A few days before the 2022 football World Cup began in Qatar, the social media handle for Fifa posted a video that lasted for 49 seconds but evoked a sense of nostalgia stretching back decades. It was an edit that contained, not just iconic goals, but also moments of delightful ball control.

It was, rather aptly, captioned: “The most satisfying Fifa World Cup video ever.” (We shall ignore the question mark at the end, because it’s hard to argue).

Look at some of the names appearing in the video as you admire the aesthetic brilliance of it. Diego Maradona. Ronaldinho. Xavi. Zinedine Zidane. Mesut Ozil. Luis Figo. Lionel Messi. Pele.

Dennis Bergkamp. Of course, Dennis Bergkamp.

Repeatedly in those 49 seconds, one can sense the joy that a simple touch of a spherical object can provide. It is not the adrenaline rush of a goal. It is not the raw thrill of a penalty save or a goal-preventing tackle. But it is something more visceral. It just... makes one feel good.

And on Wednesday at the Khalifa International Stadium, Takuma Asano provided one such much moment of joy... seconds before the sheer outpour of emotions that comes with a goal being scored against one of the giants of the game at the biggest stage in the world.

In itself, a winning goal against Germany at the Fifa World Cup will be memorable irrespective of who scores it and how it is scored. The Germans, disappointing as their last few matches at this stage have been spread across four years, are still one of the most illustrious teams the game has seen. To defeat them at the World Cup is special, especially if you are representing a relatively new team in the near 100-year history of this tournament. (Japan have only been playing at this level since 1998).

But on top of all that, add Asano’s dream first touch and a fierce finish past one of the greatest goalkeepers ever... the goal gets elevated from special to extraordinary.

Buying time

It all started with a long ball out of defence from Ko Itakura. It was a free kick for Japan in their own half, hardly a position of danger for the opponents. But that’s the magic of a good first touch, all it takes is a microsecond or four for a meaningless half chance to be converted into a glorious moment.

Asano, brought in as a substitute, was making the run down the right flank, staying onside (importantly) as the ball left the boot of Itakura. As he was going forward, the ball was making its arc up and down, right behind him. Of all the ways to control a ball, that is perhaps the hardest – you are moving in the direction of the ball and your eyes and senses have to defy that momentum.

Perhaps that is why Nico Schlotterbeck, the German defender, did not think of this situation as one of too much danger. The Japanese player had a head start but the defender had time... he could catch up... he was not wrong in thinking so, given the distance away from goal and the difficulty level of what Asano had to pull off.

The 28-year-old, who incidentally earns his regular salary as a first-division footballer in Germany playing for Bundesliga’s VfL Bochum, had other ideas. He brought the ball down with the perfect amount of force that needed to be applied for the ball to roll ahead in front of him while evading the defender, but not so powerful as to bring Neuer forward and smother it. The commentator, realising what was unfolding, started his line that leant itself beautifully to what was about to happen... “lovely touch there from Asano-ooooohhhhhhhhhh!” The last syllable extended perfectly into the celebratory moments after the ball was powered into the net.

Bergkamp, the genius that he was with the first-touch, had this to say in an interview with the Guardian: “The basics for me is the first touch. First touch in football is so important. If you talk about Mesut Özil people say he is not marked properly, he always has a lot of space but he has got that space because he can create space by his vision and his first touch. With that you create your own time.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what Asano bought himself. Time. A few seconds over the defender, just because his first-touch was so perfect that it put the ball right where he wanted in front of him, and within moments, the ball was where it was destined to be.

The scoreboard will register it as a goal that helped Japan defeat Germany at Qatar 2022. The sheer joy of it was in the few seconds preceding it. Frozen in time as one of the greatest Fifa World Cup moments.