The German national team’s World Cup campaign has opened with a defeat. Head coach Hansi Flick’s side were beaten 2-1 by Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha in the first match in Group E. Ilkay Gündogan opened the scoring from the spot (33’), before Ritsu Doan drew Japan level (75’) as the game entered the final quarter of an hour, before Takuma Asano turned the game around completely (83’).
Hansi Flick named goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer in the starting XI, with Niklas Süle and David Raum as the full-backs in a back four in front of him. Antonio Rüdiger and Nico Schlotterbeck started in defence. Joshua Kimmich and Gündogan made up a midfield pivot, with Thomas Müller, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry in attacking roles behind Kai Havertz up front.
The first corner kick of the game came in the 16th minute, and led to immediate danger, as Rüdiger’s headed attempt flashed just wide of the far post. Just a few minutes later, Joshua Kimmich shot from distance, but his attempt was saved by goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda (21’). The chances kept on coming: with Gündogan blocked almost on the line after promising build-up (28’).
A few minutes later, Schlotterbeck played a switched ball across that led to the goal: Raum got free of Gonda, who caught the him from behind – the defender went down in the area and a penalty was awarded. Gündogan stepped up and converted confidently from 12 yards as he sent the keeper the wrong way. Germany’s dominance continued to grow afterwards, but the finish just didn’t materalise. Musiala’s shot just before half time was just the wrong side of the crossbar (44’), and a short range finish from Havertz was ruled out for offside (45+4’).
Another good chance came almost immediately after the restart. Musiala laid it off to Gnabry after a run but he also found the wrong side of the near post (47’). Just a few minutes after, Musiala went on an impressive solo run before his effort blazed over from inside the area (51’). Japan then had to work harder to get into the game and therefore offered more space in behind.
Gündogan came close to completing his brace on the hour mark, but his strike from the edge of the area struck the post. Japan continued to push for a goal, and Flick reacted with two changes: bringing on Leon Goretzka and Jonas Hofmann for Gündogan and Müller (67’).
There were further chances for Germany in the final half an hour, as Hofmann’s strike was saved by Gonda after a great ball from Gnabry, before the number ten was himself denied twice by the goalkeeper from a shot and a headed effort (70’, 71’). Down the other end, Manuel Neuer made a world-class save to deny Takuma Asano (73’) – but the equaliser followed soon after, as Neuer made another save but was helpless as Doan followed in to score the rebound.
The head coach made further changes and brought on Mario Götze and Niclas Füllkrug for Musiala and Havertz (79’). Japan then threw their sucker punch – as Asano fired over Neuer from a tight angle to put his nation in a 2-1 lead. Goretzka’s 95th minute effort skimmed just wide of the far post, the final chance before the final whistle blew.