Germany play the blame game after 'ludicrous' Japan defeat

Japan comeback to seal surprise victory over Germany - Petr Josek/AP
Japan comeback to seal surprise victory over Germany - Petr Josek/AP

04:47 PM

Report

Germany play the blame game after 'ludicrous' Japan defeat

Japan's Takuma Asano, right, scores is side second goal during the World Cup - AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan
Japan's Takuma Asano, right, scores is side second goal during the World Cup - AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan

With one delicious first touch, one lightning turn of pace and one wondrous swipe of his right boot, Takuma Asano set off a power surge to electrify this World Cup. At a stroke, Japan’s bench emptied, the substitutes and support staff all charging down the touchline to engulf their bleach-blond striker as he vaulted the advertising hoardings, lost in the delirium of it all. Germany’s punch-drunk players could only look on bewildered, their reputation for ruthlessness emphatically debunked.

“Ludicrous” was how Thomas Müller, appearing at his fourth World Cup, described this defeat. It was as if Germany, once near-impregnable at this tournament and chasing their fifth title, never even comprehended that they could lose. They had better believe it now. Throughout a breakneck second half Japan were faster, sharper, brighter than their complacent opponents, with Ritsu Doan’s goal fortifying their self-belief and Asano applying the astounding coup de grace.

The scenes at the final whistle conveyed multitudes. Serge Gnabry lay face-down on the turf, while German fans wore thousand-yard stares. In the centre circle, Hajime Moriyasu, the Japanese manager who changed the course of this game with his inspired substitutions, gathered his troops together for one last blood-pumping speech. While the stage became Japan’s to conquer, the four-time champions confronted the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, of a second straight group-stage exit.

Gnabry lies face down - Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Gnabry lies face down - Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

In the space of just over 24 hours, the old order had been flipped for a second time. The parallels between Germany’s fate and Argentina’s humiliation at the hands of Saudi Arabia were uncanny. Both these World Cup giants took the lead with a penalty, both dominated their first halves, and both had early goals scrubbed out for offside. And while both led 1-0 at half-time, both were irreparably damaged by conceding two goals in rapid succession, with both ultimately losing 2-1. The two countries could be forgiven for wondering whether there was some dastardly celestial pattern at work.

Germany’s competition could be over as soon as Sunday, should they succumb to Spain. It did not take long for that dire prospect to breed dissent in the ranks. Ilkay Gundogan, the Manchester City midfielder, gave a bracing post-match interview in which he accused his team-mates of lacking hunger for the fight. You sensed that he had Niklas Süle, who played Asano onside en route to Japan’s winner, uppermost in his mind.

“We made it too easy for them, especially with the second goal,” Gundogan lamented. “I don’t know if an easier goal was ever scored at a World Cup. There was a lack of conviction. We relied too much on long balls, and the short ones we played we lost too easily. You felt that not everyone wanted the ball.”

To think, when these players posed for a defiant pre-match photograph, hands clamped to their mouths to signal their fury at Fifa’s refusal to permit captain Manuel Neuer’s “One Love” armband, they had seldom appeared so united. By the end, they resembled a dysfunctional rabble. Hansi Flick, their stony-faced coach, did not dispute the scale of the crisis they confronted. “We are under pressure, there’s no question,” he said. “We need to be courageous and decisive. We need the aggression that’s necessary at a World Cup.”

The symmetries with Germany’s nightmares in Russia four years ago are unmistakeable. In 2018, the wound of an opening defeat to Mexico was ultimately too deep to heal, as Joachim Low’s side found themselves dispatched by South Korea 10 days later. Flick did not take kindly to being reminded of the precedent. “I was not part of the 2018 team, so I don’t really care,” he snapped, “I am looking to the future.”

It is a future fraught with complications. Quite apart from their continuing skirmishes with Fifa over how to protest against Qatar’s laws on homosexuality, Germany are in danger of finding their stay here abruptly curtailed by their inadequacies on the pitch. “If we had played a better game up front, had a little more confidence, it would have been different,” Neuer reflected, ruefully.

For Japan, there was simply unbounded joy. Takefua Kubo, the Real Sociedad winger, admitted that the spectacle of the Saudi triumph had given them a shot of adrenalin to produce their own seismic shock. “We were going to our training session and we watched in on the team coach,” he said. “We are happy for them, it inspired us a lot. I heard that there is now a public holiday in Saudi Arabia, so maybe it will also happen in Japan.”

To gauge by the jubilant scenes on the streets of Tokyo, this might prove an accurate prediction. The sheer verve and assurance with which Japan engineered this result for the ages merited the most extravagant celebrations. Refusing to roll over when Gundogan’s spot-kick put Germany ahead, they patiently laid the foundations for their resurgence, with Doan pouncing on Neuer’s desperate parry from a Takumi Minamino shot, and Asano completing the task exquisitely eight minutes later.

Japan's Ritsu Doan scores their first goal - REUTERS/Molly Darlington
Japan's Ritsu Doan scores their first goal - REUTERS/Molly Darlington

Japan’s ultras were in ecstasy, piling forward in the stands so that they could reach out and touch their heroes. Eventually, best behaviour was restored, as they joined forces to collect any litter that they had left. In every respect, they covered themselves in glory.

Germany 1 Japan 2: as it happened

04:23 PM

Rather sober headline on Suddeutsche Zeitung's report

Very matter of fact: 'Schon wieder eine Auftaktniederlage' – Another defeat at the start.

Bild goes with: 'Debakel-Start für Deutschland!' which you won't need German CSE or a fondness for the novels of Emile Zola to translate.

Frankfurter Allgemeigne goes with 'Deutscher Fehlstart in die Fußball-WM' - Germany's false start to the World Cup.

And, oddly, Die Welt goes in hardest: 'Deutschland blamiert sich gegen Japan' – Germany makes a fool of itself against Japan.

De Zeit, reports: "After the game, the disappointment among the German players was great. 'It's hard for me to understand just after the game how we gave up,' said captain Manuel Neuer. Thomas Müller criticised the lack of efficiency in front of goal. 'It's ludicrous that we're going to lose here,' he said."

"'Of course, that's not the start we had in mind, but we have to shake that off now,' said Thomas Müller. 'I'm still a bit shocked. We would have liked to have spared ourselves the pressure of having to win against Spain.'"

04:00 PM

Germany's odds to win the World Cup

Have taken an almighty whack. Starting the day hovering around 10/1, they are now fancied 20/1.

Japan's prospects have improved, as you might have guessed. They are now 100/1, having started the day at 300/1.

03:56 PM

Elsewhere in Group E

Spain plays Costa Rica at the Al Thumama Stadium. Kick-off is at 4pm UK time. What are you waiting for? Follow along here.

costa rica - Fantasista/Getty Images
costa rica - Fantasista/Getty Images

03:55 PM

Hansi Flick has a job to do

It will take a titanic mentality shift for Flick's players to rise about this defeat, as bad memories from 2018 come flooding back. Combine that with ending their 21-match unbeaten run, and Germany will need wholesale rebuilding ahead of their match against Spain on Sunday.

But Flick's side already raised eyebrows before a ball was kicked, due to issues with squad depth, and the lack of in-form goalscorers.

Worryingly, it may yet prove that Musiala's substitution was a forced one after he struggled with full-throated challenges in the second half. He, and Gnabry, were crucial for Germany, and without the teenager, Germany looked a weaker side.

hansi flick - Friedemann Vogel/Shutterstock
hansi flick - Friedemann Vogel/Shutterstock

03:45 PM

Opta: never one to let a pun go by

03:42 PM

Germany players in World Cup protest over OneLove armband row

The pre-match protest was not the only platform they found to express their disgust with the global governing body. Several Germany players, including captain Manuel Neuer and Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, also wore adidas boots with three rainbow lines stitched down the middle, with an additional multi-coloured stripe on their training kit. In the stands, Nancy Faeser, the country’s interior minister, went even further, donning the very armband explicitly prohibited by Fifa as she sat directly on president Gianni Infantino’s left

Oliver Brown has the full report on Germany's pre-match protest: read more here.

Neuer's rainbow-patterned boots - Rungroj Yongrit/Shutterstock
Neuer's rainbow-patterned boots - Rungroj Yongrit/Shutterstock
Neuer has his armband checked by the assistant referee - Friedemann Vogel/Shutterstock
Neuer has his armband checked by the assistant referee - Friedemann Vogel/Shutterstock

03:27 PM

Ritsu Doan's equaliser, shot-by-shot

Minamino picks off a well-timed ball from Mitoma, completing a spectacular run... - Pawel Andrachiewicz/Getty Images
Minamino picks off a well-timed ball from Mitoma, completing a spectacular run... - Pawel Andrachiewicz/Getty Images
Minamino's cross is fingertipped by Neuer, but the ball springs loose for Doan to smash - Molly Darlington/Reuters
Minamino's cross is fingertipped by Neuer, but the ball springs loose for Doan to smash - Molly Darlington/Reuters
... cue mass celebrations from Japan! - Matthew Childs/Reuters
... cue mass celebrations from Japan! - Matthew Childs/Reuters

03:17 PM

Bad old memories

This is the second consecutive World Cup where Germany have lost their opening game.

As a reminder – with no suggestion of schadenfreude – they finished bottom of their group in Russia, following defeats to Mexico and South Korea.

germany - Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
germany - Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

03:13 PM

Roy Keane shares his thoughts on ITV

It's amazing when you think of half time, we said stay in the game.

The players were fatigued but they stuck at it.

Guts, desire, they played with no fear, I think they deserved it.

Two brilliant goals. Well deserved.

03:11 PM

Japan's mentality seemed a cut-above

03:09 PM

Oliver Brown was soaking up the atmosphere

There is a staggering noise here inside Khalifa Stadium as Japan threaten the second seismic upset of this World Cup. As Bochum forward Takuma Asano conjured an unstoppable strike into the roof of the net from a seemingly impossible angle, the ground heaved with the delirium of Japanese fans, whose bandanna-clad ultras surged to the front of the stands, testing the heavy security presence.

Japan - Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP
Japan - Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP
asano - Evrim Aydin/Getty Images
asano - Evrim Aydin/Getty Images
japan crowd - Ebrahim Noroozi/AP
japan crowd - Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

03:04 PM

Have your say

A miraculous comeback for Japan, who have their first victory against the mighty Germans. Who shone? And who sputtered?

Share your full time player ratings here:

03:02 PM

Asano's winner

03:02 PM

A sensational second half

Japan electrified the final 45, with some crucial substitutions that made all the difference for the team. Germany never had so much heart, even if they did have moments of quality.

asano - Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP
asano - Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

03:01 PM

FULL TIME: JAPAN BEAT GERMANY 2-1!

This time, Gonda punches the ball away definitively. The ball goes sprinting away, and the whistle blows!

How's that for a World Cup upset? I'll take three 0-0 draws for something like this! 

celebrations - Alexander Hassentein/Getty Images
celebrations - Alexander Hassentein/Getty Images
japan - Petr Josek/AP
japan - Petr Josek/AP

02:59 PM

90+7 min: Germany 1 Japan 2

Germany throw players into Japan's box as they are awarded a free kick to round off the match. This could be truly exceptional.

Ten yards from the right edge of the box, the ball is sent in with perfect curve. Neuer leaps for the header, but Yoshida clips him! The ball spills out for a Germany corner.

Nail biting!

neuer - Petr Josek/AP
neuer - Petr Josek/AP

02:57 PM

90+6 min: Germany 1 Japan 2

A strong chance for Germany this time! Goretzka on the edge of the box picks up a volleyed pass off a long ball, and fires just wide. Germany were an inch from an equaliser, but that makes all the difference.

Japan are still running, running, keeping Germany under pressure. Germany look ragged by comparison.

02:55 PM

90+4 min: Germany 1 Japan 2

Appeals for a penalty after Fullkrug goes down in the box waiting for a cross, but all Yoshida did was stand firm. These appeals are rightfully dismissed.

Rudiger sends in a long-range shot, hoping to recapture previous magic from 35 yards, but it's highly optimistic.

02:54 PM

90+2 min: Germany 1 Japan 2

Tomiyasu goes down for a moment, ringed by Japan players, and when play starts again, the Germans reset, looking for a route through.

But first they'll have to hold possession: Asano sneaks possession and goes on the run. He sends the ball to Endo, who looks for Minamino in the box, but with no luck. That was an unfocused pass from Kimmich which led to that unsettled moment.

02:52 PM

90 min: Germany 1 Japan 2

Seven minutes of added time for Germany to get their tournament opener back on track.

They start off with a change: Gnabry off for Moukoko.

02:50 PM

88 min: Germany 1 Japan 2

Japan will have to cling on here, to maintain their first ever victory over Germany. But Germany have much more to do in terms of shifting momentum: they've looked shaken ever since the equaliser.

Here's something: Rudiger tussling for the ball with Asano in the box sees the player go down. Will we have a penalty?

No. Play is waved on. But Germany look rattled, case in point.

02:48 PM

This equaliser belongs to the sparkling substitutes

02:46 PM

83 min: GOAL!! Germany 1 Japan 2

Here we go! A long ball lands perfectly in front of Asano, who runs into the box, firing at a near-unbelievable angle straight to the ceiling of the net! Japan are ahead after a wonderstrike!

Japan's bench moves in a wave to congratulate the players, gathered in a clump in front of the supporters! Hansi Flick, by contrast, looks desolate.

asano - Molly Darlington/Reuters
asano - Molly Darlington/Reuters

02:43 PM

81 min: Germany 1 Japan 1

Now we've got some noise, a lively soundtrack as Ito whisks down the right wing looking to both Neuer again.

Germany attempt to steady nerves mounting their own attack, which yields them a corner. Japan's heads wing the ball away, but only as far as Goetze, who looks to push through on the left.

02:41 PM

79 min: Germany 1 Japan 1

A breathless interlude from Japan, who come again and look full of fire and vim now.

Germany look to draw upon their own reserves, with Goetze and Fullkrug replacing Musiala and Havertz.

02:39 PM

75 min: GOAL! Germany 1 Japan 1

Sakai comes off for familiar face Minamino, and within moments, the substitute has instant impact!

Running the ball down, Minamino partners up with Mitoma, scything down the left. Doan patiently awaits a blistering cross, and wasting no time, powers the ball into the net!

Japan have their equaliser! The force of those substitutes cannot be understated.

japan - Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
japan - Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

02:35 PM

72 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Corner for Germany, which skitters out of play. Another substitute for Japan comes in the break, Tanaka off for Doan.

As Endo seeks to cling on to the ball in midfield, Goretzka battles heartily to dispossess him, handing Japan a free kick.

On the run in the Germany half, Ito takes aim. Neuer leaps to save, and when the ball is knocked out, Sakai has another attempt: which he skies! That was a powerful save from Neuer, but Sakai could have outfoxed him on the second.

02:32 PM

70 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Asano again makes it down the wing with lightning quick pace. Rudiger is more than getting his steps in keeping the Japanese forward under wraps.

Gondo has to spring into action to keep out shots from Muller, than Gnabry. Then Gnabry again, then Gnabry at close range! Gonda had to frantically answer everything Gnabry threw at him, capitalising on the goalkeeper's rebounds.

02:28 PM

67 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

After some cagey play, Germany concede a corner. They have to focus to keep Japan out, and make sure the ball is dispatched with very little fuss.

Meanwhile, two changes: Gundogan off for Goretzka, and Muller off for Hoffman.

02:26 PM

65 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Asano on the run is a frightening prospect, and Rudiger has to hustle to deal with him.

As we pass the hour mark, how about a check in with our live player ratings?

02:24 PM

63 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Gnabry and Musiala have been in superb form this afternoon, making all of the difference. Now Musiala draws a foul from Itakura, allowing for a German reset in a clogged midfield.

Look at what you missed out on, England fans, and shed a small, small, tear.

02:22 PM

61 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Mitoma sets off on a terrific run, in acres of space, cutting through the midfield. He plays to Asano, who makes his way into the left of the box, but Asano's shot lets both players down.

02:21 PM

59 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Itakura loses the ball in dangerous territory, Musiala sweeping through Japan's half.

He sets up Gundogan running into the box, and who gets the shot off, but clatters the post with a clang!

02:19 PM

57 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Musiala clashes heads with Itakura, going down momentarily.

In the pause, Japan make changes: Mitoma for Nagatomo, and Maeda comes off for Asano. Mitoma has been in lively form for Brighton, so could thrill here.

Within moments, it's the other substitute, Asano, who benefits from a break down the right with a flying attempt.

02:17 PM

55 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Musiala wins the ball on the left, and Havertz makes a run into the box to pick up a ball played a shade too heavily. Musiala floats in to mop up with a cross, but Gonda can intervene with minimal fuss.

02:15 PM

53 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Sakai whips in a throw, as Japan look for a concerted spell on the ball. Gundogan intervenes, however, stymying a run on the left for another throw in.

Kamada is next to run the ball in, picking up the ball on the edge of the box to curve the ball deep. A team-mate can get on the end of it, but the cross is powerless to do anything other than fly behind goal.

02:12 PM

51 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Ito twists through the box, grappling with Schlotterbeck, before Kamada makes a nervy shot which glances out for a Japan corner.

Germany lock up well, and flip play into Japan's half. Raum passes to Musiala on the edge of the box. He winds this way and that, feet immaculately, before taking the shot – which flies over the bar! That would have been a magical, magical goal. Alas.

02:11 PM

49 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Maeda scuttles Kimmich, sliding down to push for the ball, but there's no joy as Germany hold the lion's share of the early possession. But Germany are now kept largely in their own half by Japan's high line, clogging up their opponent's territory, and again forcing an error.

02:08 PM

47 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Nagatomo knocks the ball down in front of his run, and keeps hold of it, but Muller wins back possession from Endo with a powerful run. He crosses to Gnabry, running in on the right, who gets the shot off, but the ball streaks well wide of the cross bar.

02:07 PM

45 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Japan looked much more convincing in the first 45, and Germany will have to ensure they don't come out of the starting gates in this second half snarling.

02:06 PM

Japan make one change

Arsenal's Takehiro Tomiyasu comes on for Kubo, which gives Japan's set up a little bit of a shake up.

02:04 PM

Roy Keane shares his thoughts on Germany's pre-match protest

On the German players being silenced:

By who?

The supporters and the players are the most important people in football

[Players should] use their voice

Wear the armband. Stand up, we always say leadership is about action.

Go and do it.

[The pre-match protest] is a gesture, it's a start, but they can do more.

Ian Wright and Keane's comments in full:

02:02 PM

Statement from the German National Team and FA on their players' pre-match protest

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.

It wasn’t about making a political statement – 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.

01:51 PM

45+6 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Maeda picks up a quickfire cross from Nagatomo, firing in a powerful header, which glances just wide! Another near-miss for the Japan forward.

The whistle blows – both teams will benefit from a rousing team talk at half-time.

01:50 PM

45+4 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Japan push their way into Germany's half but the ball falls back to Neuer. For a moment or two, the German players knock the ball around complacently, before Rudiger sends a well-pitched pass up the field.

After this, moments of quality: Musiala picks up on the edge of the box, flowing the ball to Muller, who crosses to Gnabry. Gnabry crosses to Havertz on the run, who smashes the ball in!

But Var intervenes, as it looks like Gnabry was offside. A brief pause, and yes, offside it is. A suspicious delay for something that looked clear-cut.

01:47 PM

45+2 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Muller sends in a bullet-like cross from the right, but its intended target in the box can't control the play as Japan swarm. Endo recaptures possession from Musiala, as Yoshida urges his team-mates on in these final minutes.

01:46 PM

45 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Kimmich sends a threadneedle pass over the edge of the box to Musiala, who plays an elegant shot towards goal, missing by centimetres.

Meanwhile, Sakai attempting a high challenge stays down momentarily, as four minutes added are announced. 

musiala - Jewel Samad/AFP
musiala - Jewel Samad/AFP

01:44 PM

43 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

I perhaps bring a personal bias to the Mexican wave, but for those who associate the activity with a lack of action, you wouldn't be wholly wrong.

Germany have been underwhelming, even as they lead. Japan have far more to be cheered by. But that doesn't earn them any points, does it?

Sule sends a tidy backheel back to his team-mate, who flows play up field. Musiala looks for an opening, but is shut down quickly.

01:44 PM

43 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

I perhaps bring a personal bias to the Mexican wave, but for those who associate the activity with a lack of action, you wouldn't be wholly wrong.

Germany have been underwhelming, even as they lead. Japan have far more to be cheered by. But that doesn't earn them any points, does it?

Sule sends a tidy backheel back to his team-mate, who flows play up field. Musiala looks for an opening, but is shut down quickly.

01:41 PM

41 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Musiala seeks to drive through the centre of Japan's half, but he's surrounded by blue shirts. Passing back to Gundogan, he attempts to play through, but Japan keep him out too.

Kimmich from just outside the box picks up a well-weighted pass from Muller, which he boots over the cross bar.

Oh dear. A Mexican wave.

01:40 PM

39 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Kubo picks up the ball in the midfield, hoping to dry up the tide of German possession. The ball is unleashed down the left, and Kubo on the run picks up the ball for a clever cross into the box.

But he's offside, and the whistle blows as Kubo goes down momentarily.

01:38 PM

37 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

Rudiger heads off the corner, and Japan come powering forward again. Schlotterbeck topples a player on the run, but escapes a card.

Ito, retaking possession, is now set upon by Schlotterbeck and Musiala, and momentum spins back to Germany. Gnabry drags play back to the box, and attempts to usher the ball in. Gondo steps out to wildly punch the ball away, Japan quickly neutralising the threat.

01:35 PM

35 min: Germany 1 Japan 0

That one will sting for Japan, the goalkeeper committing an entirely unavoidable foul.

Sakai on the run on the right is shut down efficiently by Raum for a corner.

01:33 PM

32 min: GOAL!! Germany 1 Japan 0

Penalty check for Germany! Raum pulls down a ball just inside the box, and Gondo goes for the challenge, before collapsing a second time on the German.

There's some investigation into the second. It looks like a stumble, the second foul, which I believe is the one being investigated.

Gundogan stands up for the penalty, as Var completes its checks: the decision stands!

Gundogan, cool as you like, makes the net-strings dance! Germany take the lead. 

khalifa - Alex Grimm/Getty Images
khalifa - Alex Grimm/Getty Images
gundogan - Jewel Samad/AFP
gundogan - Jewel Samad/AFP

01:29 PM

29 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

On the edge of the box after some clever play on the right wing, Gnabry shifts the ball back to Gundogan, who fires unspectacularly straight into the hands of Gonda.

Gnabry cuts back to Gundogan through the centre this time, who plays to Raum. His crossed is blocked well, but there's a second attempt from Gundogan which is also kept out. Germany lacking a clinical edge, at present, in the face of Japan's crafty defence.

01:27 PM

27 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Germany are looking threatening in the box, Gnabry playing into Havertz, who sets back to Gundogan, but Raum's final pass is easily defendable, and gives Japan some breathing room to push play towards the halfway line.

There's a whiff of the ordinary about Germany, who are yet to meet expectations. Japan have managed to scuttle them a number of times.

01:25 PM

25 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Havertz on the run sprints through the left, seeking support, but under pressure from Japan's defence can only play back. There's a quick pause whilst Endo's challenge on Havertz is investigated by Var for handball, but even the German side don't appeal too forcefully.

01:22 PM

22 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

The corner is player short to Tanaka, who floats the ball in to Itakura and Yoshida. The ball skids off Itakura, who cries for a corner: no such luck.

01:21 PM

20 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Gundogan sends a flick back to Musiala who attempts the first shot, but he's tackled neatly by Itakura. Clawing the ball back, Germany can take a final shot but it clears the cross bar with room.

Japan take advantage of a slow restart, Maeda sending in a cross which is sent out for a corner.

01:19 PM

18 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Havertz, false nine du jour, has dropped back to aid Germany's flow, as they're looking a little rigid at present.

Gnabry on the run picks up a fabulous ball at the far post, controlling it down to punch a cross into the box, but there's no one there for support. As Japan scoops up the remains and attempts to spark their own attack, Kubo is brought down.

01:16 PM

16 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Sakai heads off Raum, accepting a long ball from Rudiger, but injures himself briefly in the process. As play restarts, Havertz sneaks a corner scrapping for possession.

Schlotterbeck, tussling with Endo, forces a reset, and when the corner finally comes, Rudiger gets a positive head on Kimmich's cross that nestles in the side netting.

01:14 PM

14 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Kimmich smacks the ball goalwards, and Japan pull off a terrific block. Within moments, Germany pulled an attack from thin air, showing their quality, but Japan were ready.

Now, Japan buzz around the ball, forcing an error from Germany, who have to send the ball back to Neuer and reset.

01:13 PM

12 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Musiala scythes through the pack ahead of the box, but is shut down swiftly by Endo.

For all the fire on the pitch, the stadium is chillingly quiet. You could hear a pin drop, by the sound of things. The stadium is mostly full too, but this is certainly a different atmosphere than the one that Morocco and Croatia enjoyed earlier today.

01:11 PM

Pre-match protest

Germany posed covering their mouths in protest following Fifa's strict clampdown on the OneLove armband, which Neuer had intended to wear throughout the competition.

Read Telegraph Sport's full report here.

German players covered their mouths as they posed for a team photo ahead of kick-off - Ina Fassbender/AFP
German players covered their mouths as they posed for a team photo ahead of kick-off - Ina Fassbender/AFP

01:09 PM

8 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Early promise from Japan! Gundogan is overturned, and Ito is on the run, beating every Germany player. He sends a diagonal pass perfectly to Maeda, who slots the ball into the back of Neuer's net, but the flag is instantly up: he's offside by a healthy margin.

Germany cannot switch off for a minute here, and that will be a wake-up call for the backline.

Maeda laments his disallowed goal - Mustafa Yalcin/Getty Images
Maeda laments his disallowed goal - Mustafa Yalcin/Getty Images

01:07 PM

7 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Rudiger boots a flying ball out of the box after a strong showing from Japan in these opening moments. Germany are going to have to maintain supreme focus.

Rudiger is next tasked with shutting down Kubo, running in from the left. The Real Madrid defender should be a standout for Germany today: track his progress using our live player ratings:

01:05 PM

5 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Sakai sends a long throw towards the Germany half, and when it eventually gets over the line, Maeda sets off at blistering pace pinned to Rudiger. They are neck and neck in the foot race, but Maeda has the last touch by the corner flag for the ball to fall back to Neuer.

Ito gets away on the right, and sends in a flat cross towards his team-mates in the box, which is knocked out for an early corner.

Gnabry dispatches the attempt quickly, but Japan stay wedged in Germany's half.

01:03 PM

3 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Musiala tussles with a Japan player on the left, as they look to push through in the opening moments. Gnabry gets the ball into the box, but Japan lock up, defending the ball out.

But not far enough, as Germany continue to probe around the outside of the box for a few moments before the ball is punted down the field to safety.

01:01 PM

1 min: Germany 0 Japan 0

Germany play back to Neuer, opening with an early hesitancy as they look for the best way through Japan.

01:00 PM

Kick-off!

We're underway at the Khalifa stadium, with Germany starting us off after the countdown booms around the stadium.

12:56 PM

National anthems

Both rather quiet. And there's no giant World Cup in the middle of the pitch either.

12:54 PM

The players are out!

A reminder of the line ups today:

Germany: Neuer, Sule, Rudiger, Schlotterbeck, Raum, Kimmich, Gundogan, Gnabry, Muller, Musiala, Havertz. Subs: Ginter, Kehrer, Goretzka, Fullkrug, Gotze, Trapp, Klostermann, Brandt, Hofmann, Sane, Gunter, ter Stegen, Adeyemi, Kotchap, Moukoko.

Japan: Gonda, Sakai, Itakura, Yoshida, Nagatomo, Tanaka, Endo, Junya Ito, Kamada, Kubo, Maeda. Subs: Kawashima, Yamane, Taniguchi, Shibasaki, Doan, Mitoma, Minamino, Morita, Tomiyasu, Asano, Machino, Ueda, Schmidt, Soma, Hiroki Ito.

12:53 PM

Thoughts during the match?

Let us know in the comments below.

12:49 PM

BREAKING: Harry Kane in England injury boost after scan reveals no significant damage

England are optimistic that captain Harry Kane has not suffered any significant damage to his ankle after the striker underwent a scan.

Manager Gareth Southgate must still decide whether or not to start Kane against the United States on Friday, but the news on his injury was treated as encouraging within the England camp.

There is optimism that Kane will not be ruled out of the World Cup or miss any large part of the tournament while the Football Association waited to provide any official confirmation of the scan result.

Kane was sent for a scan after undergoing a heavy challenge in the victory over Iran, which both the player and Southgate were unconcerned about on Monday night.

The FA said that Kane took part in an indoor recovery session on Tuesday and it remains unclear whether or not the scan was booked as a precaution or because he felt any additional discomfort.

Read Matt Law's report.

Harry Kane - Abbie Parr/AP
Harry Kane - Abbie Parr/AP

12:47 PM

Khalifa International Stadium is the venue for this one

It is the oldest of the eight stadiums after first being constructed in 1976. It has been renovated for the World Cup, and now has a 45,857 capacity, but has already previously hosted the Club World Cup and the World Athletics Championships.

Read Telegraph Sport's guide to the eight venues of the World Cup.

Japan warm up - Adrian Dennis/AFP
Japan warm up - Adrian Dennis/AFP

12:41 PM

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu on his opponents today

We are very grateful to the Germans, they are role models for us.

We are still developing, of course, and at the same time have incorporated good qualities from Japan into our playing style.

So we have kind of mixed feelings about playing Germany but no matter who our opponents are, we are going to give absolutely the best performance that we can.

12:37 PM

Out come Japan for the warm up

Japan warm up - Sebastian Frej/Getty Images
Japan warm up - Sebastian Frej/Getty Images

12:35 PM

Enjoying his non-alcoholic beer at the Khalifa International Stadium

Enjoying the non-alcoholic beer at the Khalifa International Stadium - Alex Grimm/Getty Images
Enjoying the non-alcoholic beer at the Khalifa International Stadium - Alex Grimm/Getty Images

12:33 PM

Germany warm up

Germany warm up - Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Germany warm up - Dan Mullan/Getty Images

12:31 PM

Japan fans out in force

Japan fans - Mike Egerton/PA
Japan fans - Mike Egerton/PA

12:28 PM

Which way do you think this one will go?

12:27 PM

Germany's team news: Manuel Neuer plays in four consecutive tournaments

Manuel Neuer starts in goal and becomes the first goalkeeper of his country to play in four consecutive tournaments.

Hansi Flick opts to start with forward Kai Havertz as their target man, leaving centre forwards Niclas Fuellkrug and teenager Youssoufa Moukoko on the bench.

He's also included Thomas Mueller, who has not played 90 minutes since September due to injures.

Manuel Neuer - Annegret Hilse/Reuters
Manuel Neuer - Annegret Hilse/Reuters

12:26 PM

Japan's starting XI

Japan: Shuichi Gonda, Hiroki Sakai, Ko Itakura, Maya Yoshida, Junya Ito, Yuto Nagatomo, Wataru Endo, Ao Tanaka, Takefusa Kubo, Daichi Kamada, Daizen Maeda.

12:25 PM

Team news! Germany's starting XI

Germany: Manuel Neuer, David Raum, Antonio Ruediger, Niklas Suele, Nico Schlotterbeck, Joshua Kimmich, Ilkay Guendogan, Jamal Musiala, Thomas Mueller, Serge Gnabry, Kai Havertz.

12:25 PM

Joshua Kimmich: "It's not our fault where the World Cup takes place"

Speaking yesterday, he said:

I would like to be able to look forward to a World Cup, even if it takes place here.

We've talked a lot about the fact the World Cup was awarded here. That was 12 years ago, when I was 15, and now I somehow always have to comment on it. I don't know if it's always justified.

But we also have to manage this balancing act of focusing on the sporting side.

I mean regardless of where the World Cup is taking place, it's a World Cup, it's the biggest competition for us footballers there is. It's a huge childhood dream to play tomorrow and yet somehow I have the feeling that it's always being talked down a bit or that you can't really look forward to it.

Joshua Kimmich - Matthias Schrader/AP
Joshua Kimmich - Matthias Schrader/AP

12:23 PM

Fan protest during the game between Borussia Dortmund and VfL Bochum earlier this month

Germany's buildup to the tournament in Qatar has been overshadowed by fan protests at home - Ina Fassbender/AFP
Germany's buildup to the tournament in Qatar has been overshadowed by fan protests at home - Ina Fassbender/AFP

12:20 PM

Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser on Fifa's decision to ban the armband

Faeser, during a visit to a German FA event in Doha, said:

This is not alright, how federations are being put under pressure.

These were not the security guarantees I had received from (Qatar's) Interior Minister (during her earlier visit in November).

In today's times it is incomprehensible that Fifa does not want people to openly stand for tolerance and against discrimination. It does not fit in our times and it is not appropriate towards people.

12:19 PM

German vice-chancellor backs armband protest at World Cup

Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck counselled the German men's national team to wear the "OneLove" armband banned by Fifa as they prepare to face Japan.

Speaking with German public broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening, he said:

I am not the media advisor of the DFB (German football association) and I am not Manuel Neuer but the opportunity is there.

I suppose you have to wear the armband now. I would maybe take my chances.

I would be interested to see what the referee does when someone with the armband comes over.

12:18 PM

Rewe Group cancels sponsorship deal with Germany

Rewe Group, one of Germany's major grocery chain, has ended its $15 million sponsorship with the German Football Association over its decision to ban players from wearing 'OneLove' armbands.

Telegraph Sport reported yesterday that the German Football Association (DFB) has warned Fifa it faces court action over the OneLove armband ban.

12:14 PM

Setting the record straight

Four years ago in Russia Germany were knocked out at the group stages of the World Cup in an embarassing early exit. One of the few survivors of that dark day for Germany is Joshua Kimmich, who is desperate to right the wrongs of 2018.

The 27-year-old is in the minority as players who were in Kazan when they were eliminated at the first hurdle for the first time since 1938, with Tottenham's Son Heung-min providing the iconic image of tapping into an empty net to send Joachim Löw’s team home.

“The motivation is huge after four and half years. We know that was nothing, that was terrible what happened. We’ve had quite the wait,” Kimmich said. “It will be very important to start with a good game. The first game is very important, we’ve seen that in previous tournaments.  At the Euro we lost the first game and we didn’t win. I hope that in this game we will be winning.”

Kimmich will set the tempo of their game as their defensive midfielder and there is also a place for Mario Gotze, the hero of 2014 when they won the trophy that slipped through their fingers four years later. It is not only the Eintracht Frankfurt forward, 30, that reminds Flick of eight years ago when he was assistant coach with Die Mannschaft.

“I was part of the team in 2014, (Lukas) Podolski, (Mats) Hummels, (Philipp) Lahm back then. It was the same back then. Before the tournament people were saying they haven’t won big titles yet,” said Flick.

“This generation is characterised by the fact they are very focused on the game and always push their limits. They are players who always try to get better every time they step on the pitch. It’s wonderful to see as a coach.”

Under Hansi Flick, more than half of the squad have been replaced but there is a backbone of experience from the likes of Manuel Neuer, Ilkay Gundogan and Thomas Muller, plus the fearless youth of players such as Jamal Musiala, who put England to the sword during the last international break.