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Only Brazil have won more World Cups and appeared in more editions of the tournament than Germany. The four-time champions, who triumphed in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014, have participated in every single competition in the last 68 years. They are perennially among the favorites to lift the trophy, with the best online sportsbooks ranking them sixth this time around.
Germany might not necessarily come out on top in Qatar, but they will surely do better than they did four years ago. The defending champions heading into the tournament in Russia, the Nationalelf crashed out in the group phase after losing two of their three matches.
Despite the ignominy of departing before the round of 16, Germany stuck with Joachim Low until after last summer’s European Championship. Hansi Flick was appointed as his replacement and has wasted little time in refreshing the side, but World Cup 2022 might have come a little too early for Germany.
With Euro 2024 set to be held on their soil, some soccer fans within the country would be happy to use this tournament as a building block towards the continental championship in two years’ time. However, Germany’s phenomenal track record of success means they are obliged to treat every competition as one they can win.
Those with a more optimistic outlook will point to the fact that Flick led Bayern Munich to Champions League glory less than nine months after his appointment in November 2019. And anyway, there is a golden rule for World Cups that is worth bearing in mind: never write off the Germans.
Japan are World Cup regulars these days, having qualified for every edition since 1998. They never really looked like missing out on Qatar, the 21st edition of the tournament. Although the Samurai Blue finished a point behind Saudi Arabia at the top of their qualification group, they led third-placed Australia by seven points.
The primary objective is the same as it always is: qualify for the knockout stage. However, expectations were tempered immediately after the draw for the group stage was made in April. Finishing ahead of two of Spain, Germany or Costa Rica will be a tall order for Japan, who will immediately be on the back foot if they suffer defeat at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Yet neither Spain nor Germany will take Japan lightly. As ever, theirs is a team full of technically gifted footballers. Hajime Moriyasu’s side are confident on the ball and will do more than just sit back and hope for the best. In the likes of Kaoru Mitoma, Takefuso Kubo and Junya Ito, Japan have talented attackers who can do damage in the final third.
The defense is stronger than it has been in the past. Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal will partner Maya Yoshida in the center of the backline, with the experienced duo Hiroki Sakai and Yuto Nagatomo at full-back. In midfield, Wataru Endo is the man who makes this team tick and a player who can break up play in front of the back four.
Interestingly, eight members of Japan’s squad ply their trade at club level in the Bundesliga, so there will be a degree of familiarity between the two sets of players.
The main shortcoming of this Japan side is a lack of ruthlessness in the final third. We have come to expect neat approach play and aesthetically pleasing soccer from the Samurai Blue, but they sometimes fail to offer enough penetration alongside their possession.
There were signs of improvement in that regard as the Asian qualification campaign wore on, however: in three of their last four matches, Japan scored two goals against each of China, Saudi Arabia and Australia.
Moreover, Germany’s defense looks far from impregnable. Thilo Kehrer is not a natural right-back and David Raum is an attack-minded left-back, while Joshua Kimmich has been criticized back home for a lack of tactical awareness in the holding midfield role.
Yet at the other end of the field, Germany’s attack could overwhelm an aging Japan defense. Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry have the pace to exploit the opposition’s backline if they push up the pitch, while Jamal Musiala has made a fantastic start to the season for Bayern Munich. Kai Havertz, the man most likely to start up front, is not prolific but Germany will spread the goals around.
This promises to be an entertaining game and our tip from a betting perspective is a Germany win and both teams to score. That wager is available at a generous price of +210.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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