Germany 1 – 2 Japan
(Group E, Khalifa International Stadium, 23/11/2022)
Kai Havertz was in the starting XI for Germany (FIFA ranking: 11) along with Antonio Rudiger who left Chelsea at the end of last season plus Jamal Musiala who left Chelsea’s academy at the age of sixteen. Germany, as reigning world champions from 2014, failed to progress from the group stage in 2018 losing their first game against Mexico and finishing bottom of their group. Never-the-less they started as favourites against Japan (FIFA ranking: 24). Tomiyasu and Minamoto are names that will be recognized by those who follow the Premier League.
Before kick-off, as a protest against FIFA’s OneLove armband, the German players lined up for a team photo covering their mouths with their hands. It was a strong statement.
The game’s first corner came in the fourth minute when Musiala misdirected a pass back to Gundogan. Ito collected the ball a few yards into the German half, running past Gundogan down the right flank intending to cross. Gundogan recovered, getting a foot to the ball knocking it out of play. The corner was easily dealt with by Gnabry who headed clear.
Two minutes later, from a central position a little way inside his own half, Gundogan played the ball out to the right. Suele controlled the ball and played it forward to Gnabry running forward inside Kubo to take the return pass. Suele put far too much on his forward pass which looked to be going out for a goal kick. Yoshida was running back to see the ball out, but Havertz made up a lot of ground to beat him to the ball and put it out for a throw-in. From Nagatomo’s throw the Germans won the ball back, with Kimmich playing it back to Gundogan in the middle of the Japanese half. He was caught in possession losing the ball to Kamada who ran into the German half before feeding the ball to Ito out wide on the right. Ito sent the ball across behind the retreating defenders towards the far post. Maeda, who had sprinted past Rudiger, met the cross and put the ball into the net. Maeda was given off-side, and he clearly was, though that could easily have prevented if he had held his run.
The Germans began to enjoy much possession, but their build-up play was slow and, at times, ponderous. The Japanese full of running and quick to press were forcing them into mistakes in key areas.
After fifteen minutes Havertz received a throw-in on the edge of the box, turned to beat the first defender, Endo, and forced a corner trying to beat the second, Itakura. Rudiger’s run round the back found a little room at the far post allowing him to meet Kimmich’s corner, but the header grazed the side netting. Four minutes later, Raum out wide on the left passed to Gundogan at the corner of the area. He flicked the ball back to Musiala who was tackled as he tried to run into the box. Kimmich came on to the loose ball and struck it firmly from about 20 yards. The shot was on target and beaten away by Gonda before the off-side flag went up.
Five minutes later, on the left midway inside his own half, Schlotterbeck carelessly lost the ball to Kubo. His cross on the run was poor deflecting off Rudiger for a corner. The corner was played back to Tanaka who floated the ball to the far post where both Sakai and Itakura both went up for it – a yard wide off Itakura.
In the twenty-fourth minute Schlotterbeck sent Raum free on the left. Havertz had made a good run into the area and received Raum’s pass near the goal line. The cut back struck Endo. VAR checked for a possible handball. A penalty wasn’t given and play continued. Three minutes later, Gnabry stepped over Sule’s pass down the right flank setting Mueller free. He sent the ball back to Gnabry who fed it straight on to Gundogan. Gundogan’s first-time shot was firmly struck but straight at Gondo who saved comfortably. Then Gnabry ran infield from the right finding Gundogan who pushed the ball into the area for Raum to run on to. His cross was punched straight out by Gondo to find Gundogan. His shot was blocked by Yoshida.
The first goal came a couple of minutes later. Mueller, wide on the right, squared inside to Kimmich, who chipped the ball deep into the area for Raum. He controlled the ball, turned away from the advancing Gondo and was brought down. The referee hesitated in awarding the penalty – at first it wasn’t clear what it was given for. Gondo appeared to trip Raum when he first went for the ball, then as he tried to retrieve the ball he stumbled into the German. The referee’s decision wasn’t overturned by VAR. Gondo went to his left as Gundogan calmly put the kick into the centre of the net.
Ten minutes later, Gundogan’s pass down the left channel found Musiala who pushed the ball on to Raum. Receiving it back from him, Musiala rolled it along the edge of the box to Mueller who touched it back into the path of Kimmich who sent his shot well over from about 20 yards. As the end of normal time approached Schlotterbeck ran down the left into the Japanese half and played the ball inside to Gundogan. He found Mueller in a central position inside the final third. He pushed it back to Suele who ran on to feed Kimmich who, in turn, found Musiala in a central position just inside the D. Musiala turned getting the ball out of his feet. He dropped his shoulder and shifted the ball onto his right foot only to fire over.
In the last of the four scheduled added minutes, a long clearance from Rudiger found Gnabry in the centre circle by way of a beautiful lay-off by Musiala. After a strong surge towards the area he returned the ball to Musiala. Running into the area he slipped it right to Mueller. His cut-back from the dead ball line was headed clear dropping to Kimmich in the D. His first time left-footer was parried by Gondo finding Gnabry, at the corner of the 6-yard box, who hit the ball across the goal where Havertz, at the far post, converted from close range. Havertz was clearly off-side, so no goal.
In the fifth added minute, a diagonal ball from Kamada found Nagatomo in space wide on the left. His cross was headed a yard wide by Maeda.
The Germans had started seeming bit flat and moving the ball slowly. They improved steadily as time went on and were certainly better in the last twenty minutes of the half than they were in the first twenty. Maybe that coincided with a slight drop in the intensity of the Japanese play. It was noticeable that the goal and their best chances came when the Germans moved the ball quickly. The second half began with Tomiyasu replacing Kubo.
Not much more than a minute after the restart, Mueller took the ball from Tanaka out right just short of halfway. After riding Endo’s challenge, he surged forward before releasing the ball back out to the right to find Gnabry. Running into the area, and with a reasonable angle, Gnabry decided to shoot. He went close, his shot clipping the angle.
Three minutes later, Kamada picked out Sakai in space on the right wing. He pushed the ball forward to Ito who ran past Schlotterbeck before running into Kimmich. The ball broke to Kamada whose snapshot caught a slight deflection for a corner. The corner was cleared ending up with Gnabry.
His run out of defence ended with a pass to Raum on the left. He hit a long diagonal ball seeking out Havertz. The clearing header fell to Yoshida who lost the ball by playing it against Mueller. The ball went to Gundogan who fed it square inside to Musiala who in turn flicked it out left to Raum. He passed inside back to Musiala just outside the area. He moved into the box running past two defenders, cutting to the right before he met the third. Running across the area with the ball, he feigned a shot that sent Itakura to ground creating space for him to shoot. Leaning backwards slightly, Musiala’s effort went over the bar. An excellent run and great footwork from a player who was impressing.
After another couple of minutes, Kamada played the ball out wide right to Sakai who pushed it infield to Tanaka. He turned and hit a deep cross beyond the far post. Trying to recycle the ball before it went out, Kamada’s volleyed effort was wayward.
In the fifty-fourth minute, Raum received the ball midway inside his own half. He played the ball to Gundogan who was in some space. His second touch was a diagonal ball to find Raum running on. After carrying the ball for about 20 yards he slid the ball through for Havertz. The ball was overhit allowing Gondo to rush out and beat Havertz to the ball. With the goalkeeper still badly out of position, the ball broke to Musiala. Musiala’s cross was blocked as Havertz was given off-side (even though he wasn’t).
Three minutes later Sakai got the ball just inside his own half. He passed to Ito who had run into a little space. Ito took it on a short distance before finding Asano (on for Maeda) with a lot of room on the right. After a few strides he whipped in a lowish cross that was met by Ito with Rudiger close at hand. A very difficult angle meant that Ito could only put the ball out for a goal kick.
Two minutes after that, the Germans won the ball back high up the pitch. Musiala, left of centre, was faced with a huge area of space around the D with Gundogan running forward to his right. Musiala rolled it into Gundogan’s path, he took it on the edge of the D and shot once inside the area. The ball struck the foot of the post. That was a great chance for two-nil. Seconds later the Germans won the ball back. Gnabry making a good run into the box from the right was found from the middle of the half by Gundogan. In a similar position to his previous effort, Gnabry this time tried to play in Havertz. The pass was blocked by Tomiyasu and cleared by Mitoma (on for Nagatomo). After a couple of quick passes the ball was back with Tomiyasu who moved it on to Tanaka. Tanaka’s pass, though slightly deflected, found Mitoma just short of the centre circle. He ran unchallenged directly toward the goal for about 40 yards before releasing the ball left to Asano who took the ball on a couple of yards before sending a shot over the bar. The game was opening up, with both teams able to find a lot of space.
After sixty-five minutes, an incisive ball from Tomiyasu found Asano just inside the penalty area. His shot struck Rudiger going out for a corner. The corner found Itakura at the far post. His header was cleared by Schlotterbeck in front of goal, though Neuer would probably have had it covered. Two minutes later, Sakai beat Raum to a long ball out of defence heading it towards Asano who was a little in front of Rudiger. Asano controlled the ball and tried to get a shot off. Rudiger made up the ground and blocked. The corner reached Itakura at the far post after a couple of ricochets off defenders, but he could do little as the ball hit him and rolled gently to Neuer.
Four minutes on, Musiala side-footed the ball into the path of Kimmich who lofted the ball towards Gnabry. He got the ball about 8 yards out in front of Gondo who had come out beyond the 6-yard box. Gnabry touched it back for Hofmann to shoot. Fortunately for Gondo the shot was weak and straight at him. Hofmann retrieved the ball allowing Gnabry to take it and shoot from the corner of box. The keeper parried the shot out to the edge of the area. Musiala beat Sakai to the ball and played in Raum. His cross saw Gnabry run in at the far post to head the ball downwards. Gondo dived low by the post to beat the ball clear. The ball stayed in play. Gnabry latched on to it and tried to beat the keeper from a narrow angle. Up quicky, Gondo saved again. Schlotterbeck went up for the corner which was deflected out for a throw-in.
After seventy-two minutes, Japan broke up a German build-up down the left. The ball was played back towards halfway before it was knocked forward to Endo. With no defenders anywhere near him, he was able to look up and pick out Ito with a lofted pass. Ito chested the ball down and shot quickly. A very slight deflection off Rudiger forced Neuer to save at full stretch, palming the ball towards the edge of the 6-yard box where Sakai and Asano were converging on it. Sakai blazed his shot well over. An excellent chance missed.
Japan’s equalizer came a little more than two minutes later. Out towards the right Ito tried to push the ball through to Asano. The ball rebounded back to him off Schlotterbeck. He touched it inside to Endo. He pushed it forward to Kamada who played it back to Yoshida. He moved it to the left to Tomiyasu just inside the German half near the centre circle. He sent the ball out to the left wing to reach Mitoma. With plenty of room, he ran in towards the area and, as he reached it, slid in an astute pass to meet Minamino’s smart run. He struck the ball firmly, first time on the turn before Rudiger could get to him. His cross-cum-shot forced Neuer to make a save that only put the ball into the path of Doan (on for Tanaka). Doan was able to beat Raum to the ball and put it into the net. Four Japanese substitutes involved in the goal. Cue massive celebrations from their squad and fans.
Goetze came on for the impressive Musiala, while Havertz was replaced by Fuellkrug (who had scored ten goals in fourteen Bundesliga appearances). Havertz hadn’t really got into the game. Playing him as a central striker just doesn’t seem to work.
Japan scored again after eighty-two minutes. Endo was fouled by Schlotterbeck a few yards inside the right touchline. Itakura took the kick launching it long down the flank. It went over Schlotterbeck’s head to Asano who controlled it with a superb touch. Running in, he held off Schlotterbeck’s challenge and from a narrow angle smashed in a shot that beat Neuer at his near post, the ball flying high into the roof of the net. A sensational finish; more wild celebrations. Asano had been beyond Schlotterbeck but was not offside – Suele had dropped 2 yards too far back playing him on. Seven minutes of normal time left.
Five minutes later, Rudiger failed to deal with a long ball down the right under pressure from Asano. The ball bounced high, Asano got himself between Rudiger and the ball, touching it off to Doan who went down under the defender’s challenge. The referee looked to his assistant who indicated nothing. If there was a VAR review, it was very brief and confirmed the on-field decision.
In the last minute of normal time a cross from the right was headed tamely wide by Fuellkrug. Seven minutes to be added on.
Germany desperately claimed a penalty in the third minute of added time. Yoshida and Fuellkrug clashed in the box with the German going down. Yoshida simply stood his ground and Fuellkrug went down too easily. Nothing doing – no penalty and no VAR check. Germany quickly won the ball back in midfield. Rudiger knocked it square to Schlotterbeck who put Raum in down the left. His cross was blocked by Ito. Raum took the throw giving the ball back to Schlotterbeck who squared it back to Rudiger. His ambitious shot from almost 35 yards out wasn’t hit that well and went a long way wide.
After five minutes of additional time, the ball was launched long from the centre circle. Fuellkrug went up just outside the D and won the header which dropped into the path of the on-rushing Goetze. He struck the ball first-time from the edge of the box, keeping the ball down well but saw his shot go narrowly wide.
More than the six extra minutes had been played when the Germans won a free kick wide out on the right. Last chance. Neuer went upfield for it hoping he might make a telling contribution. When the ball came over a deflection took it narrowly over Neuer’s head reaching Suele at the far post. His feeble effort was blocked by Endo. Gondo came out to meet the corner, punching the ball well clear. The final whistle blew. Time had run out. Japan had won.
Posted by the CSG’s World Cup Willie