DOHA: At the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Wednesday, Japan defeated four-time champions Germany 2-1 thanks to a goal from substitute Takuma Asano in the 83rd minute.
The Asian superpowers, co-hosts of the 2002 World Cup, overcame a deficit to defeat their illustrious European opponents and pull off the tournament's second shock of the day.
Two-time champions Argentina suffered a similar 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, also known as the "Green Falcons."
The Samurai Blue scored two late goals through Ritsu Doan in the 75th minute and Asano to record their first victory in 26 matches against the former champions, whose last championship came in 2014. Incidentally, Argentina had opened the scoring in the first half of Tuesday's match through a penalty, and on Wednesday, Germany also led through Ilkay Gundogan's 33rd-minute penalty, but the Samurai Blue struck two late goals through the efforts of Argentina and Germany.
Japan, who had set a goal of reaching the tournament's last eight, had to play second fiddle to their more illustrious opponents, but they came back strong in the second half to breach the German defence.
As a player, coach Hajime Moriyasu has some painful memories of Qatar because he was a member of the Japan side that narrowly missed making it to their first World Cup finals in 1994 after giving up an equaliser to Iraq in stoppage time that allowed archrivals South Korea to advance.
The Samurai Blue are adamant about turning their fortunes around and making Qatar the venue for their best World Cup performance, despite the fact that Japan's heaviest football defeat may never be forgotten.
Since then, Japan has moved past the 1994 defeat and, since making their World Cup debut in 1998, has qualified for seven straight tournaments. Moriyasu believes that, despite being in a difficult group, Japan can finally make it to the round of 16, something he has emphasised numerous times prior to their first game.
The great tactician played his cards effectively in the high-stakes match, and Wednesday's unexpected victory has since given Moriyasu a major lift in his quest to reach the last eight. His adjustments during the second half and at halftime changed the course of the game.