Former Asian champions Japan Wednesday produced a stunning upset by beating four-time World Cup winners Germany 2-1 while European giants Spain hit Costa Rica for seven goals in a one-sided match at Al Thumama Stadium.
Trailing by a goal at the end of the first half, a resilient Japan picked up the pieces in dramatic fashion late in the second half when substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano found the net only eight minutes apart in their Group E clash under lights at the iconic Khalifa International Stadium (KIS).
A day before their opening FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match against Germany, Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu candidly admitted that his players have improved their game looking at German players. A total of eight players in the current squad appear for Bundesliga clubs.
After making five substitutes in their high-paced game against Germany, a delighted Moriyasu once again underlined the presence of his players in Germany.
"We have seven players in the Bundesliga and one in the German second division, but we have many more playing in big leagues in Europe and that has played a big part in our development," Moriyasu said after the intense clash played in front of 42,608 fans at KIS.
"Germany are a great team but I have to say our players stayed calm and patient for most part of the match," he added.
Moriyasu said playing with aggression got them to rally after conceding a goal in the first half scored by Ilkay Gundogan (penalty, 33rd minute).
"We wanted to start playing aggressively, we wanted to dominate the game. But Germany are very strong so we needed to defend persistently and take our chances," Moriyasu said.
Appearing at a World Cup for the seventh successive time, Japan clearly looked the part Wednesday.
"It's a big surprise. We saw the Saudi victory over Argentina - the Asian countries are reaching the global standard," Moriyasu said.
Wednesday's loss in the opening clash was a repeat of Russia 2018 when Germany - as defending champions - went down to Mexico before losing to South Korea on way to getting knocked at the first stage.
Goalkeeper Shuchi Gonda who fought gallantly under the Japan crossbar said his team was inspired by Saudi Arabia's stunning win over Argentina on Tuesday.
"We knew that like Saudi Arabia, if they didn't score any more goals and we kept going until the end, we would get our chances," Gonda said. "Even if I concede one, my job is to make sure I don't concede any more and give us a chance of turning it around," he added.
Big win for Spain
Also Wednesday, Spain - the 2010 World Cup winners - kept the scorers busy as Dani Olmo (11), Asensio (21), Ferran Torres (31-pen and 54), Gavi (74), Carlos Soler (90), Alvaro Morata (90+2) scored almost at will against hapless Costa Rica.
It was Spain's biggest ever World Cup victory surpassing their 6-1 victory over Bulgaria in 1998. Coached by Luis Enqriue, Spain now take on Germany on Nov 27 at Al Bayt Stadium followed by a game against Japan on Dec 1 at the same venue.
"Our objective is to continuously dominate the play, and for that you have to have the ball," coach Enrique told TVE after the match. "Your opponent gets tired and can't get into it, our pressing was exceptional and the 16 players we used were superb - although we still have room to improve."
Croatia-Morocco draw, Belgium win
In the day's other match, Croatia and Morocco played a goalless draw at Al Thumama Stadium while Belgium edged past Canada 1-0 at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Japan's midfielder Ritsu Doan (L) scores his team's first goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group E football match between Germany and Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.