- Who: Germany versus Japan, Group E
- Where: Khalifa International Stadium
- When: Wednesday, November 23 at 16:00 local time, 13:00 GMT
- FIFA rankings: Germany (11), Japan (24)
- Head-to-head record: Four meetings since 1963 — two draws and two victories for Germany
- The last five games:
- Japan: W L W T 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 33 years old today, won a number of individual prizes at soccer’s biggest competition: 10 World Cup goals, a prize for the best young player, a Golden Boot Award, a Silver Boot Award and a place in the 2014 All-Star XI World Cup.
That and an early return from the 2018 World Cup in Russia could encourage the Germans to have a major impact in Qatar.
But experts have warned against firing Japan, a team that tends to exceed expectations on a global level. They’re the top-ranked Asian team in the tournament, and many of the young players on their roster are fighting for national fame and want to put on a show for talent scouts.
On Wednesday, attackers Daichi Kamada, Kaoru Mitoma and Takumi Minamino from Japan will face the Germans Ilkay Gundogan, Joshua Kimmich and Jamal Musiala in front of 40,000 fans in the fight for dominance in midfield.
Kamada has solid experience in German soccer and practices his craft at Eintracht Frankfurt, playing with industry and creativity in the hole behind the striker. Others who also play in the Bundesliga include Wataru Endo from Stuttgart and Ritsu Doan — also known as “the Japanese Messi,” whose left foot shot past Manuel Neuer, one of the world’s best goalkeepers in a game with Freiburg.
At 5’8″, Doan has a low center of gravity, which helps his tight dribble and explosives break his right wing.
A win for Japan would be quite a surprise, but if they want to make it to the round of 16, Coach Hajime Moriyasu’s men must seize their chances against a well-trained German team that wants to be world champions again — and use them.