Germany coach Hansi Flick praised the quality of Japanese football ahead of their World Cup Group E clash on Wednesday but is confident about his team’s preparations for the tournament.
Germany lost their first 2018 World Cup group match and crashed out in the first round, their earliest exit in over 80 years.
“I have to out myself as a bit of a fan of Japanese football. They are really doing it well,” Flick told a news conference on Tuesday.
“We see the quality they have in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt’s (Daichi) Kamada playing a great season or (Wataru) Endo who is one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga.
“It is a very big task but we go into the match prepared and look forward to it,” he said.
There are eight German-based players in the Japanese squad, seven of whom play in the top Bundesliga division.
Underscoring Japan’s improvement on the international stage is the fact that the Asian nation had not played at a World Cup finals until 1998 but have qualified for all six editions since, reaching the round of 16 three times.
“In the past days, we had very good training sessions that set good conditions for the first game,” Flick said.
“All great footballing nations have the goal of becoming world champions. That’s why you are here. When you have the pressure then it’s because you have earned it. We will and must reach our limits.”
Germany, four-times world champions who also face Spain and Costa Rica in their group, are desperate to put the 2018 debacle behind them.
One player eager to do so is Joshua Kimmich, who was part of the 2018 team.
“The motivation we have is huge. We know 2018 was nothing and we had to wait four and a half years and what will be important tomorrow is to start with a good game,” the versatile midfielder said.
“That is extremely important. At the Euro (in 2021) we lost the first match, at the 2018 World Cup we lost the first match so my focus is on today’s match and I am convinced we will win.”
Japan determined to upstage Germany in Qatar opener
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu has acknowledged the historic debt football in his country owes to Germany but says his team will be no less determined to upstage the four-times world champions at the World Cup on Wednesday.
German Dettmar Cramer is known as the father of modern Japanese football after his work in the country in the 1960s and players such as Lukas Podolski and Pierre Litbasrki have played in Japan since.
“We are very grateful to the Germans, they are role models for us,” Moriyasu told a news conference on Tuesday. We are still developing, of course, and at the same time have incorporated good qualities from Japan into our playing style.’’
“So we have kind of mixed feelings about playing Germany but no matter who our opponents are, we are going to give absolutely the best performance that we can.”
The player exchange between Japan and Germany has reversed in recent years and skipper Maya Yoshida is one of seven members of the Samurai Blue squad who plays his club football in the Bundesliga.
“The Bundesliga players have been sharing information with the rest of the squad,” the Schalke 04 defender said.
“The most important thing is to defend well. We might not have much opportunity to attack but we should have chances on the counter-attack.
“We believe that we have a chance.”
Group E also includes former champions Spain as well as Costa Rica, presenting Japan with their toughest first-round draw in their seventh successive trip to the World Cup finals.
Moriyasu said that did not alter their ambition to get beyond the round of 16 for the first time at a World Cup.
“We are aiming to win, but it’s important that we play at our best otherwise it’s going to be difficult,” he said. We want to go to the round of 16 and maybe even further and that will make history. That’s our target.”
Asian nations have had a poor start to the World Cup with hosts Qatar beaten 2-0 by Ecuador in Sunday’s opening match and Iran thrashed 6-2 by England on Monday.
“We watched the games, it’s been a tough start by Asian countries,” said Yoshida. “We are representing Japan, of course, but also Asia so we’re hoping Asian fans comes to the stadium. We need the support because Germany are so good.”