Japan shocked Germany with two late goals in a dramatic World Cup comeback

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Japan stunned Germany 2-1 in their World Cup opener on Wednesday, punishing the four-time champions for missing their chances after a first-half lead.

2022 FIFA World Cup © FMM graphics studio

Germany’s team gagged for a pre-match team photo in strong protest against FIFA’s decision to ban rainbow-themed wristbands.

Germany came under huge pressure in Qatar to avoid a disaster in 2018 when they failed to get out of the group stage in Russia as World Cup holders.

In the first half, Hansi Flick’s men took the lead with a penalty shot by Ilkay Gundogan and should have been kept out of sight after creating many scoring opportunities.

But Japan equalized in the 75th minute through substitute Ritsu Doan.

Takuma Asano then completed a superb turnaround eight minutes later, slotting the ball home to send the Japanese bench and their raucous fans into a frenzy.

To add to the storyline, both Doan and Asano play in the German Bundesliga.

“The players came together as a team, we prepared well and stayed there and that’s what led to the win,” Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu said.

“A lot of our fans came to Doha and they were behind us to push us forward. I want us to maintain our level and see what we can do better and win the next match.”

Germany’s World Cup future now hinges again on Group E matches against Spain and Costa Rica.

“We made it very easy for Japan. I don’t know if an easier goal has been scored in the World Cup,” Gundogan told Germany’s ARD TV network.

“This shouldn’t happen to us.”

Thomas Mueller told Germany’s Magenta TV that “it’s ridiculous that we’re standing here now in defeat.”

Japan, on the other hand, are looking for a place in the playoffs after a dramatic comeback that almost seemed impossible at halftime.

The Blue Samurai got off to a positive start as Daizen Maeda headed the ball into the net in the eighth minute before the linesman signaled for offside.

German luck

Gundogan blasted the rebound over the post to prove a false dawn for Japan, before Joshua Kimmich tested goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda as Antonio Ruediger headed home from a corner.

Gundogan hammered the Japanese goal, Gonda kept it out before Maya Yoshida threw her body with another attempt.

Gonda coolly headed David Raum’s shot down the middle and Gundogan gave the Germans the lead from the penalty spot.

Jamal Musiala gets a glimpse of his great talent when he turns and fires a shot over the bar on the break.

Kai Havertz had the ball before half-time, only for VAR to rule out the goal for offside.

Musiala returned to torment Japan after the break, ripping through the defense before igniting.

The 19-year-old then turned provider, releasing the ball for Gundogan to hit the post.

Japan have brought in lively strikers Asano and Kaoru Mitoma to try and inject some energy into the four-time Asian champions.

But Germany kept up the pressure and only a series of last-ditch saves from Gonda prevented Japan from falling further behind.

Hiroki Sakai had a golden chance to equalise, but Manuel Neuer blazed over on the elbow after the ball was deflected into his path.

Doan showed him how it’s done minutes later, Neuer converting after palming away Takumi Minamino’s effort.

Asano then put the Japanese fans into dreamland, before slotting home a shot that Neuer was powerless to stop.

Germany threw everyone forward in a desperate search for an equaliser, but it was too little, too late.

“It wasn’t just the players who started the game, it was also the substitutes who came on and helped us close the game,” Moriyasu said.

“We were able to show our strength. The players did what was necessary to win.”