When Takuma Asano joined Arsenal in 2016, then-manager Arsene Wenger raved concerning the prospect. “He’s very a lot one for the long run… we look ahead to him growing over the following couple of years,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian again then. Six years later, as he scored the winner in Qatar for Japan, as they shocked the world by defeating European powerhouses Germany 2-1 on the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Wenger’s phrases rang true.
Japan had survived a variety of high-quality possibilities produced by Germany, whose 1-0 lead by the seventy fifth minute may have been considerably prolonged if that they had been ruthless in entrance of purpose, earlier than Japan turned the tables, creating wave after wave of frantic assaults sensing fatigue and frustration among the many German defence.
The equaliser got here after they overloaded the left flank, and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer parried Kaoru Mitoma’s shot-cum-pass into the ft of Ritsu Doan. A draw would have been a terrific end result for the Japanese, however as they went about defending the scoreline, one other alternative introduced itself.
An extended ball, hopeful relatively than exact, was taken down by Asano in skilled trend, letting it fall by his facet earlier than trapping it with an ideal contact past Germany’s trailing defender Nico Schlotterbeck. He then drove to the appropriate nook of the field, holding off Schlotterbeck’s problem and stepping into an acute capturing place at Neuer’s close to submit, earlier than capturing exhausting and excessive into the roof of the German veteran’s internet. It was a second of utter brilliance, the sort that units occasions just like the World Cup alight.
A fever pitch of adoration from the travelling Japanese assist adopted, and it in the end led to one of many shocks of the group stage.
Japan objectives vs Germany (Japanese commentary 🇯🇵). pic.twitter.com/2H8Wi9RT30
— Don Peppino🤝 (@DonPeppinoo) November 23, 2022
Asano’s brilliance gave Japan the shock win, however all through the match, Japan’s incisiveness within the sport – regardless of having a lot decrease ball possession within the first half, they matched Germany when it got here to purpose risk, and arguably had been much more threatening within the second half – a results of their familiarity with the German system. 5 of Hajime Moriyasu’s beginning XI ply their commerce within the German Bundesliga, as do three others on the bench, together with Asano.
After promising within the J-League again dwelling, Asano obtained a dream transfer to Arsenal, nevertheless it was a dream that by no means got here to fruition. Regardless of being employed by the Gunners for 3 years, he was by no means given a piece allow, since he failed to satisfy the standards set by England’s Soccer Affiliation (FA) having not performed sufficient video games at a prime degree or for Japan’s worldwide staff in a 24-month span.
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He spent the primary two years on mortgage at German facet Stuttgart, with 9 objectives in 26 appearances. He then had a season-long mortgage at Hannover, the place alternatives had been few and much between, after which was launched by Arsenal and picked up by Serbian facet Partizan Belgrade. Two promising seasons within the Balkans led to a return to Germany final 12 months, changing into a mainstay in Vfl Bochum.
His performances since becoming a member of the facet in 2021 are what led to his inclusion in Japan’s facet this 12 months, failing to make the reduce in 2018 because of an absence of taking part in time at membership degree.
Asano’s purpose gave Japan a particular win. The scenes at full-time had been extraordinary on Wednesday, the stadium erupting in emotion as Japan’s bench stormed the pitch in celebration. It was one other large win for an Asian nation over a footballing powerhouse, after Salem Al-Dawsari’s belter of a end that led to Saudi Arabia surprising Argentina 2-1 within the greatest upset in World Cup historical past. This was a second Japan will savour for lengthy, a second made in Germany that sank German hearts.