Germany suffer deja vu as heroic Japan pull off shock World Cup win


For Hansi Flick, whose last taste of the World Cup was the 2014 final when he was Joachim Low’s assistant, it must have made for a strange sight. There was a hint of nostalgia when he brought on Mario Gotze, the man who delivered the winner against Argentina then, but this time the super-subs wore Japanese shirts.

And yet it had begun so well for Flick. His side led through Ilkay Gundogan’s nerveless penalty. The Manchester City captain had been prominent in attack before then, drawing one save from Shuichi Gonda and a brilliant block from Maya Yoshida. He subsequently struck the foot of the post, with a smooth strike from 20 yards, in a display to justify his selection ahead of Leon Goretzka. Perhaps his substitution was another turning point.

Germany celebrate after scoring from the spot

Gundogan’s goal stemmed from sadly clumsy goalkeeping by Gonda, contriving to upend David Raum as he headed away from danger. The overlapping left-back had been picked out by Joshua Kimmich, finding the free man with a lovely cross-field pass, and it was typical of his influence.

Kimmich was ubiquitous at the start. When Antonio Rudiger headed narrowly wide, with Gonda diving in desperation, it was from Kimmich’s corner.

Japan players celebrate after Ritsu Doan scores

When the goalkeeper parried a crisp strike from 20 yards, it was from Kimmich. When the offside Kai Havertz had a goal chalked off, it all stemmed from a fine Kimmich shot that Gonda clawed away.

And Germany paid dearly for their failure to double their advantage.

Jamal Musiala almost capped a landmark appearance, as he became Germany’s youngest player in the World Cup since Karl-Heinz Schnellinger in 1958, with a wonderful goal, weaving his way past three defenders but clearing the bar with his shot.

Japan’s players celebrate scoring against Germany

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Serge Gnabry was denied three times in 20 seconds by Gonda, redeeming himself for his culpability for the penalty and still finding time to deny Jonas Hofmann in the same passage of play.

It proved crucial. The goalkeeper, like the goalscorers, is destined for heroic status in Japan.

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