Germany get their World Cup campaign underway on Wednesday as they face Japan in the Khalifa International Stadium. In a group that includes Spain, it’s vital for Germany to get off to a winning start. However, Japan will be hoping for an upset and give themselves a massive chance of reaching the knockout stages.
With the game kicking off at 4pm local time, the weather may play a part in how this game plays out. You’d imagine Germany to have the majority of possession and for Japan to do more of the running in the Qatari heat. If Germany remain patient, you’d expect gaps to open up as their opponents tire.
However, this could be a closer game than most think. Japan’s World Cup squad includes seven players that play their domestic football in Germany and know the German game very well. These include Maya Yoshida (Schalke 04), Hiroki Ito (VfB Stuttgart), Ko Itakura (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Wataru Endo (VfB Stuttgart), Daichi Kamada (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ritsu Doan (SC Freiburg), Takuma Asano (VfL Bochum), and Ao Tanaka (Fortuna Düsseldorf, 2. Bundesliga). Under head coach Hajime Moriyasu, they’ll have a solid game plan as they look to create a huge upset.
For Hansi Flick and Germany, one of the biggest questions is who plays up top? Do they go with Werder Bremen’s Niclas Füllkrug, who scored the only goal in last week’s friendly against Oman, or Kai Havertz as a false number nine? In other positions, winger Leroy Sané has been ruled out of the opening fixture due to a knee injury. However, with good squad depth, Flick should have enough to cover these positions and still maintain word class quality.
The opening game of any country’s World Cup can always be a cagey affair. Wednesday’s game should be a good test to see what Flick’s side will bring to this year’s competition.
GGFN | Jamie Allen