Hajime Moriyasu wrested this Group E opener Japan’s way with a series of second-half substitutions that showed bravery from the coach and consigned Germany to a second consecutive defeat at the start of a World Cup campaign.
Four years ago in Russia a Hirving Lozano goal gave Mexico a famous victory over the four-times champions. On Wednesday, it was Takuma Asano of the Bundesliga’s Bochum who sent the vocal Japanese fans at Khalifa International Stadium into ecstasy along with his teammates and the rest of the squad who flooded the pitch to celebrate his 83rd-minute winner.
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Asano, one of Moriyasu’s five replacements, took a floating ball down expertly along the right, outmuscled Nico Schlotterbeck and, after racing in on Manuel Neuer’s goal, he rifled in, the Germany captain appearing to shy away from throwing his frame squarely in the way.
Just before Ritsu Doan, another Moriyasu substitute, had equalised Ilkay Gündogan’s first-half penalty and Doan seemed to have a fair shout for his own spot-kick when Antonio Rüdiger bundled him over.
While Germany pressed until the end – Neuer joined one attack in added time – they could not break down the blue wall before them and after Tuesday’s shock Saudi Arabia win over Argentina, this World Cup has another upset, one greeted at the final whistle with delirium by Japan.
It came after Germany had posed for the team photograph with a collective hand-over-mouth “gagged” gesture and six of them, led by Neur, were wearing boots with rainbow stripes on the front.
The German interior minister, Nancy Faeser, wore a OneLove armband – which stands for tolerance, diversity and LGBTQ+ rights – as she sat with Gianni Infantino in a clear act of defiance to the Fifa president and his organisation.
This followed the governing body ordering seven European nations, including England, that their captains should not wear the armband and it will be intriguing to see what Harry Kane and his teammates do in their game versus USA on Friday.