of their available substitutions inside half an hour after the restart. Takehiro Tomiyasu came on for the second half, adding much-needed steel in defense. Doan, Minamino and Asano added pace and trickery up front, which helped Japan claw their way back into the game.
#2. Manuel Neuer could have done better to prevent both of Japan's goals
Ritsu Doan scored Japan's first goal of the 2022 FIFA World Cup as he equalized to make it 1-1 after 75 minutes. The ball was played into the box and Neuer got a touch to it which played it straight to Doan's feet. He made no mistake and smashed it into the net.
Takuma Asano scored the second and decisive goal for Japan after 83 minutes. Ko Itakura played a long ball forward which Asano brought down with an exquisite touch to get goal-side. He then dashed for the byline and smashed the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle. Neuer, however, charged towards him with his hands low, giving him no chance to get them up in time to make a save.
#1. This win was Japan's first in World Cup history
The Japanese secured their first-ever win in World Cups as they came back from behind to defeat four-time winners Germany.