After Argentina’s shock defeat to low-ranked Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Germany wouldn’t take anything for granted against Japan in their World Cup Group E opener on Wednesday.
This one game could potentially make or break their tournament hopes with 2010 world champions Spain awaiting next.
The four-time champions have arrived in Qatar with a new team since their 2018 World Cup first-round shock elimination. They have since changed their coach, a number of players and even dropped their official monicker ‘Die Mannschaft’.
With new coach Hansi Flick, who won six titles with Bayern Munich in 2021 before taking over just over a year ago, the Germans are hoping they now have what it takes to again make a deep run in the tournament.
“We have to be prepared for a tough battle against Japan,” said team director Oliver Bierhoff this week. “We have to be focused from the very first minute.”
What Flick has yet to decide is whether he will deploy one of his centre forwards, the strong and tall Niclas Fuellkrug, against the Japanese or go with the option of moving a winger such as Kai Havertz into the nine position. Fuellkrug has been sidelined in the past several days with the flu.
Germany would also be aware that the Japanese know more about their game than most other teams in the tournament with no fewer than seven Bundesliga players in the Samurai Blue squad.
German Dettmar Cramer is known as the father of modern Japanese football after his work in the country in the 1960s and players such as Lukas Podolski and Pierre Litbasrki have played in Japan since.
“We are very grateful to the Germans, they are role models for us,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu told a news conference on Tuesday.
One of the seven players in the German league is Maya Yoshida. “The Bundesliga players have been sharing information with the rest of the squad,” the Schalke 04 defender said. “We believe that we have a chance.”
⚫ Match starts: 6.30pm IST