- Who: Germany vs Japan, Group E
- Where: Khalifa International Stadium
- When: Wednesday, November 23 at 4pm local time, 13:00 GMT
- FIFA ranking: Germany (11), Japan (24)
- Head-to-head record: Four meetings since 1963 – two draws and two wins for Germany
- Last five matches:
- Japan: W L W D L
- Germany: D W L D W
On paper, this looks like an easy win for Die Mannschaft.
Germany has won the World Cup four times – and they still have Thomas Müller, a star of the 2010 and 2014 tournaments.
Müller, who is now 33, has amassed a stash of individual awards at football’s biggest competition: 10 World Cup goals, one Best Young Player award, one Golden Boot award, one Silver Boot award, and a place in the 2014 World Cup All-Star XI.
That, and an early return home from the 2018 World Cup in Russia could spur the Germans to want to make a big impact in Qatar.
But pundits have warned against dismissing Japan, a team that tends to exceed expectations on the global stage. They’re the highest-ranked Asian team at the tournament, and many of the youngsters in their squad are competing for national glory and aiming to put on a show for the talent scouts.
On Wednesday, in front of 40,000 fans at the Khalifa International Stadium, attackers Daichi Kamada, Kaoru Mitoma, and Takumi Minamino of Japan will square up to Germany’s Ilkay Gundogan, Joshua Kimmich, and Jamal Musiala in the battle for midfield dominance.
Kamada has solid experience in German football, plying his trade at Eintracht Frankfurt, by playing with industry and creativity in the hole behind the striker. Others who also play in the Bundesliga include Stuttgart’s Wataru Endo and Ritsu Doan – aka “the Japanese Messi”, whose left foot has put a shot past one of the world’s best goalkeepers in Manuel Neuer while playing with Freiburg.
At 5’8″, Doan has a low centre of gravity that helps his tight dribbling and explosive breaks down the right wing.
A win for Japan would be quite an upset, but if they are to make it through to the round of 16, Coach Hajime Moriyasu’s men are going to have to make – and take – their chances against a well-drilled German side looking to be world champions again.