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Late goals by Japan topple Germany, in latest World Cup upset

Loss marks only the third time that four-time champion Germans have lost tournament-opening game; Japan has never reached the quarterfinals, but has a chance now

Japan's Ritsu Doan scores his side's first goal against Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, left, during the World Cup match between Germany and Japan, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, November 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Japan's Ritsu Doan scores his side's first goal against Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, left, during the World Cup match between Germany and Japan, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, November 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Another World Cup day, another World Cup shock.

Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals Wednesday to give Japan a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Germany.

Both Doan and Asano play for German clubs.

“I believe it’s a historic moment, a historic victory. If I think about the development of Japanese soccer, thinking of players, for them this was a big surprise,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu, who had five Germany-based players in his starting lineup and three, including the scorers, on the bench.

“They’re fighting in a very strong, tough, prestigious league. They’ve been building up their strength. In that context, we believe that those divisions (Bundesliga and second division) have been contributing to the development of Japanese players,” Moriyasu said. “I’m very grateful for that.”

Ilkay Gündogan had given four-time champion Germany the lead with a first-half penalty. But Doan, who plays for Freiburg, pounced on a rebound to equalize in the 76th minute after Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer blocked a shot from Takumi Minamino.

Japan players celebrate after Takuma Asano scored his side’s second goal during the World Cup group E soccer match between Germany and Japan, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, November 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Then Asano, who plays for Bochum, sprinted clear of Nico Schlotterbeck and beat Neuer from a narrow angle in the 83rd minute of the first competitive meeting between the two nations.

The match was played a day after Argentina’s 2-1 upset loss to Saudi Arabia.

Before Wednesday’s game, Germany’s players covered their mouths during the team photo in an apparent rebuke to FIFA, following its decision to stop plans to wear armbands to protest discrimination in host nation Qatar.

Nancy Faeser, Germany’s sports minister, attended the match at the Khalifa International Stadium and was sitting beside FIFA president Gianni Infantino while wearing the same “One Love” armband that FIFA had outlawed with its threats of consequences.

German soccer players cover their mouths as they pose for a group picture during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group E football match between Germany and Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on November 23, 2022. (Anne-Christine POUJOULAT/AFP)

It was only the third time that Germany had lost its tournament-opening game after defeats against Algeria in 1982 and Mexico in 2018. In the other World Cup openers for Germany, the team had won 13 matches and drawn four.

Germany outplayed Japan for much of the match with 24 attempts on goal compared to Japan’s 11. Despite giving away the penalty for a clumsy challenge on left back David Raum, Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda made a string of saves and was player of the game.

“We fought as a team,” Gonda said. “We have to make sure we never stop.”

Japan next plays Costa Rica, while Germany faces Spain on Sunday.

Germany’s buildup was fraught by protests and political statements because of Qatar’s human rights record and its treatment of migrant workers and members of the LGBTQ community.

Germany was playing at the World Cup for the first time since its shocking group-stage exit as defending champion in 2018, while Japan is appearing in its seventh straight World Cup and is looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time.

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