The Daizen Maeda verdict after Celtic forward's Japan shock Germany at World Cup
Daizen Maeda was the latest Celtic player to enter the World Cup this afternoon, with a tough test against Germany opening Japan’s Group E gauntlet.
The 25-year-old was given the starting nod by manager Hajime Moriyasu, hoping to exploit a possession-heavy German side on the counter-attack and pull off a shock result.
Germany predictably found their way to an opener after Ilkay Gundogan capitalised on Shuichi Gonda’s error to score from the penalty spot. However, Japan persevered and sensationally overturned that advantage in the second half thanks to Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano, securing a valuable 2-1 win.
It was always going to be a difficult encounter for Maeda. He was up against a quality defence that included Antonio Rudiger of Real Madrid and Nico Schlotterbeck of Borussia Dortmund.
The Celtic man’s big moment came in the eighth minute when Japan flooded forward after turning over the ball in midfield. Junya Ito played a lovely low cross to Maeda who slotted home past Manuel Neuer, only to discover he had rightly been ruled offside. If he had held his run just a fraction, he easily could have given Japan a dramatic lead.
In first-half stoppage time, Maeda had another chance to make an impact after meeting Yuta Nagatomo’s cross with a glancing header, only to frustratingly see it edge wide.
Overall, he was left isolated for much of the encounter as Germany dominated territory and possession. Maeda managed just nine touches of the ball, with one accurate pass from four attempts. The forward won two of six duel attempts and managed one tackle. He wasn’t involved much, though did commit to the kind of running and pressing we’ve come to expect of him at Celtic, which may well have helped Japan’s efforts later in the match. [FotMob/Opta]
Eventually, he was replaced by Bochum attacker Asano after 57 minutes. Japan continued to push for an equaliser and, after forcing Neuer into a couple of smart stops, found joy through Doan’s effort from close range.
Then, incredibly, Asano netted a stunning winner with just seven minutes remaining, leaving Germany bereft and scrambling for an equaliser of their own. It didn’t come.
Maeda can now look forward to fixtures against Costa Rica, on Sunday, and Spain, next Thursday, hoping for more starts in the tournament to test himself at the highest level. What a beginning to the tournament for him!