DOHA (Reuters) – Japan’s Bundesliga players took matters into their own hands in their 2-1 comeback win over Germany in Group E of the World Cup on Wednesday, giving their opponents a taste of their own medicine.
In the days before the match the Japanese waxed lyrical over the contribution of Germany and its coaches for helping to develop the game in the country in the decades after World War Two.
But when they left the pitch at Doha’s Khalifa stadium as sensational winners they had clearly outsmarted their teachers.
Strikes from Freiburg’s Ritsu Doan and VfL Bochum’s Takuma Asano, who struck from fellow Bundesliga player Ko Itakura’s deep free kick, gave the Asians their first ever win over Germany.
It was the two scorers, both substitutes, who woke their team up from their first half slumber.
In true German tournament fashion, Japan refused to surrender even after a one-sided first half in which Germany had 16 efforts on goal and possession of over 70%. Japan won the game with just 26% possession.
The introduction of Doan, nicknamed ‘the Japanese Messi’ and Asano in the second half lit up their game as they hustled and turned the tables on their opponents with high pressing and relentless work while charging forward.
A total of eight Japanese players in the squad compete in Germany’s top two divisions and they brought back the right lessons learned there.
Their win, a result of pure determination and grit, had them punish their opponents for their lackadaisical approach to the game.
Even though he was a 57th-minute substitute, scorer Asano had the ball in the opponents’ box more times than all but two Germany players.
Germany will be asking themselves how they lost a game which should have been killed off in the first half but they ultimately paid a dear price for their careless play and below par finish.
They used to punish opponents with their never-say-die attitude for decades but on Wednesday they were on the receiving end of late goals.
Japan continued to hope and after goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda made a quadruple save to keep them alive, they delivered the double punch for yet another upset in this tournament.
The Germans huffed and puffed but could not find a second goal, with highly rated players like Jamal Musiala and Kai Havertz showing only brief glimpses of their skills and their known weakness in defence once more blatantly obvious, especially in the winner.
At the end the Japanese proved as determined as their own fans who did not stop singing over 90 minutes. The German fans were nowhere to be seen or heard.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge)