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Japan stun Giants Germany with comeback

Germany have lost their opening game at a second World Cup in a row after a superb second half comeback from Japan.

The Samurai Blue started strongly, having an early goal from Celtic’s Daizen Maeda ruled out for offside, before Germany took control in the first half.

Left-back David Raum a constant threat and he was decisive in winning a penalty on the half hour mark, as he turned in the box was brought down by Japan goalkeeper Shūichi Gonda. İlkay Gündoğan made no mistake from the spot, calmly placing the ball down the middle.

Harmless long-range efforts from Gündoğan and Jamal Musiala followed for Germany, who dominated the ball, before Joshua Kimmich did test the goalkeeper right on half-time. With his effort parried, Serge Gnabry’s rebound was tapped in by Kai Havertz, only for a VAR check to rule the goal out for offside.

Germany picked up where they left off in the second half, with Gnabry and Gündoğan each clipping the woodwork either side of a superb Musiala effort that ended with the ball blazed over the bar.

Jonas Hofmann and Serge Gnabry were next to test Gonda in goal but he was equal to their efforts from close range, with Japan still in the game as the closing stages approach.

And Germany were eventually made to pay for their profligacy as Japan’s subs added energy and made the difference. First a superb Manuel Neuer save was needed to deny Junya Ito before the rebound was fired over.

That, though, was just a warning and an equaliser arrived moments later. Some fine work down the left saw the ball flash across goal and Neuer parried the cross right to Ritsu Doan, who fired home.

They weren’t done there and caught the favourites’ backline out with a long ball aimed at Takuma Asano. The forward gave chase and held off Nico Schlotterbeck before firing beyond Manuel Neuer from a tight angle.

Germany brought on Mario Götze, then strikers Niclas Füllkrug and Youssoufa Moukoko, but could not create a clear chance as the four-time world champions sunk to a shock defeat.

Group F opener ends in stalemate

Morocco and Croatia played out the third goalless draw of the World Cup so far to kick-off day four of the tournament.

Despite a noisy atmosphere at Al Bayt Stadium, chances for both sides were at a premium and neither ever truly looked like breaking the deadlock.

And it was more bad news for Bayern Munich, with Noussair Mazraoui forced to go off injured for Morocco in the second half.

Both teams exchanged blows in a tight opening period, with Ivan Perišić firing over the bar for Croatia and Hakim Ziyech blasting a free-kick into the wall for Morocco.

The clearest opening of the first half came just before half-time, when Croatia forward Nikola Vlašić forced Morocco goalkeeper Bono into a reaction save from close range.

Morocco were dealt a blow in the second half when left-back Mazraoui had to limp off injured. Yahia Attiyat Allah came on to replace him.

Achraf Hakimi then stung the palms of Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livaković with a fiercely struck free-kick, but 0-0 was how it finished.

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