Blue Samurai show lethal form, Spanish armada vicious

Agence France-Presse

DOHA – Japan produced a stunning comeback to shock Germany, 2-1, in their World Cup opener on Wednesday after the four-time champions staged a powerful protest against FIFA’s refusal to allow rainbow-themed armbands, while Spain started in style by putting seven past Costa Rica.

Elsewhere on the fourth day of action in Qatar, Belgium edged out Canada 1-0 while 2018 finalists Croatia drew with Morocco.

The build-up to the Group E match between Germany and Japan in Doha was dominated by intense speculation over whether German captain Manuel Neuer would wear the “OneLove” armband, viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in the Gulf state, where homosexuality is illegal.

Seven nations, including England and Germany, had abandoned plans to wear the armbands because of the threat of disciplinary action from world governing body FIFA.

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Neuer, who had come under political pressure to change his mind, did not wear the armband at the Khalifa International Stadium. Instead, the entire team covered their mouths before kick-off.

Germany came to the World Cup desperate to avoid the humiliation of 2018, when as defending champions they suffered their earliest exit since 1938.

Hansi Flick’s men were on course for an opening win when Ilkay Gundogan put them ahead from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute.

However, they then paid the price for missed chances as the Blue Samurai equalized through Ritsu Doan in the 75th minute.


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