In Qatar, Japan defeated Germany 2-1 in a marvelous chess-match-type of game in which the Germans took the 1-0 lead at halftime, but the Japanese came back roaring to earn a deserved two-goal comeback in their World Cup 2022 Group E match. Japanese coach, Hajime Moriyasu’s brilliant gamble was to have his side play conservatively in the first half. His team played defensively with the occasional opportunistic counter and allowed the Germans to settle into a comfort zone of control which included 74% of possession.
Then the Japanese came out like gangbusters in the second half, moving their lines up and contesting further up the field and with much more aggressiveness, which somehow discomfited the Germans excessively and seemed to confuse German coach Hansi Flick. Moriyasu’s subs were also calculated, and they involved mostly the left side of his formation—midfield and defense—with one right wingback sub due to exhaustion (the Germans attacked the Japanese right-wing most of the game) and their center forward. The winning goal though was scored from the Japanese right wing, a gambit that seemed orchestrated as the Japanese attack veered right in the second half when in the first the left and center seemed the favored avenues.
Ilkay Gundogan’s 33rd-minute penalty score was obviated by Ritsu Doan’s 75th-minute rebound score off a Manuel Neuer save and then Takuma Asano scored from an impossible angle roofing the ball into the net over the keeper’s defensive stance by the right post of the goal, for the deserved second score and the eventual win. The unexpected Japanese win gives the next Group E matches a little something extra in terms of urgency.
The refereeing which had been relatively unobtrusive if not even-handed (14 fouls called against Japan and only 6 against Germany) turned one-sided when at the conclusion of a half that was rarely interrupted, we got a seven-minute gift of stoppage time reminiscent of the largesse afforded the Germans against the Swedes in Russia 2018. The Japanese, nevertheless, held on for the historic win and double-cup victory when added to their same feat in 2018.
In the earlier game of the day, a slow-moving and lackluster Croatian side was deservedly held to a draw by a much more energetic and well-marshaled Moroccan side who continued the rut of Arabic and Islamic teams playing with a comfort level usually reserved for hosts—a home-field advantage. The Group F match ended 0-0 and unfortunately, that was a fair encapsulation of the game’s events.
Luka Modric was a bit off himself, committing several more fouls than were called against him, and lucky not to have a yellow awarded for consecutive and consistent fouling. Every team usually has one down game in a World Cup and the key to progressing in the tournament is to minimize the damage done in that match. Croatia will be thanking their gods this game did not end up like the Argentines’ or Germans’ did.
Neither team in this game had many opportunities as they each played to their strengths with the Croats controlling the match with their superior veterans while the Moroccan’s speedier and technically talented younger stars kept pace and at times threatened to overwhelm their senior opponent. But in the end, the Croats got a point on a night they were not at their best and the Moroccans took advantage of their European rival’s poor outing to earn a deserved point they may not have expected to get.
Japan’s coach Hajime Moriyasu, Shutterstock ID: 408123814, by feelphoto.
Papa’s predictions are now: correct-3—incorrect-5, or a 37.5% accuracy rating—pretty poor.