They did it again.
Yup, Germany — under former Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick — put forth a terrible effort in its World Cup opener against Japan. Back in 2018, it was Mexico, but it might not matter who the opposition is, the German national team was not ready to perform on the big stage in Qatar.
Here are some quick hitters on a very unfortunate match:
- The lineup offered a few unexpected wrinkles:
- İlkay Gündoğan starting over Leon Goretzka was a bit of a shock, while Thomas Müller’s inclusion was not a surprise (it was all dependent on his health). I predicted that Flick would go with a flexible front four that would interchange non-stop. When Leroy Sané went down with a knee injury, that did not deter my line of thinking as Kai Havertz is a versatile attacker as well. I was eager to see if that is how it would play out.
- Niklas Süle at right-back made sense as well. Aside of Goretzka’s exclusion, I was okay with everything else Flick did with the starting XI, but not overly confident.
- Germany’s sloppiness was almost costly early on, but an offside call saved Flick’s team from being down 1-0 early. Maybe sloppiness is not the right word, but maybe just poor decision-making.
- What was concerning early was the lack of urgency for Germany, Japan was running hard, pressing, and showing a ton of energy, Germany was very nonchalant. Yes, this felt more like a start under Joachim Löw than under Flick.
- Antonio Rüdiger’s header in the 17th minute almost out Germany in front. That would have been an enormous goal at the stage. Joshua Kimmich had a terrific delivery on the corner attempt. One the day, Rüdiger turned in a decent performance (much better than his defensive brethren).
- This game felt like it needed Goretzka’s physical presence in the midfield. Japan’s high intensity did not overly disturb Kimmich and Gündoğan, but it did cause them to be a little more conservative.
- Germany wasted a ton of chances but settling for worse shots than they should have.
- Nico Schlotterbeck has some very careless tendencies for a center-back and just was not great when he needed to be.
- David Raum made a terrific run to set up Germany’s first goal. Japan GK Shuichi Gonda fouled Raum and Gündoğan buried the subsequent penalty kick. The play was an absolute gift from Gonda, who likely would not make the same decision if placed in the same situation again.
- None of the attackers gave Germany enough for most of the first half, but things got better toward the end of the half, but that faded with a very inefficient second half that lacked creativity. They did miss Timo Werner’s movement a bit and the threat that his quick burst provided. Same for Leroy Sané who, like Werner, has an explosive burst that would have caused Japan a lot of trouble.
- Goretzka and Jonas Hofmann came on for Gündoğan and Müller. Müller did not look like himself and was ineffective. Gündoğan was involved too much in the offense it seemed and could not convert his chances. Hofmann looked a bit rattled.
- Manuel Neuer’s save in the 73rd minute was vintage Neuer and prevented the match from ending in a draw. Just two minutes later, Neuer’s Superman act came to an end as his defense and midfield let him down.
- Japan’s goal was the product of the squad’s persistence and a very lackadaisical effort from the Germans. Ritsu Doan pounced all over a rebound and knotted the game at 1-1.
- Niclas Füllkrug and Mario Götze came on for Kai Havertz and Jamal Musiala in the 79th minute. Havertz gave Germany nothing and Musiala was “off” all day with his decision-making passing accuracy, and touch.
- And then...it all fell apart. Takuma Asano did the unthinkable as a sub and gave Japan a 2-1 lead. Germany once again buckled in the World Cup opener. Schlotterbeck offered little resistance in stopping Asano, but as Flick pointed out after the match, it was Süle’s loss of focus, which allowed Asano to be onside and get the edge on Schlotterbeck.
- Youssoufa Moukoko came on late for Serge Gnabry, who also did not offered much.
- Overall, it was a new coach, same result kind of deal. The attack was largely toothless and lacked creativity, the defense was too often in scramble mode, and there was an overall lack of energy and urgency. Yes, these were all the same traits that the team had under Joachim Löw. Where was the high energy level, creativity, and confidence that Germany showed when Flick initially took over? Those things were all absent.
Despite interest from Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, and Juventus, Bayern Munich defender Benjamin Pavard might want to move to the Premier League — where is would seem that Chelsea FC and Manchester United could be the favorites to land the Frenchman:
Speaking to Caught Offside in his exclusive column, Italian transfer expert Fabrizio Romano explained that Pavard might be leaning towards one league more than another.
“Pavard was discussed with Chelsea last summer but was not top priority; now it’s normal that clubs are keeping info on him as Pavard is open to leave Bayern in 2023. He’d love Premier League move I’m told; but there is still nothing serious.”
Another midfielder on Liverpool’s radar is Jude Bellingham, with the Reds optimistically hoping that they can agree a transfer during the January window.
BVB needs to make a mint off of Bellingham, but picking the right time to sell will be vital. This is their chance to get a boatload of cash for a player coveted by every major Premier League team and Real Madrid.
The gamble really only comes down to whether they sell him now...or in the summer. With a big World Cup, Bellingham’s value will go through the roof. With a good second half, it could be even higher.
However, there is also the chance that he gets injured or loses his form. Decisions...decisions. Either way, though, it does appear that Bellingham has his sight set on an exit.
According to Sky’s Florian Plettenberg, Bayern Munich will not engage in a pursuit of VfB Stuttgart’s Borna Sosa either this winter or next summer:
The interesting part of this news is that Bayern Munich is unwilling to go after Sosa because he is considered too-attacking minded — which could be the exact criticism levied on both Alphonso Davies and Noussair Mazraoui.
Personally, I don’t think Sosa is a fit at Bayern Munich because he is starting-caliber player on a team that already has four starting caliber left-backs in Davies, Mazraoui, Benjamin Pavard, and Lucas Hernandez — though we know Hernandez is out for the season).
Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot is reportedly back on the transfer market and Arsenal FC is interested:
Arsenal are considering a cut-price deal to sign Adrien Rabiot from Juventus in January, though the France midfielder has already admitted he is happy in Turin and has no regrets about rejecting a Premier League move to Manchester United back in the summer.
Rabiot looked pretty good against Australia for France earlier this week. His problems, however, typically are not with his performance, but his his attitude and the contractual expectations set forth by his mother-agent.
Canada outside-back Sam Adekugbe’s mom was excited to see her boy in the World Cup:
AS Roma brought free beers to the Wolfsburg fans who made the trip to Italy for their UEFA Women’s Champions League: