Japan roar back to shock wasteful Germans with spirited second half display

Japan roar back to shock wasteful Germans with spirited second half display
Joy for Japan as they stun Germany
Joy for Japan as they stun Germany
StatsPerform, AFP
Germany were handed a shock defeat by Japan in their opening match in Qatar. It was a game of two halves at the Khalifa International Stadium as the Germans dominated the first period, but their one-goal lead wasn't enough as Japan stormed back into the contest and snatched two goals late in the second half.

16:10 CET: Well, what a game that was! The second huge upset at this World Cup and it involves a second Asian side. This time it was Japan beating Germany 2-1.

It truly was a game of two halves in Doha as Germany absolutely outplayed the Japanese in the first half but they'll be rueing the fact they could only turn that dominance into one goal as they went into the break just 1-0 up. 

The Germans started the second half brightly but the Japanese were having more joy on the break as the half wore on and the Germans opened up. Eventually, the pressure told and Japan snatched a leveller in the 75th minute through substitute Ritsu Doan. That was followed by a winner in the 83rd but fellow substitute Takuma Asano

It was a brilliant comeback by the Blue Samarai and the Germans will now be having nightmares about their shock early exit in 2018 repeating itself this time around.

Read James Hilsum's full match report here and see all the match stats here.

It was a game of two halves as the Momentum graphic shows

Second Half

16:00 CET: A final corner for Germany comes to nothing and the referee blows for full-time. It finishes 2-1 and it's an incredible result for the Japanese who were completely outplayed in the first half but turned it on its head in the second. Wow!

15:58 CET: Goalkeeper Neuer is up as well as Germany give it one last push.

15:57 CET: Another chance for Germany to equalise, but Goretzka shoots wide of the goal. It feels like there could be another twist in this match as Germany throw everyone forward. 

15:55 CET: There's a penalty shout for Germany after Fullkrug goes down.

15:53 CET: Fullkrug heads a chance wide and there will be 7 minutes of stoppage time to be played. It's not over just yet!

15:52 CET: Moukoko is on for Germany. Gnabry goes off.

15:44 CET: GOAL! Takuma Asano! Astonishing comeback from the Japanese! Asano is put through and in behind Schlotterbeck with a long ball and he runs onto it and into the German area, poking it home into the roof of the net from a very tricky angle.

15:43 CET: It's end-to-end stuff now as both sides throw everything at snatching a winner with less than 10 minutes to go of regular time. 

15:41 CET: Fullkrug and Gotze come on for Havertz and Musiala. Before the goal, the Japanese had brought on Doan and Minamino.

15:36 CET: GOAL JAPAN! They've levelled it! German-based player Ritsu Doan, who's just come on from the bench, scores after Neuer's save falls to his feet.   

15:35 CET: Huge chance for Japan! Neuer makes a crucial one-handed save but parries to ball straight to Sakai who strikes the ball over the bar. That was a golden opportunity for the Japanese.

15:32 CET: The Japan 'keeper Gonda is keeping his side in this game! He's pulled off a few huge saves there to deny Gnabry twice and Hofmann once.

15:28 CET: Looks like the Germans are making a couple of changes now. Gundogan, who has been great today and scored the opener, is off for Goretzka. Muller, who has been relatively quiet, departs as well for Hofmann.

15:24 CET: The game is opening up a bit more now as we hit the hour mark. Japan have had four chances already this half. The more the Germans push on for a second goal, the more vulnerable they look on the break. The Japanese seem a bit zestier since the break for sure.

15:21 CET: Gundogan comes close to scoring a second for Germany, hitting the foot of the post after being teed up by Musiala, who is orchestrating things out there.

15:19 CET:  Some fresh legs for Japan as they try to affect things. Asano and Mitoma are on for Maeda and Nagatomo.

15:13 CET: A lovely solo run by dangerman Musiala takes him deep into the Japanese box, but his shot flies high over the bar.

15:11 CET: Daichi Kamada smashes a shot which is deflected over, signs of life for the Japanese. 

15:09 CET: Serge Gnabry picks things up where they were left off for the Germans, rasping a shot wide of the goal from a tight angle for the first chance of the half.

The Japanese need to find a route into this match before it runs away from them.

15:07 CET: Takefusa Kubo comes off for Japan and is replaced by Arsenal's Takehiro Tomiyasu for the second half as the match resumes in Doha.

First Half

Looking at the complete stats for the first half, it's easy to see who's dominating this match. The Germans have had all the ball and an impressive 14 chances to Japan's one.

The Japanese seemed to be happy to let the Germans have the ball in the first 45 and looked to exploit them on the break but they'll be counting their lucky stars that they only conceded one goal as they go into the break.     

First half stats

As you can see in the graphic below, attacks have been directed mostly down the left channel by Germany where wingback David Raum and Jamal Musiala are linking up really effectively in the first half against Japan.

Germany's attacking thirds in the first half
Reuters, StatsPerform

14:51 CET: A big chance for Japan now as Maeda glances a header wide. And it's all happening here suddenly but that will be the last action of the half as the referee blows for halftime.  

14:50 CET: Goal disallowed. Havertz was in fact in an offside position and so the goal is ruled out.

14:49 CET: GOAL! Havertz converts after Kimmich's shot is blocked.

14:46 CET: The fourth official shows 4 minutes of added time.

14:43 CET: Not for the first time, Germany craft an opening down the left through Musiala and Raum - it feels like all the action is coming through that outlet which has led to a few chances. Stay tuned for a breakdown of their attacking thirds at halftime.

14:36 CET: Hard to argue with that penalty, it was clearly a foul on Raum who's been having some joy running onto the long diagonal passes in his direction all match. The Germans deserve that lead after dominating the half so far.

14:33 CET: GOAL! Ilkay Gundogan converts the penalty and it's 1-0 Germany.

14:31 CET: PENALTY! David Raum is brought down by the Japanese keeper Gonda and the referee points to the spot.

14:29 CET: A chance opens up for Ilkay Gundogan after a bit of pinball around the box, but his effort is blocked.

14:18 CET: It's been a pretty cagey opening quarter hour. The Germans have had the bulk of the ball and will probably control this contest but as the Japanese already demonstrated, they can be undone on the counterattack due to their adventurous style.

14:15 CET: Rudiger heads wide off a corner for Germany. With their big bodies, Germany will be targeting set pieces today.

14:08 CET: Japan burst forward on the break and the ball is squared for Maeda who slots it home only to be called offside correctly.

That's an encouraging sign for the underdogs, they'll look to take advantage of the space in behind Raum (as they did there) all day, you'd imagine.

14:06 CET: It's been mostly German possession in the opening minutes here. Left back David Raum is playing very high up, almost as a winger in attacking transitions, with the German back four converting to a three as they go forward. Expect their front quartet of Musiala, Gnabry, Muller and Havertz to be very fluid today.

14:01 CET: Germany kick things off in their fetching white and black kit against Japan in royal blue.

13:54 CET: The teams are making their way out onto the pitch now and into an exciting atmosphere. This German team is absolutely packed with attacking talent but can the Japanese exploit some of their defensive weaknesses? It promises to be a fascinating battle. 

13:52 CET: Ivan Barton of El Salvador will officiate this match at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

German prematch protest

Germany players placed their hands over their mouths during their team photo ahead of the game as the row over FIFA's threat of sanctions over the OneLove armband continued.

All German players took part in the gesture in front of dozens of photographers on the pitch ahead of kickoff, after world soccer body FIFA had threatened seven European teams with sanctions if they wore the armband symbolising diversity and tolerance.

The German players performed a silent protest before the match

Team News

Germany's Manuel Neuer (36) will start in goal and becomes the first goalkeeper of his country to play in four consecutive tournaments for their World Cup Group E match against Japan.

His Japanese counterpart Eiji Kawashima (39) will not match that record with Shuichi Gonda (33) starting in goal.

Germany coach Hansi Flick opted to start with forward Kai Havertz (23) as their target man, leaving centre forwards Niclas Fullkrug (29) and teenager Youssoufa Moukoko (18) on the bench.

He has also included Thomas Muller (33), who has not played 90 minutes since September due to injuries.

Germany: Manuel Neuer, David Raum, Antonio Rudiger, Niklas Sule, Nico Schlotterbeck, Joshua Kimmich, Ilkay Gundogan, Jamal Musiala, Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry, Kai Havertz

Japan: Shuichi Gonda, Hiroki Sakai, Ko Itakura, Maya Yoshida, Junya Ito, Yuto Nagatomo, Wataru Endo, Ao Tanaka, Takefusa Kubo, Daichi Kamada, Daizen Maeda

Check out how both teams will shape up on Flashscore.


Germany will go into this match as the undoubted favourites and as a team that is expected to go deep in the tournament. 

Japan are a strong team in an Asian context but they have never reached the quarterfinal stage of a World Cup and aren't expected to trouble the bigger European and South American sides this year.

If Saudi Arabia's win over Argentina taught us anything, however, it's that anything can happen at a World Cup.

Listen to our audio commentary here.