Japan have stunned Germany with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory at the World Cup in Qatar. Pre-game, the Germans shone the light on what they
described as FIFA’s efforts to silence discussions about human rights issues in Qatar, covering their mouths when they posed for their team photo.
But the powerful protest was not followed by any great power on the pitch. After İlkay Gündoğan’s 33rd-minute penalty, Japanese goals in the final 15
minutes from substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano allowed the Samurai Blue to record a famous win.
Germany unleashed several late shots in a desperate attempt to salvage a draw, only for them to be off target or repelled. “There was a bit of urgency missing in our effort to score the second goal and we allowed Japan back into the game. After the break we did not play with the same confidence.”
Germany protest then dominate early
Before kick-off, Germany’s starting XI stole the headlines by covering their mouths in their team photo as a form of protest.
It was a response to football’s governing body, FIFA, warning any team captain who wore a “OneLove” armband to protest against discrimination in the host nation of Qatar would be given a yellow card.
Qatar has been under scrutiny for its human rights record and laws criminalising homosexuality.
In a statement posted to social media, the German Football Association (DFB) backed the players. “We wanted to use our captain’s armband to take a stand for values that we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard,” the statement read.
“It wasn’t about making a political statement but human rights are non-negotiable.”
That should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us.
“Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
The German government backed the stance and the nation’s Interior Minister, Nancy Faeser, sitting next to FIFA president Gianni Infantino in the stands, sported the armband as she chatted with the football administrator.
Earlier, she had criticised FIFA, saying the threat of sanctions was a mistake and unacceptable behaviour. “This is not alright how federations are being put under pressure,” Ms Faeser said during a visit to a German FA event in Doha before the game.
“In today’s times it is incomprehensible that FIFA does not want people to openly stand for tolerance and against discrimination.”
Their stand for human rights was ultimately the real highlight of the night for Germany, who seemed in control for much of the match.
The only real chance created by Japan in the first half came when striker Daezen Maeda found the net in the eighth minute, only to have been ruled offside.
From there it was Germany who controlled the game and delivered wave after wave of attacking football to pressure Japan.
On 33 minutes, the dam wall that had repelled several German attacks finally broke, when goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda clumsily fouled David Raum by pushing him down in the box.
Gündoğan stepped up to the spot and sent Gonda the wrong way to score for the Germans and give them a 1-0 lead.