Best bet for Germany-Japan
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One of international football’s oldest sayings is “Never write off the Germans.” However, they arrive in Qatar facing just that situation as many experts are downplaying their chances.
Despite the loss of striker Timo Werner to an ankle injury, German manager Hansi Flick has an abundance of attacking options. To me, this team is a fantastic attacking unit that screams goals. Serge Gnabry, Kai Havertz, Thomas Muller and the exciting Jamal Musiala are all highly effective offensive players who can hurt any opponent.
Flick, the former Bayern Munich manager, will call upon no fewer than eight Bayern Munich players who are expected to line up against Japan, so he knows his players and they know each other inside out. They play a high-tempo, high-press system, which can be extremely difficult to combat, especially against weaker teams in this World Cup, including Wednesday’s opponent, Japan.
Germany has an incredible overall World Cup pedigree despite its embarrassing group-stage exit flop in 2018 in Russia, which it will be keen to atone for. The Germans have made it to at least the semifinal stage in four of the last five World Cups. That tells you how dangerous they can be to any team, but this particular German side has earned the reputation of being “flat track bullies,” which means they bully and beat the lesser sides but come unstuck when facing the better teams.
The Germans tend to start major finals fast and they will need to here in Group E, which also features Spain and Costa Rica. This is a tight group, and qualification could well rest on goal difference. With that in mind, this is no game for Germany to take its foot off the pedal. It will look to fly out of the blocks at a fast tempo, establish an early lead and then keep going and build on that lead to bank some goals.
I have already mentioned the Germans’ debacle in 2018 in Russia when they exited at the group stage and were booed at Berlin airport by their own fans. They will be keen to see no repeat of those scenes. In 2014, they began with a 4-0 win over Portugal. In 2010, they beat Australia 4-0 to open. In 2006, it was an opening 4-2 win over Costa Rica, and in 2002, they destroyed Saudi Arabia 8-0 to open. It is clear Germany starts fast and aims to begin World Cups with a statement of intent.
In September, the Germans put three past England at Wembley and were hugely impressive in doing it. In contrast, this Japanese side warmed up with a 2-1 loss to Canada and a 0-0 draw with Ecuador.
The Japanese team is well organized but will find this opposition a massive step up from Canada and Ecuador, and I feel it will be a huge struggle to keep Germany at bay. The Germans are such a strong attacking unit and will come at Japan from all angles. They will aim for a convincing win with tougher games to come in a tricky group.
I expect Germany to win and win well here.
Pick: Germany -1 (-142)