DOHA, Qatar — Maybe being considered a contender for the World Cup isn’t such a great thing.
A day after Argentina was stunned by Saudi Arabia, Japan scored twice in the last 15 minutes Tuesday to stun four-time champion Germany 2-1. It’s only Japan’s second win at the World Cup since 2010, and it came courtesy of two of its players who play professionally in Germany.
Germany dominated for much of the game and had a 1-0 lead deep into the second half thanks to Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty in the 33rd minute. Germany drew the penalty after Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda grabbed David Raum’s legs to keep him from getting the ball.
Japan had never beaten Germany in their previous four meetings, but the 2014 champions are hardly an unfamiliar foe. Eight players on Japan’s roster play professionally in Germany, including five of its starters Wednesday.
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Japan played as if it knew it was Germany’s equal, and it got a burst of energy when Ritsu Doan, who plays at Freiburg in the Bundesliga, came on in the 71st minute. Doan repeatedly peppered goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who made several impressive saves before Doan finally beat him in the 75th minute for the equalizer.
Japan kept up the pressure and eventually took the lead when Takuma Asuno, who plays at Bochum, rocketed a right-footed shot above Neuer and into the upper right corner of the goal. It sparked pandemonium among Japan’s fans, who’d been cheering, singing and banging on a drum all game.
Germany pushed for the tying goal, but Gonda refused to buckle. When the final whistle blew, the Japanese players on the bench rushed onto the field and the team gathered in jubilation.