DOHA, Qatar. The second biggest failure of the 2022 World Cup so far has been the result of the globalization of football.
Germany, a longtime superpower, presided over long stretches of its Wednesday opening here at the Khalifa International Stadium.
But in a thrilling second half, the Germans were stunned and beaten by a brilliant Japanese team that their own Bundesliga had helped create.
Ritsu Doan, the current employee of the German club SC Freiburg, came off the bench and deservedly equalized in the 75th minute.
Takuma Asano, a current employee of German club VfL Bochum, came off the bench to score an astounding game-winning goal to take the win 2-1.
It was two of the seven players in the German top division, but in Japanese blue uniforms, who turned the game on its head in the second half. Another, Maya Yashida, said he went to Schalke this summer on purpose “to understand German football, German culture and the opposition.”
“It’s not just one reason, but it’s one of the reasons why I came,” and “of course” it helped on Wednesday, he said.
Others have taken their games to the next level in an increasingly multicultural league. And this league, in turn, helped the Japanese team reach breathtaking heights.
“They are fighting in a very strong, tough, prestigious league, so they are building up their strength,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said of his Bundesliga players. “So, in that context, we think these leagues have contributed to the development of Japanese players.”
Twelve years ago, Japan brought in 19 of the 23 World Cup players from their national J-League. In 2022, it has recruited 19 of 26 players from abroad, from many of the most competitive clubs in the world. These leagues have increasingly welcomed foreigners throughout the 21st century due to their talent as well as the same globalizing forces that have shaped society more broadly.
This trend has widened the gap between the top five club leagues and the rest. But at the international level, for national teams, it may have had the opposite effect.
Japan has been one of the main beneficiaries. Until 1998, she did not even qualify for participation in the men’s world championship. She did not win a single game either that year, or in 2006, or in 2014. accelerating your rise.
Samurai Blue, as the team is known, arrived at the 2014 World Cup with a few European stars, but still with a roster half-filled by J-Leaguers. It was in 2018, with seven Bundesliga players on the team, that their depth began to show. They reached the round of 16 and nearly stunned Belgium. Their rise was very real and ongoing.
However, in 2022, and especially on Wednesday, they have risen to a new level – and it was no coincidence that the German Bundesliga became the most represented league in their list of 26, even more than the J-League. It helped educate the players. It also made them familiar.
“They have so [much] Information. They give it to the staff,” winger Takefusa Kubo said of his German teammates. “And that’s one of the reasons [for] victory.”
“I think the German players know each other and know how they play,” winger Kaoru Mitoma said. “It helped us and we prepared based on that.”
It also gave them faith. At the entrance to the Daichi Kamada in Frankfurt. said Last week they drew strength from the fact that so many “share the same stage” as the highly successful Germans.
“I think we are on an equal footing with them now,” he said.
When asked after the match if they believed they could win, Mitoma, who plays for Brighton in the English Premier League, replied: “Of course.”
There were, of course, other factors on Wednesday. In the first half, Japan was almost overrun. At halftime, they changed their formation – “because”, as Yashida explained, “[Jamal] Musiala and [Thomas] Mueller was in the pocket every time, and we tried our best to catch them.”
Perhaps their decision was illogical. They replaced the winger with a defender and switched to a back five. But the new uniform wrested control of the game from the Germans and allowed Japan to punish Germany for its extravagance.
“I think the game was in our hands,” said German striker Kai Havertz. “And it slipped out of our hands very quickly.”
More precisely, it was torn off by the Japanese team, who deserved all three points to the last drop; a Japanese team that is no accident and can do the same.
According to some players, it was the best day of their careers and possibly the best result ever for a Japanese program. But will they celebrate?
Maybe not much, but their coach, former international Moriyasu, told them: “The most important thing is how you finish the tournament, not how you start. You must continue.”
“How will I celebrate?!” Yashida asked, repeating the question with an incredulous smile. “Nothing like that! Rest, recover, train!”