The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked into life at
the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha as Japan produced an incredible upset
to beat Germany in their Group E opener. Ilkay Gundogan opened the scoring for
Germany from the penalty spot in the first half, but goals from substitutes Ritsu
Doan and Takuma Asano in the final 15 minutes helped Japan register a famous
World Cup win against the four-time world champions.
The Asian side started the game on the
front foot and had a goal ruled out for offside in the opening ten minutes, but
Germany’s midfielders – Kimmich and Gundogan – started to control the
proceedings as the half wore on. The Bayern Munich man had a long shot saved by
Gonda before playing a sumptuous lofted through ball for left-back David Raum,
who was fouled inside the penalty area by a clumsy challenge from the Japanese
Ilkay Gundogan nonchalantly converted the
spot kick by going down the middle, and Germany’s domination continued in the
second period as they pinned the Japanese into their own half. The goal-scorer
Gundogan struck the post, while Jamal Musiala skied one over the crossbar after
a slaloming run past three defenders.
Japanese goalkeeper Gonda was even called
to make four saves in the span of 20 seconds to deny Jonas Hoffman and Serge
Gnabry, keeping his side in the contest. German shot-stopper Manuel Neuer made
a wonder save of his own from Hiroki Sakai’s strike a few minutes later, and
the German’s profligacy eventually came back to haunt them as Japan pressed
forward and found the equaliser.
Ritsu Doan was first to react to the loose
ball in the penalty area following Takumi Minamino’s effort, and the substitute
made no mistake to level the scores at 1-1. Buoyed by the goal, Japan pushed
forward in the closing stages and found the winning goal eight minutes later.
Substitute Takuma Asano displayed tremendous skill and strength to bring down a
long ball, and the former Arsenal man outmuscled German centre-back Nico
Schlotterbeck before rifling a shot into the roof of the net from a tight angle
to give Japan the lead.
Germany manufactured a few chances at the
death to claw back a point, but Leon Goretzka fired wide four minutes into
stoppage time as the 2014 champions slumped to a surprise defeat to start their
World Cup campaign.
This loss leaves Germany on the brink of
elimination. The four-time champions face 2010 winners Spain in their next
encounter, and another defeat against their continental rivals will confirm
their second consecutive World Cup group stage exit.