World Cup group opponents Japan: Can Germany’s tournament get off to a flying start?


Magazine, 22.11.2022

Germany has never played Japan at a World Cup. On paper, Hansi Flick's team are the favourites. But the team from the Far East is an unpredictable and very dangerous opponent. ERGO takes a look at Germany’s World Cup group opponents in a three-part series.

Japanese National Team 

The two football nations’ history together is not a long one: they have only met twice before in friendly matches. While Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm and Co. were able to clinch a 3-0 away win in 2004, Germany had to settle for a 2-2 draw in the run-up to the home World Cup in 2006.

Japan has participated in every World Cup finals since 1998. However, in their first participation in France they made an early exit, finishing bottom of their group. In 2002, they automatically qualified as co-hosts and achieved a respectable ninth place, which they repeated in South Africa in 2010. In the other World Cup tournaments, they have ranked among the also-rans. But no one should ignore the fact that they are a force to be reckoned with in their region as four-time Asian champions.

Harnessing the power of the Bundesliga

Japan qualified for this year's World Cup as runners-up in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) group behind Saudi Arabia. With Wataru Endo from VfB Stuttgart, Daichi Kamada from Eintracht Frankfurt and Genki Haraguchi from Union Berlin, the Japanese are likely to travel to World Cup with several Bundesliga stars. Could this be an advantage for the Germans? Experience shows that it is always good to know your opponents’ players from everyday life in the league.

There is plenty of potential in Japanese football. National coach Hajime Moriyasu, however, faces the problem of forming a team whose players are under contract with clubs scattered around the world. The absolute priority for him in the run-up to the World Cup is therefore to form a unit that harmonises with each other under tournament conditions. If they succeed, Japan will be difficult to play against.

Hoping for a minor football miracle

There is currently no truly outstanding player, no personality with special charisma. Attacker Takumi Minamino, formerly of Liverpool FC and now of AS Monaco, is one player who can certainly compete with the greats in club and world football. However, although the Japanese have been struggling as an attacking force of late, no opponent can afford to be complacent. Japan are a fast and effective unit on the counter-attack.

So, underdog or surprise package? It is not impossible that the Asians could be a surprise team at the World Cup. In their games against Spain and Germany, they can hope their opponents underestimate them. Against Costa Rica, at least a match of equals is on the cards.

(Text: Martin Sulkowsky)

 

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