Doha, Qatar – After Takuma Asano scored Japan’s second goal against Germany in their World Cup opener, there was a brief moment of silence inside the Khalifa International Stadium.
The stunned German fans couldn’t believe what had just happened. The Japanese patients waited to see if an offside was called.
Then after the goal was made, it was chaos.
“I was jumping. I was screaming. I fell and hurt myself, but I don’t care,” Kayde, a 13-year-old Japanese fan, told Al Jazeera outside the stadium after the match ended.
Japan came from a goal down to beat Germany 2-1 in the Group E opener in Doha on Wednesday, following on the heels of Saudi Arabia’s shock win over Argentina by the same scoreline on Tuesday.
Germany had taken the lead in the 33rd minute when İlkay Gündoğan scored from a penalty to cap off a dominating performance. But then they failed to convert several times and were forced to pay for two second-half goals in the space of eight minutes from Ritsu Doan (75′) and Asano (83′).
Kayde and her father Takashi flew to Qatar from the United States to support their native country’s national team.
“It was unbelievable. When Japan scored the first goal, we were looking forward to it because the Germans always come back stronger, but they didn’t,” Takashi said.
His anxiety did not end there. “When the added time was displayed on the screen, I set a timer on my phone and kept watching it until the referee blew his whistle.”
Another Japanese fan, Knichi, who traveled to Qatar alone, said he needed a moment to absorb what had just happened.
“Maybe I’ll go to the FIFA Fan Festival and find some Japanese fans to celebrate, but I need a breather. My heart goes up and down,” he said, moving his hands in a wave.
Japan made their World Cup debut in 1998, but failed to make it past the first round. He overcame that hurdle when he co-hosted the tournament with South Korea in 2002, and then again in 2010 and 2018.
The prevailing sentiment among Blue Samurai fans was one of disbelief, with Knichi saying the win against the 2014 world champions will be Japan’s best in the tournament’s history.
“If you asked me for a prediction before the game, I would have said that Japan would lose. At best, a tie. A victory? It’s not happening.”
A public holiday?
Kosuke, another Japanese, said his compatriots back home would be up all night.
“They will be watching, partying and then waiting for tomorrow to be announced as a day off, just like Saudi Arabia,” he said in a nod to the Saudi government’s decision to declare Wednesday a public holiday after its upset victory over Argentina.
Japanese fans who traveled to Qatar from their home country and other parts of the world got their money’s worth on Wednesday, and are now looking forward to Japan’s upcoming match against Costa Rica on Sunday.
Germany, meanwhile, will face Spain, which thrashed Costa Rica 7-0 later on Wednesday.
The loss to Japan brought back painful memories of their last World Cup campaign four years ago in Russia, when they failed to make it past the first round.
“Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for us,” Thomas, a German fan, told Al Jazeera, as more supporters quietly left with slumped shoulders and unfurled flags.