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Home   /   Japan make history as they stun four-time champions in group F opener

With the world’s greatest sorting event already providing fans with a remarkable upset thanks to Saudi Arabia yesterday, the footballing world turned their gaze to Hajimi Moriyasu’s Japan who conjured up a tactical masterpiece to complete an inspired 2nd half comeback to give Japan their first ever win against one of the tournaments dark horses, Hansi Flick’s Germany.

The Germans after taking the lead through a first half penalty failed to extend their advantage and kill off the game, leaving the door open for Japan to fight an almighty and historic comeback.

The contest as expected, began with copious amounts of German pressure, with the fluid front four creating overloads in every region of the Japan half. Implemented as a method to pin Japan in their final third and not allow them to win the ball high up the pitch. This tactic coupled with the left-back David Raum’s constant overlapping runs handed the European side the dominance throughout the early stages.

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However, despite the early stages were not without their warning signs to Germany as Daizen Maeda had the ball in the back of the net in the opening 10 minutes but the Celtic man couldn’t hold his run and was unnecessarily offside. But the gameplan was evident early on for the Japanese looking to sit in a deep block, win the ball high up the pitch when they had the opportunity and break quickly with their dynamic pacey forward line.

The free flowing and interchangeable forward line accompanied with the constant overlapping on the left-hand side from Raum did eventually wear down the defensive resolve of the up until the half hour mark extremely resolute Japanese defence. The goal came from what can be best described as a collection of inexcusable errors first from the right-back Hiroki Sakai. To select to come inside and press the ball thus leaving Raum completely unmarked in the box and after checking back onto his right at the by-line was clumsily brought down twice by the Japanese goalkeeper. And Gundogan coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.

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Kai Havertz thought he had doubled his sides in stoppage time of the first half, after Kimmich’s initial shot was palmed only as far Serge Gnabry who then squared the ball across the six-yard box, but the Chelsea man inexplicably couldn’t hold his run despite being unmarked and drifted just offside.

As a response to this this first half dominance Japanese coach opted to bring on the versatile Arsenal defender and injury plagued Takehrio Tomiyasu in order to change the system to a back five, as means of counter acting the overloads created by the German forwards.

Despite this change the second half carried on as the first half finished with Germany striking the woodwork multiple times in the early stages second period. Just minutes after the restart, a surging run from Thomas Muller starting inside his own half completely undid powerful Wataru Endo in midfield, he then shifted the ball to the arriving Gnabary on the right-hand side of the box and his venomous strike clipped the outside of post. Then not so long after as the game became more and more stretched Gundogan found himself with the ball with time on the edge of the box but like his countryman could only clip the outside of the post.

It certainly had the feeling that Flick’s side would come to haunt these wasted chances and that is exactly what occurred. As the game went into its later stages Japan understandably so, delved into their plethora of attacking talent to try and get themselves back into the game to the point where they were playing Brighton forward Kaoru Mitoma at essentially left wing-back. This epitomised Moriyasu’s intent of not settling for the current set of events and being flexible making in-game adjustments.

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After Jonas Hoffman and then Gnabry were denied three times in the matter of 30 seconds by Shuichi Gonda the momentum of the tie began to shift in favour of the underdogs. Dangerman Junya Ito forced Neuer into a brilliant save after he found himself on the inside of Sule inside the box the ball was lofted into him his chested down volley produced a great left-handed save and then the rebound fell to Sakai whose uncontested shot blazed over the bar.

The wastefulness of the Germans and the positiveness of the Japanese side was the catalyst that led to the equaliser. Once more, Ito creating trouble on the inside of Sule fires the ball across the box Neuer who again got a strong hand to it, but this time it fell to an unmarked Ritsu Doan who fired the ball into the empty net to equalise.

The second half adjustment was masterfully imposed by Japan with going to essentially a 3-4-3 allowing Endo to roam the midfield of the park and break up play giving licence to the forwards to break at pace and with real intent. Although the second goal came from a complete lapse in concentration from Sule like for the first not moving up with the rest of defence. Up stepped once of Arsenal now of Bochum Takuma Asano. He masterfully controlled the long-lofted ball in behind Schlotterbeck. He then proceeded to lift the ball over the shoulder of Neuer at an acute angle at the near post. Pure elation and disbelief on the faces of both sets of fans as they all new they were at the precipice of witnessing Japanese footballing history.

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Germany did also create some world cup history of their own by giving a World Cup debut as a second half substitue for Youssoufa Moukoko. The newly turned 18-year-old from Borussia Dortmund making him Germany’s youngest ever player to make an appearance at the world cup, overtaking Jamal Musiala (who broke the record in only the previous game, not to diminish the feat). The young striker has been making a habit of breaking records throughout his young career, as within the last month alone he became the youngest ever player to score reach 10 career Bundesliga goals.

Some of the Japanese players gave credit to the Saudi Arabians as an inspiration for their historic win, although unlike the Saudi’s they may not be granted a national holiday, they will without a doubt have this famous win ingrained in their mind for many years to come.

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May 2024