Four-time champions Germany have failures to atone for in 2022 having been unexpectedly dumped out of the World Cup in the group stage four years ago, and Die Mannschaft will be determined to perform their first act of penance with a victory against Japan in Group E today.
The Samurai Blue have a habit of upsetting the odds however, and with eight Bundesliga-based players in their ranks in Qatar, they could have the inside track on how to stop Germany at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Below, you’ll find an array of key stats from the teams’ World Cup qualification campaigns. Use that info in conjunction with my Stats Pack Guide and you should be able to construct stronger bet builders for the game
Injured pair Timo Werner and Macro Reus were omitted from Germany’s World Cup squad, though Die Mannschaft have enough in their arsenal to compensate for that stricken duo.
Head Coach Hansi Flick favours a 4-2-3-1 formation, so don’t expect any tactical surprises from the Germans in Qatar. Ilkay Gundogan and Leon Goretzka will battle it out for a place in midfield alongside Joshua Kimmich.
Japan have a clean bill of health for their Group E opener against Germany today and they should be deployed in a 4-2-3-1 system that should match up well with their opponents.
34-year-old skipper Maya Yoshida will anchor the defence at his third World Cup, while Daichi Kamada – who has been in superb form for Eintracht Frankfurt this term – is one to watch further up the pitch.
Germany made mincemeat of their World Cup qualification rivals, though they were never likely to be threatened by North Macedonia, Romania, Armenia, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
The Germans’ haul of nine wins from ten games was complemented by a whopping 3.60 goals, 22.40 shots and 7.20 corners per 90 minutes. Germany managed to rattle the net at least four times in 50% of their ten qualification tussles.
Their dominance was such, that they allowed their opponents to clock a measly 1.30 shots on target against them (p/90), while they also gave away just 1.70 corners per game.
While Germany’s road to Qatar was relatively straightforward, Japan had to overcome a qualification obstacle course in Asia which included two separate group campaigns. In their first group, Japan were several levels above their antagonists and walloped home an almost silly 46 goals en-route to winning eight games out of eight.
Against opponents of a higher calibre in their second group, they still managed to win 70% of their fixtures, however, their output in the final third (1.2 goals p/90) wasn’t quite as jaw-dropping.
Japan did collect just 0.71 cards per 90 minutes during their campaign and their cleanliness was a consistent theme throughout, so don’t expect them to kick lumps out of their opponents today.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Marco Reus (2.54) and Timo Werner (2.49) ranked in positions one and two for shots on target per 90 during Germany’s qualifiers, though their absence probably won’t be as hard-hitting as it might seem.
In Bayern Munich trio Serge Gnabry (4.23 shots per 90), Leroy Sane (2.18) and Thomas Muller (3.56), Germany have firepower to burn, while Ilkay Gundogan (3.23), Jamal Musiala (2.37) and Hai Havertz (2.03) can all threaten from different areas of the pitch.
Musiala, in particular, has been reaching new heights this season at club level and the 19-year-old will be determined to add to his burgeoning reputation in Qatar.
Real Sociedad starlet Takefusa Kubo is considered by many to be the best talent to emerge from Japan in years and the 21-year-old made a thrilling impact in the smattering of qualifiers he appeared in for Japan (4.03 shots p/90).
Takuma Asano (1.26) and former Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino (1.65) posted figures of interest during Japan’s qualifiers, as did Junyo Ito (1.29), while Daichi Kamada – who has been hitting 1.5 shots per game in both the Bundesliga and Champions League this season – could also be worth pricing.
Player Goals and Assists
Germany’s players shared the goal-scoring burden around during their qualification journey and eight different contributors registered two or more times for Die Mannschaft.
Serge Gnabry, Timo Werner and Ilkay Gundogan shared the top dog honours with five goals apiece, while Leon Goretzka was their creator supreme with seven assists. Those seven plus the one goal he scored made him the German’s best player for total contributions.
Yuya Osako and Takumi Minamino both broke through the double-digit goal barrier during Japan’s qualification campaign, though the injured Osako won’t feature in Qatar
Reims winger Junya Ito chipped in with 11 goal contributions (6G, 5A) in 12 appearances and four of his six goals were lodged in more difficult games for the Samurai Blue during their second Asian group phase.
Nagoya Grampus attacker Yuki Soma has been making a splash in recent internationals. The 25-year-old returned to the national team fold in the summer after a three-year hiatus and he’s scored four times in five appearances for Japan since.
A trio of defensive combatants look like your best card candidates for Germany today. Antonio Rudiger committed a notable 1.57 fouls per 90 minutes during the World Cup qualifiers and alongside picking up two cautions across that campaign, the Real Madrid centre-half collected two cautions in four Nations League runouts in the summer.
Thilo Kehrer looks far more comfortable in the middle than he does at right-back – something West Ham fans can probably testify to – and he’s been carded six times in 16 appearances for club and country since the summer.
Tough-tackling anchorman Joshua Kimmich has long been a favourite among card bettors and he’s seen yellow six times for Bayern Munich this term.
Takefusa Kubo’s (fouled 1.34 times p/90) dancing feet could draw Thilo Kehrer into an awkward challenge or two down Japan’s left today, while Antonio Rudiger could be dragged into uncomfortable positions by the clever movement of Daichi Kamada (fouled 1.04 times p/90).
Stuttgart’s Wataru Endo was a bit of a foul magnet in midfield for Japan during their qualifiers and his duels with Bundesliga rival Joshua Kimmich could be worth tracking today.
Match-Ups to watch
Antonio Rudiger vs Daichi Kamada
Niklas Sule vs Takefusa Kubo
Joshua Kimmich vs Wataru Endo
Japan picked up remarkably few cards during their qualification campaign however, they are almost certain to have considerably more defending to do against Germany in Qatar.
At the base of their midfield, Wataru Endo and Hidemasa Morita work hard in tandem and both will be tasked with breaking play up later today. A high tackle count there for both should heighten their potential to pick up a caution. Morita has been cautioned five times in 15 domestic and European appearances for his club, Sporting CP, this term.
At right-back, veteran Hiroki Sakai must find a way to match the thrust of Germany’s wingers, though he could be exposed in one-on-one situations.
Jamal Musiala is an increasingly influential figure for both Bayern Munich and Germany, and his rising impact was reflected in his fouls against figures (2.85 p/90) during the Germans’ World Cup qualifiers. The slick schemer could be targeted by Japan’s Endo today.
Behind Musiala, Joshua Kimmich (fouled 2.50 times per 90) should be right in the thick of it today and alongside being one of Germany’s best card contenders himself, the all-action midfielder is just as likely to be on the receiving end. Hidemasa Morita could be the one dishing the punishment out in that direction.
Finally, with the jet-heeled Leroy Sane ruled out on the eve of the game, Serge Gnabry could switch to the left flank today where the skilful winger should enjoy running at his marker, Hiroki Sakai. Expect plenty of tackles from the latter, some of which might result in fouls and possibly a booking.
Match-Ups to watch
Wataru Endo vs Jamal Musiala
Junya Ito vs Joshua Kimmich
Hiroki Sakai vs Serge Gnabry