TAKUMA Asano, remember the name.
Just when you think the Qatar World Cup can’t get any crazier, the unthinkable happened. Germany, like the tournament’s co-favorite Argentina, got beat by the same manner and score. Leading 1-nil at the half, they got smothered, outrun and outgunned by the relentless Blue Samurais of Japan. After the Saudi upset of Argentina got this quadrennial tournament reaching levels of excitement never seen before at the gulf state, this one went way over peak level. It was pure energy.
Japan was doing everything right defensively from the first whistle but could hardly get hold of the ball. Germany had around 70 percent possession but Japan was fast on closing down the ball and a few times broke play or intercepted loose balls. They just couldn’t do anything with their counter attacks due to lack of composure in the final third. They had zero attempts on goal the whole first half until the last minute of extra time. It would have been a record for futility in a world cup.
It had the makings of a drubbing based on the attempts on goal until the end of the first half. There was a moment when the goal keeper Shuichi Gonda made 4 straight saves to keep the score close. Germany has only been beaten in the first round twice since the World Cup’s inception in 1930 and this didn’t seem destined to break those odds based on statistics in the first 45 minutes of play.
And yet there seems to be magic in the air. Japan came back in the second half with guns blazing, delivering crunching tackles all over the pitch. Germany even after making multiple chances and missing a few shots that would have closed the door on the Japanese, just couldn’t get it done. You could sense something was brewing and the tide turning.
Toukon (Japanese fighting spirit) was on full display here. They just wouldn’t give up. The Germans looked tired in the last 20 minutes of the game and the Blue Samurais took advantage. Chances came late in the game after being kept at bay by the Germans for most of it. The decibel levels of the Japanese fans were deafening, the power from that perhaps pushed the speedy Japanese attackers over the line. Cutting through the German defense like butter, they finally scored the equalizer from a Manuel Neuer save that came back to one of two substitutes, Ritsu Doan, who rifled back the rebound past the keepers outstretched hands and into the net.
Takuma Asano will go down in history as the other substitute who beat Germany in the 2022 Qatar world cup. What seemed to be an innocuous looping pass over the head of Germany’s backline could turn out to be one of the goals of the tournament. He catches the ball with his right foot. The first touch was so good it left German defender Nilas Sule flat footed racing back from behind but the goal was sublime as he powered it through a small opening point blank past Neuer into the top corner.
At this point, the capacity crowd was in rapture.
Bein sports has been showing “magic” pandas predicting the winners of the games and so far they’ve been pretty accurate to everyone’s amusement. When the panda chose Japan to win this game, it only elicited a chuckle from the Bein sports commentators covering the game. I’m sure they thought it was nuts.
Who’s laughing now? Japan all the way, you think?
Could it really happen? The first Asian nation to win the World Cup? Personally, If Argentina or England does not win it all, I don’t mind our Asian neighbors going all the way in this World Cup. Banzai!
Watch the highlights of the game at the FIFA Plus website here.
Photos courtesy fifa.com