IT was the Mexicans waving them bye-bye four years ago.
And as a Mexican wave broke out here at Doha’s Khalifa Stadium, Germany may well be on the way to heading home early again thanks to Japan’s supersubs.
Hansi Flick’s side looked to be cruising when Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty put them ahead just after the half hour.
But their Asian opponents hit back with two goals from substitutes in eight second-half minutes, first through Ritsu Doan and then a stunner from Takuma Asano.
Asano’s effort will go down in World Cup history as he brilliantly controlled a long ball, sped into the area and beat Manuel Neuer at his near post with a thumping finish.
It leaves Germany in familiar territory, having crashed out at the group stage four years ago in Russia as reigning champions having lost their opening game to Mexico.
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Recovering from here could be very tricky given 2010 champions Spain are also in their group, along with Costa Rica.
Midfielder Joshua Kimmich had spoken on Tuesday of the team’s “huge motivation” to put things right this time and the importance of winning the first game.
Yet despite starting so well, they are now in an equally perilous position and face a massive uphill battle to get out of the group.
Germany’s players protested against Fifa ahead of the game, outraged by the pressure the world football governing body had put on them not to wear a One Love rainbow armband via threats of sporting sanctions.
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That included warming up in training kit with rainbows on the sleeves, having rainbows etched on their boots and covering up their mouths for the team picture to indicate how their planned show of support to the LGBTQ community had been silenced.
German interior minister Nancy Faeser also wore the One Love armband while sitting next to Fifa president Gianni Infantino up in the stands.
It really was one-way traffic in the first half, making the turnaround all the more remarkable. Japan only completed 62 passes, while untroubled German goalkeeper Neuer had 35.
Saying that, it was actually the Asian side who had the ball in the net first when striker Daizen Maeda emphatically finished off a rapid counter only to be ruled offside.
Kimmich and Gundogan were firing warning shots from distance before Salvadoran referee Ivan Barton, at 31, the tournament’s third youngest whistler, awarded a penalty against Shuichi Gonda, two years his senior for tripping David Raum and then falling on him for good measure.
It allowed Manchester City star Gundogan to coolly slot in his 17th goal for his country.
Kai Havertz thought he had doubled the lead just before the break – and minutes after the Mexican wave around the Khalifa Stadium – but he too had strayed offside.
England were dealt a blow last year when former Young Lion Jamal Musiala switched allegiances to play for Germany, the country of his birth.
The wonderkid, who went to the same private school in Croydon as Callum Hudson-Odoi and Danny Cipriani, went on a stunning mazy run at the start of the second half, beating three players but fired over the bar.
On the hour, Musiala squared to Gundogan who struck the base of the post with his shot.
Gonda went some way to making up for his penalty error by making FOUR saves in a matter of a seconds, three from Serge Gnabry and another from sub Jonas Hofmann.
Japan’s fans cranked up the noise in a bid to inspire their team and they would have had a leveller sooner were it not for Manuel Neuer’s brilliant stop to deny Junya Ito, before Hiroki Sakai blazed over.
Eventually the equaliser did come as ex-Liverpool man Takumi Minamino, who had just come on as a sub, saw his cross-shot palmed out by Neuer, only for Doan to find the net.
Eight minutes later, it got even better for Japan thanks to Asano’s moment of genius.
He masterfully controlled a routine long ball from defender Ko Itakura, managing to take it past Nico Schlotterbeck and race in on goal before burying it past Neuer at his near post.
It was a wonder goal worthy of winning any game – and one that has put four-time champions Germany in deep trouble already.
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