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Late strike gives Japan win over Germany

Late strike gives Japan win over Germany

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A stunning late comeback from Japan saw four-time winners Germany fall to a 2-1 shock defeat in their opening World Cup game in Qatar.

Germany dominated a frenetic match for large spells but failed to capitalise on their pressure – before Japan caused the Khalifa International Stadium to erupt into a mix of celebration and surprise.

Substitute Takuma Asano squeezed in a thumping strike from a tight angle to make it 2-1 to Japan and ran over to the photographers in the corner of the stadium in sheer delight.

There was a collective pause in the arena as the ball rolled down from the roof of the net before supporters realised it had gone in.

Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan had given Germany the lead from the penalty spot in the first half, before Japan substitute Ritsu Doan equalised in the 75th minute.

The equaliser came after a string of stunning saves at each end – Japan’s Shuichi Gonda pulling off a double stop to deny Serge Gnabry and Jonas Hofmann, before Germany’s Manuel Neuer got his fingertips to Junya Ito’s effort.

Germany, who finished bottom of their group in Russia in 2018, had missed several chances to extend their lead when the score was 1-0.

They face stiff opposition in Group E with 2010 winners Spain to come on Sunday, then a final group game against Costa Rica.

Before kick-off, Germany’s players put their hands over their mouths during a team photo and in the stands a German government minister, Nancy Faeser, wore the OneLove armband.

Morocco 0, Croatia 0

Croatia, runners-up four years ago, started their World Cup campaign with a goalless draw against a well-drilled Morocco at Al Bayt Stadium.

Only four players from their final defeat by France in 2018 started this game and they lacked an attacking spark throughout, but came closest through Nikola Vlasic’s toe-poked effort.

Morocco were impressive, but failed to create clear-cut opportunities.

Croatia, who are 12th in Fifa’s world rankings, dominated possession as expected, but they were unable to create opportunities or break down Morocco, who have only lost two of their past 40 games across three years.

The best chance of a match that had only two shots on target from each side came in first-half stoppage time, when a left-wing cross was diverted towards goal by Vlasic, but the midfielder on loan at Torino from West Ham was denied by the right leg of Yassine Bounou, who spread himself to close down the angle.

Morocco, who are ranked 22nd, came closest when Noussair Mazraoui followed in a deflected shot and saw a back-post header saved. Paris St-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi also tested Dominik Livakovic, but the Croatia keeper dealt with his dipping, swerving 35-yard strike with ease.

It was a game largely played in the middle third of the pitch, with both sides potentially wary of losing and damaging their chances of progressing to the knockout stages from a group that also contains Belgium and Canada. (BBC)

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