Kickoff: 23 November, 6:30 PM IST
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium
Germany will try to forget the horrors of their group-stage elimination in the 2018 World Cup and start strong with a win against Japan in their 2022 World Cup opener.
But the Blue Samurais could be a tricky opposition. They made it to the round of 16 in Russia and surrendered a two-goal lead against Belgium to lose 3-2 in the end.
Die Mannschaft became the latest victims of the champions’ curse when they miserably went out of the group stages in Russia four years ago.
They will not have the burden of the golden badge this time, but a round of 16 exit in Euro 2020 casts a shadow of doubt over their World Cup credentials in Qatar.
Germany had a smooth qualification campaign. They were the first to confirm their participation in the tournament, but their form was far from exemplary in other competitions.
Hansi Flick’s men have won only twice in their last eight outings. They did pick up a 1-0 win over Oman on Wednesday, but the tie could have gone either way, and Germany were somewhat fortunate to retain their lead.
But if World Cup pedigree is anything to go by, Germany will be one of the contenders in Qatar.
Before their 2018 embarrassment, they did not finish below the quarterfinals between 1994 and 2014.
They have made it to the semifinals in four of the last five World Cups. So, no teams will take them lightly in the competition, regardless of their recent struggles.
Japan have been a World Cup regular since making their debut in 1998. They have crashed out of the group stages three times and made it to the round of 16 on equal occasions.
Each of Japan’s round of 16 qualifications was followed by group-stage eliminations. If that trend is to continue, Hajime Moriyasu’s men will be packing their bags after the group stages.
As they share group E with European powerhouses like Germany and Spain, Japan is not the favourites to make it to the next stage of the tournament. But the Asian side have shown in the past that they are no pushovers in the competition.
Both Germany and Spain are going through transitional phases, so Japan will fancy their chances in the group.
Losing Marco Reus to injury dealt a significant blow to Germany’s World Cup ambitions. But there are no injury fresh injury concerns for Hansi Flick and company ahead of the Japan game.
Veteran Thomas Müller was pushed out of the national team by Joachim Löw, but he has made his way back into the Die Mannschaft setup with his Bayern Munich performances. He will be fit to start.
Antonio Rüdiger has overcome his injury problems to anchor the German backline. Niclas Füllkrug is unlikely to start, but the Werder Bremen forward will be available for selection as he recovered from illness.
Japan might not get Hidemasa Morita against Germany, as the Sporting Lisbon midfielder is dealing with a calf problem.
Hajime Moriyasu will be delighted to get back Karou Mitoma and Wataru Endo.
Arsenal right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu was not even on the bench during Japan’s 2-1 World Cup warmup match loss to Canada, but he will get back to the starting XI against Germany.
The experienced Maya Yoshida will lead the Japanese defence. Takuma Asano is expected to spearhead the attack.
Germany could be up for a surprise against a well-drilled Japanese team.
We are backing Japan to grind out a draw against the four-time world champions. The final score could be 1-1.