Match of the day: Japan 2 – Germany 1
While some wanted to paint it as an upset due to the scale of Saudi Arabia’s upset of Argentina yesterday, it’s not close for a few reasons. One, Germany is not Argentina and two, it was not a slap in the face. The Japanese came into the tournament pictured by many (myself included) as looking to kick some ass, and at worst they deserved a draw based on their second half performance alone.
The first half was a little too passive from the Samurai Blue side, with Jamal Musiala terrorizing the left side of the attack, constantly cutting his way through traffic. Germany had some trouble getting through Wataru Endo’s midfield wall, so they just went over the head of their goal. They went back-to-back as Niklas Sule was able to pick out David Raum, who completely missed every Japanese goalie and was alone in the box, forcing Japanese goalie Shuichi Gonda to completely lose his balls and essentially foul him twice to give from himself. penalty
But the thing about Germany is that we still don’t know who can consistently score from open play and we don’t know how good some of the squad is when it’s not Bayern Munich rolling over the rest of the Bundesliga. Kai Havertz is not no. 9, and Thomas Müller might just be too old for this level to play in the hole. Havertz should probably play where Müller was.
In the second half, Germany still had their chances to ice it but didn’t capitalize, which tends to happen when you don’t have someone consistently finding the net. But as soon as the Japanese scored through Takuma Asano and Kaoru Mitoma in the 57th minute, their attack collapsed. Japan beat Germany in exactly the way everyone thought they would, which is quick, direct and no turnovers. As Müller and Kimmich began to tire, they became more common. No one attacks at speed like Japan.
Another problem for Germany is that their defense can be on the slow side. Sule fell asleep on the long ball of the game and kept Asano inside as Rudiger and Schlotterbeck stepped up. But both were slow to react, which is a problem Rudiger has had for some time and why Chelsea had to keep playing the full-back when he was there. They never got to Asano who finished adeptly from a tight angle for the Landon Donovan Special.
Germany has had serious problems now. It’s hard to judge how good Spain really are thanks to Costa Rica being a total ban, but they’re very good at worst. Get hit again and their tournament is over. Even a draw will give them plenty to do if Japan get to Costa Rica, which at the moment looks to be as much of a challenge as filling in your name on the SAT. Germany could be allowed to play more in the box against a Spanish side who will dominate the ball, and perhaps that will suit them better, especially if they deploy either of the speedy Dortmund players they have in Karim Adeyemi or Youssoufa Moukoko or if Leroy Sane can get a whistle But someone has to finish and who that person is remains a mystery.
Other results: Croatia 0-0 Morocco
All this about being old? Croatia looked at it very much. While they had the majority of the ball, they never looked threatening as they simply didn’t have the gas to counter when they could nor did they stretch the Moroccan defense in any way. Both teams combined for four shots on goal and 0-0 seemed the most likely outcome after about the 15th minute. It was each part of two bodies in the sun.
Spain 147-0 Costa Rica
You don’t have to worry about not having a real striker when the opponent doesn’t apply any pressure. It was unclear what Costa Rica were trying to do, not pressurize the Spanish defense but also not pressurize the midfield either. Which meant Gavi and Pedri could simply turn and run to hook Olmo, Asensio and Torres to their delight. If these five can dance around the 18-yard box unchallenged, they will pile up chances. And goals. It was a real batting practice.
Is Spain good? Yes. Are they that good? It’s hard to say, but we’ll find out in a hurry.
Belgium 1-0 Canada
It’s a cruel sport, where Canada got a job and got what they deserved too? It can also be a strange sport.
Canada was definitely better in the first half and by some margin. They racked up 2.14 in xG in the first 45 alone, an indication of how many shots they got off. They did Belgium Roberto Martinez a big favor, because he’s a moron, who seems to want to deploy the old Marcelo Bielsa 3-3-1-3 with Youri Tielemans at right winger? At least I think so?
Whatever it was, Axel Witsel was completely alone in the Belgian midfield, meaning that the Belgian defense, all of whom have very cracked bones, got little to no outlet from the Canadian press. There were turnovers and turnovers galore as Witsel was completely besieged and Tielemans lost in the woods 50 meters up the field. He also pushed Eden Hazard into the starting line-up despite playing around 12 minutes for Madrid this year, and despite a few flashes Hazard looked it.
But the thing is, you have to make it count. Canada did not. They got an early penalty. Alphonso Davies served Thibaut Courtois more like he was just buying him a round rather than trying to challenge him. They only put three shots on target in the entire game. And they were lucky in that Kevin De Bruyne’s radar was seemingly blocked (LONESTAR!!) throughout the game, as he completely missed the two killer passes on the break that we are used to seeing him deliver every time. It actually could have been worse.
It should have been better too. Canada should have been awarded another penalty but we found out. Fair play to Martinez though, as after about half an hour he moved Tielemans back into midfield alongside Witsel and then brought on Amadou Onana at half-time to straighten that place out. Canada had just two shots from the 32nd minute through halftime, down from 12 previously. With Belgium having more options to get through the press by switching to a double rotation, the mistakes Canada was feasting on dried up.
Canada can take heart in the performance, but they have to find someone who has a compass in the opposition penalty area.
Today’s goal: Spain certainly provided a buffet but I have to go with Gavi’s goal which was Spain’s fifthi.e. This finish is so sassy and so smooth and so confident that I basically just feel like I have to hand it to my girlfriend without a fight:
did you get anything Of course! Canada can feel completely screwed because they should have been awarded a second penalty 10 minutes after the first. Eden Hazard, looking as rusty as someone who hasn’t played regularly in years, deliberately passes the ball back to Tajon Buchanan in the Belgian box, who puts Buchanan in. He was then cleared by Jan Vertonghen But because the assistant flagged for offside, wrongly, the foul was ignored. Johnny Sikazwe never got a review nor was he asked to as it was claimed Vertonghen had contact on the ball which I can’t find under a microscope.
Sikazwe is the same referee who blew the whistle twice in the final match before the final whistle at the AFCON, although it was later revealed that he was suffering from heat stroke. But this is what having two sets of eyes should solve. It was blatant and it wasn’t even looked at.
Did Qatar classify anything? Nothing more than usual, it seems.
Did Alexi Lalas say something stupid? Not today, although his obvious jealousy at not sharing the handshake Clint Dempsey and Stu Holden have from their time in the national team together was wonderful.