For the second World Cup in a row Germany began their campaign in disastrous fashion, frittering away a first half lead to lose 2-1 to Spain. Suddenly, the champions of 2014 face the very realistic prospect of a second straight exit at the group stage, a self-inflicted crisis that was as much about disastrous defensive work as it was the excellence of match winner Takuma Asano.
Every metric would point to Germany having been a vastly superior side for the 75 minutes before Ritsu Doan fired Japan back to parity, but the sense was of a profligate team who lacked a killer instinct at one end and composure at the other. Japan showed both in abundance and although there is plenty of work to be done in escaping a group that includes Spain and Costa Rica they are superbly placed to do so. Unlike Hansi Flick’s side they do not look like a team liable to give anywhere near as many easy chances away as their opponents do.
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At the outset, Japan might have seen precious little of the ball in the first half but they showed an impressive sense for hunting down possession. Daizen Maeda could have sent this game down a very different path in the seventh minute but, after fine work from the Japanese midfield to pick the pocket of a dawdling Ilkay Gundogan, the Celtic striker made his move too soon to slot in past Manuel Neuer.
Those half openings came Japan’s way more than once in the early exchanges, as did ever-expanding spells of German possession. Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich would drift from