Football is always a question of state of mind, so perhaps the best news from the camp of Germany’s first opponent at the World Cup is: Japan’s respect for the DFB team continues to exist. The team of national coach Hansi Flick has only won one of the last seven games and has now lost a 2-0 lead in England after the home defeat against Hungary. But Genki Haraguchi from Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin is not deterred by this. When thinking about the opening opponent in Qatar, Haraguchi first quoted FC Bayern’s player names: “Kimmich! Müller! Neuer!”
Since the end of last week, Japan’s national kickers have been on German soil to rehearse for the World Cup – more precisely: in Düsseldorf, which is also known as “Little Tokyo” because of its large number of Japanese fellow citizens. Another advantage: Because most of the Japanese players are active in Europe, they could be spared the stress of an intercontinental flight shortly before the World Cup.
The disadvantage of the maneuver on opposing territory: The Düsseldorf Arena, where Fortuna normally plays their home games, was only sparsely occupied. Both on Friday, when the Japanese won 2-0 against the USA, and on Tuesday in the second friendly against Ecuador. Without the warmth of a full home stadium, Japan couldn’t get past a 0-0 draw this time. In the second half, the Japanese were able to improve, but in the end they were even lucky that Enner Valencia awarded a penalty kick for Ecuador (83rd).
Japan’s goalkeeper with the legendary German name Daniel Schmidt – the 30-year-old with a German ancestor was born in the USA and is Japan’s third keeper – made a brilliant save. But that didn’t change the basic summary: if the Japanese goal was to make an impression in Germany on the doorstep of the World Cup opponents, this was missed to some extent. But maybe the visit to Düsseldorf was just designed as a gigantic disinformation campaign.
There is no football philosophy in the narrower sense that he follows, said Japan national coach Hajime Morijasu, 54, on the eve of the game; At the end of the day, it’s all about listening to his team and sensing what style of play they feel comfortable with. The result of the consultations: “The basis of our game is the compact defensive work, in order to then come up with our chances with high intensity, speed and technique,” says Morijasu.
Also many Bundesliga professionals on the field do not ensure a really respectable game
That was clearly visible against the USA, but hardly so against the Ecuadorians. The high run-up with which the Japanese had impressed the Americans when they often pressed with six players in the opponent’s half did not happen for a long time on Tuesday. The Ecuadorians, for their part, were intimidatingly uncompromising and so physically superior that the Japanese looked lithe, delicate and lovable like heroes from an adult manga comic. Conclusion: Tackles are her thing only to a very limited extent.
This also applied to attacker Takumi Minamino, who once hit RB Salzburg so much that Jürgen Klopp steered him to Liverpool FC. Meanwhile, Minamino has been passed on to Monaco, disappointing in the Japan jersey on Tuesday. However, it was also a factor in Japan’s poor performance that coach Morijasu gave a number of reservists a chance who were unable to capitalize on their increased possession – despite a number of Bundesliga professionals. Hiroki Ito (Stuttgart), Ao Tanaka (Düsseldorf) and Ritsu Doan (Freiburg) were in the starting XI – the regulars Wataru Endo (Stuttgart) and Daichi Kamada (Frankfurt) were allowed to play in the second half.
Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro had words of praise: “Japan have a very well organized team in attack and defence,” he said after the game. But if his own team hadn’t been so harmless on the offensive, the Japanese would have botched their World Cup dress rehearsal badly. Romario Ibarra hit the post from 15 yards out; and goalkeeper Schmidt, who plays for Belgium’s top-flight club Saint-Truidense, used a superb reflex to prevent Ecuador from scoring after a corner kick. At the other end, the South Americans only threw up a big chance for Japan – when Villarreal defender Pervis Estupiñán had the unseemly idea of dribble across the six-yard box and then pass to the Japanese centre-forward. But that Kyogo Furhashi (Celtic Glasgow) missed from eleven meters.
After the break, the game looked more balanced, especially Kamada’s substitution made itself felt. Ayase Ueda (68′) narrowly failed with a headbutt, Ritus Doan with a shot from 14 meters (79′). But the hero of the day for the Japanese was Daniel Schmidt.