The DFB-Elf lost their opening game at the World Cup in Qatar against Japan 1-2.  Photo: AFP/JEWEL SAMAD

The DFB-Elf lost their opening game at the World Cup in Qatar against Japan 1-2. Photo: AFP/JEWEL SAMAD

The German national team lost their opening match at the World Cup in Qatar 2-1 against Japan. After the DFB team took the lead, the Japanese managed to turn the game around in the second half.

Moral success for Germany – but huge frustration about the next World Cup opening shock: After the 1: 2 (1: 0) against Japan, the German national team is threatened with the preliminary round, as in 2018 in Russia. Two joker goals by Freiburg’s Ritsu Doan (75th minute) and Bochum’s Takuma Asano (83rd) shattered the dreams of national coach Hansi Flick and his team. The numerous missed chances after Ilkay Gündogan’s penalty goal (33rd) took revenge brutally. Before the kick-off, the national soccer players scored with a meaningful gesture against FIFA. After the “One Love” armband was banned, captain Manuel Neuer and his ten teammates demonstratively covered their mouths for the team photo before kick-off.

A strong image that went out into the world in front of 42,608 spectators from the Chalifa International Stadium. The DFB team also presented themselves well on the pitch for a long time, even if Flick was only allowed to celebrate once in his large coaching zone. Missing several top chances, not only when Gündogan shot the post (60th), was brutally punished in the end: the defense fell apart with the exception of goalkeeper Neuer. On Sunday everything is at stake against Spain in the fight for a place in the round of 16.

At least one political one-two succeeded on this remarkable Wednesday: on the VIP stand where FIFA President Gianni Infantino sat, Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser wore the “One Love” armband for diversity, which Neuer had forbidden. The SPD politician had first hidden them under her pink blazer, which she took off after kick-off.

The national players’ hand-over-mouth action could have been the prelude to the well-known three monkeys: say nothing this time – and then possibly hear nothing and see nothing in the other two preliminary round games.

In terms of sport, the 1:2 was reminiscent of the World Cup four and a half years ago

From a sporting point of view, the 1:2 was reminiscent of the World Cup four and a half years ago, when a 0:1 against Mexico initiated the ignominious elimination of the preliminary round. The German team has won its first game in all four world championship titles so far.

After the symbol before kick-off, there was a clear division of roles on the pitch. The Japanese left the game completely to the DFB team and only waited for the dreaded switching moments after winning the ball themselves. Even though Flick had warned about this quality, the four-time Asian champion posed a threat for the first time. Gündogan, who was given preference over Leon Goretzka by Flick, lost the ball in the opposing half in the eighth minute. The Japanese quickly bridged the midfield, but Daizen Maeda was clearly offside when he scored.

Germany was initially impressed. The fear of being countered was clearly noticeable in the Flick selection. It wasn’t until the middle of the first half that the offensive game got braver, it was only possible to go forward with a lot of willingness to run. Thomas Müller got fit in time for his 17th World Cup game. The 33-year-old was very active in central midfield, but his actions lacked precision.

Goal scorer Gündogan and Joshua Kimmich as double six were of enormous importance. On the one hand, the Manchester City captain and his Bayern Munich team-mate had to shape the German game, but they weren’t allowed to open backwards either. Four minutes after Germany’s first chance came from a header by defender Antonio Rüdiger (16′), Kimmich made a second approach to the Japanese goal with a long-range shot.

A fine opening ball from the 27-year-old to Leipzig left-back David Raum initiated the deserved lead. After safely receiving the ball, the World Cup debutant could only be stopped in the penalty area by Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda with an illegal tackle. Gündogan converted safely and kept his 100 percent quota in the national jersey with the seventh converted penalty in the seventh attempt.

The 1-0 gave the German team security at first

The 1-0 gave the German team security at first. With a flexible change of position, the German offensive now acted dominantly. Shortly before the break, striker Kai Havertz celebrated at first, but the Chelsea professional was offside when he scored.

Bayern offensive player Jamal Musiala, now the fourth youngest DFB player at a World Cup, has repeatedly demonstrated his top class. The 19-year-old danced out five Japanese players with a solo in the penalty area, but missed the crowning glory: his shot went over the goal (52′). His Munich teammate Serge Gnabry, on the other hand, was rarely seen. Defensively, Dortmund’s Nico Schlotterbeck in particular allowed himself to shake again and again and was initially not up to the World Cup level.

The game became more open, Japan changed offensively, brought Doan and Asano, among others, and now relied on a three-man chain. Musiala created another big chance with his art on the ball, but Gündogan only hit the outside of the post. Leon Goretzka and Jonas Hofmann instead of Gündogan and Müller should ensure freshness. The Gladbacher Hofmann had a huge chance to make it 2-0, but the Japanese keeper also saved against Gnabry (70th).

The exploitation of opportunities remained the point of criticism in the German game – and this usury took revenge: Neuer initially saved against Junya Ito (73rd) with a huge parade. A little later, however, the Bayern keeper was beaten: Neuer could only let a sharp cross clap forward, Freiburg’s Doan used this ice-coldly and rewarded the Japanese for their urge phase.

The German team was shocked. After a long free kick, Schlotterbeck was far away from Asano, acted too timidly and couldn’t disturb Bochum’s second goal. A last attempt by Goretzka went wrong – the next shame at the start was perfect.

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