Germany places more focus on off-field political issues and got thumped 2-1 by Japan




Japan's Takuma Asano, left, fights for the ball with Germany's Nico Schlotterbeck, on his way to score his side's second goal during the World Cup group E soccer match between Germany and Japan, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Another World Cup day, another World Cup shock.

Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals Wednesday as Japan came from behind to upset Germany 2-1.

Both Doan and Asano play for German top-division clubs.

“I believe it’s a historic moment, a historic victory. If I think about the development of Japanese soccer, thinking of players, for them this was a big surprise,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu, who had five Germany-based players in his starting lineup and three, including the scorers, on the bench.

“They’re fighting in a very strong, tough, prestigious league. They’ve been building up their strength. In that context we believe that those divisions (Bundesliga and second division) have been contributing to the development of Japanese players,” Moriyasu said. “I’m very grateful for that.”

Ilkay Gündogan had given four-time champion Germany the lead with a first-half penalty. But Doan, who plays for Freiburg, pounced on a rebound to equalize in the 76th minute after Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer blocked a shot from Takumi Minamino.

Then Asano, who plays for Bochum, sprinted clear of Nico Schlotterbeck and beat Neuer from a narrow angle in the 83rd minute of the first competitive meeting between the two nations.

They played two friendlies before, with Germany winning 3-0 in 2004 before a 2-2 draw between the teams in 2006.

Germany outplayed Japan for much of Wednesday’s match with 24 attempts on goal compared to Japan’s 11. Japan had just 24% possession for the whole game.

“It’s brutally disappointing, not only for the players, but also the coaching team,” said Germany coach Hansi Flick. “We deserved to go in front, it was more than deserved. Then you have to say that Japan gave us a lesson in efficiency.”

The match was played a day after Argentina’s 2-1 upset loss to Saudi Arabia.

Before their game, Germany’s players covered their mouths during the team photo to protest against FIFA following its decision to stop plans to wear armbands that were seen as protesting discrimination in host nation Qatar.

Nancy Faeser, Germany’s sports minister, attended the match at the Khalifa International Stadium and was sitting beside FIFA president Gianni Infantino while wearing the same “One Love” armband that FIFA had outlawed with its threats of consequences.

It was only the third time Germany had lost its tournament-opening game after defeats against Algeria in 1982 and Mexico in 2018. In the other World Cup openers for Germany, the team had won 13 matches and drawn four.

Despite giving away the penalty for a clumsy challenge on left back David Raum, Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda made a string of saves and was player of the game.

“We fought as a team,” Gonda said. “We have to make sure we never stop.”

Japan next plays Costa Rica, while Germany faces Spain on Sunday.

Germany’s buildup was fraught by protests and political statements because of Qatar’s human rights record and its treatment of migrant workers and members of the LGBTQ community.

Germany midfielder Joshua Kimmich complained Tuesday that he had the feeling he wasn’t able to fully enjoy playing at the tournament because of all the negative coverage.

Germany was hoping to restore lost pride after its shocking group-stage exit as defending champion in 2018, while Japan is appearing in its seventh straight World Cup and is looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time.

Players from Germany pose for the team photo as they cover their mouth during the World Cup group E soccer match between Germany and Japan, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Players from Germany pose for the team photo as they cover their mouth during the World Cup group E soccer match between Germany and Japan, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Germany’s players covered their mouths for their team photo before their opening World Cup match to protest against FIFA for its clampdown on seven teams’ plans to wear armbands that were seen as a rebuke to host nation Qatar’s human rights record.

The Germany team lined up in the traditional formation before Wednesday’s game against Japan and each of the 11 players covered their mouth with their right hand.

“It was a sign from the team, from us, that FIFA is muzzling us,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said after his team’s 2-1 loss to Japan.

The gesture was a response to FIFA’s warning to the seven European federations, including Germany’s, that players would be penalized if they wore colorful “One Love” armbands as a symbol for inclusion and diversity. Germany captain Manuel Neuer and the other six team captains had planned to wear the armbands for their opening games at the World Cup.

German soccer federation DFB tweeted a statement on its position during Wednesday’s game.

“With our captain’s armband, we wanted to send a signal for values that we live in the national team: diversity and mutual respect. Being loud together with other nations.

“It’s not a political message: human rights are nonnegotiable. That should be obvious. Unfortunately it still isn’t. That’s why this message is so important to us,” the federation said. “Denying us the armband is like muzzling us. Our stance stands.”

Qatar has been under scrutiny for its human rights record and laws criminalizing homosexuality.

Soccer’s governing body issued its warning Monday just hours before England and the Netherlands were set to play with their captains wearing the heart-shaped, multicolored logo of the “One Love” campaign. FIFA said the players would immediately be shown a yellow card and could face further consequences.

Germany coach Hansi Flick and soccer federation president Bernd Neuendorf were among those to criticize FIFA’s decision.

Neuendorf called the warning “another low blow” from FIFA. The governing body hasn’t commented on Wednesday’s gesture by the Germans.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who is also responsible for sports, wore a “One Love” armband in the stands at the Germany-Japan game, where she was sitting beside FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Faeser tweeted a photo of herself wearing it with the hashtag #OneLove.

News agency DPA reported Faeser had the armband on under a pink blazer that she took off during the first half.

Earlier, Faeser criticized Qatar for forcing a German fan to remove a rainbow-colored armband and headband at another game.

“This is not in line with my understanding of the security guarantees that I was given by the (Qatari) interior minister,” Faeser said. “Security must apply to all people. I’m very disappointed about this.”

The rainbow flag is a widely used as a symbol of tolerance with regard to sexual diversity.

Faeser said in her opinion “such symbols should be openly shown.”




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