Japan created the second shock victory at the Qatar World Cup on Wednesday when they came from behind for a stunning 2-1 over four-time champions Germany, who must now fear a second straight early exit.
Like Argentina in their upset 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia the previous day, Germany led from a first-half penalty by Ilkay Gündogan.
Several German chances then went begging and improving Japan roared back from Ritsu Doan in the 75th and Takuma Asano in the 83rd minute for their biggest World Cup win to date. Both scorers play in the German Bundesliga.
Japan went top in Group E which also features Spain and Costa Rica who were set to meet later in the day. Germany are last for now after losing their opener as in 2018 – 1-0 against Mexico – when they went on to exit in the group stage as title holders.
“We made it too easy for them. We dominated most of the game. The way we conceded was much too easy for a World Cup match. We lacked a little conviction holding the ball. It seemed that not everyone wanted the ball,” Gündogan told ARD.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said: “The wasted chances and not good defending cost us. We didn’t have the patience at the back in the second half. We should have played better and with better confidence up front.”
The German players had covered their mouths with their hands when they lined up for the pre-game photo in a protest against FIFA prohibiting them and six other teams from using the multi-coloured One Love armband. It was meant to be in support of all kinds of diversity at the tournament in Qatar, which has been criticized over its human rights record.
Germany captain Neuer wore the official armband but the nation’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, was photographed wearing the One Love armband in the stadium where FIFA president Gianni Infantino was also present.
The armband controversy had overshadowed the build-up to the game where the Germans had aimed for a good start to forget the shame of 2018, but wasted chances up front and poor defending at the back cost them.
Germany survived a big early scare when Gündogan lost the ball in midfield and Daizen Maeda slotted home – but the offside flag went up, and there was another let-off after Nico Schlotterbeck lost possession.
The Germans soon gained control, with Bayern Munich’s gifted teenager Jamal Musiala seeing plenty of the ball but it took a 33rd-minute penalty for them to take the lead.
Joshua Kimmich chipped the ball across the defence to the completely unmarked left back David Raum, who was then clipped by goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda – allowing Gündogan to convert from the spot by sending the keeper the wrong way.
A second goal from Kai Havertz on the stroke of half-time was disallowed for offside and Gündogan fired against the outside right post on the hour.
But Japan started to sense their chances and became more aggressive in the German half but Germany could have wrapped up matters in the 70th when substitute Jonas Hofmann and twice Serge Gnabry were denied by Gonda.
Neuer made a huge save against Junya Ito with Hiroki Sakai firing over on the rebound but three minutes later Doan smashed home after Neuer had palmed away a sharp cross from the left into his path.
In the 83rd, Asano took up a long ball, and with Schlotterbeck not challenging him decisively, he fired high into the net at the near post from a tight angle.
“This is a huge disappointment,” Neuer said. “We made the opponent strong. The final desire made the difference. Japan believed they could win while we thought we could preserve the lead.”
Germany now face an uphill battle against Spain on Sunday and Costa Rica next Thursday to stay in the tournament as forward Thomas Müller conceded: “We wanted to ease the pressure with a victory.”