Fri. Dec 2nd, 2022

Key events

26 min: Havertz returns from the touchline to the left of the goal. The ball sails in the general vicinity of End’s hand, so VAR takes a long look. But nothing is done. Let’s play on.

24 min: Not much of an atmosphere at the Khalifa International Stadium this afternoon. “I think this might be the quietest World Cup game I’ve ever seen,” reckons Matthew Richman. “Is it the fan who whistles all the time or is the singing bird the loudest phenomenon on the field?”

22 min: Raum and Rudiger frolic around, allowing Ito to break well down the right and win a corner from Schlotterbeck. Nothing comes of the set ball, Itakura and Sakai stand in each other’s way on the further bat.

20 minutes: Kimmich shoots brilliantly from the edge of Japan D. Gonda parries. Gundogan deflects the ball far over the goal.

19 min: Germany is starting to make itself felt on the field. Gnabry latched onto a long ball from the byline, but there is no one in Japan’s penalty area to capitalize on it. Germany has had 78 percent of the possession so far, albeit with little effect.

18 min: Kimmich almost didn’t get enough purchase on the backpass to Neuer. He grazes it lightly, with Maeda lurking, and is pleased to see the ball drop back to his keeper.

16 min: Havertz wins the first German corner of the game from the left. Kimmich takes it, but only after the ref shits Endo and Schlotterbeck for wrestling. Rudiger meets him at the far post and sends a weak header down past the right post. Gonda covered it anyway.

14 min: Germany may have started slowly on the field, but they quickly made a statement before kick-off. This doesn’t need to be unpacked too much, does it?

Germany tell it like it is.
Germany tell it like it is. Photo: Ronald Wittek/EPA

12 min: Ito dives down the right again and tries to throw a defensive splitter towards Maeda, but Rudiger reads the danger and intercepts. “During the last four seasons, Wataru Endo has been absolutely crucial for Stuttgart, of which he is the captain, and has earned the love and respect of us fans,” writes Kári Tulinius. “The last time I saw him play in the Bundesliga he passed out and the initial reports were very worrying, so it’s encouraging to see him back in good form.”

10 min: It was one hell of a counter, Japan swarming around Gundogan and racing up the field at high speed. Maeda holds his head in his hands. Despair. He knows he shouldn’t have gone as early as he did. Patience, patience. Germany – and Gundogan – got away with one there.

8 min: Kamada takes away Gundogan in the center circle, and Japan shoots on the counter. Kamada sends Ito into the lower right acres. Ito sent a low cross into the German box for Maeda, who fired into the bottom left corner from six yards. What a move! But Maeda left too soon and the flag goes up for offside.

Japanese forward Daizen Maeda reacts after scoring from behind.
Japanese forward Daizen Maeda reacts after scoring from behind. Photo: Antonin Thuillier/AFP/Getty Images

6 min: Kubo presses and puts Rudiger and Neuer under a little pressure. A German couple teamed up to clear the matter up just in time. Kubo almost shut down the keeper.

5 minutes: Ito wins the first corner from the bottom right. Kamada’s delivery isn’t great, but Japan looks lively during these early exchanges.

4 min: Japan go wide again, Maeda pestering Rudiger as the pair chase the ball down the right wing. Rudiger gets the ball out of Japan this time, but this could become an interesting battle. Maeda briefly threatened to pass the defender.

2 min: It’s Tanaka’s turn to launch it long, forcing Neuer out of his box to clear his head. Germany counter, Gnabry dribbles with a goal down the inside left channel. He can’t break the Japanese blue line. Meanwhile, here’s Francis Lee reporting from Berlin: “The German TV interviewer did his best to pump up Hansi Flick thoroughly in the pre-match debriefing area on the pitch, etc., but all she could get out of him was that Havertz would to be a striker, with Müller no. 10.”

Germany let the fun begin. They start for a long time, and then a short game of head tennis breaks out. Soon the ball returns to the feet of Neuer, after which the four-time winners pass it around the back for some time.

By the way, this match is broadcast in Great Britain by Independent Television. Our media editor Jim Waterson reports on this topic…

ITV will continue to take money from Saudi Arabia to promote the country as an exciting tourist destination, despite highlighting the Gulf nation’s poor human rights record during the World Cup.

ITV aired a special report on Saudi Arabia during the country’s surprise 2-1 win over Argentina on Tuesday. The report included the case of Loujain Al-Hathloul, who in 2018 led a successful campaign to end Saudi Arabia’s ban on women’s right to drive, but was later found guilty of crimes against the Saudi state.

The ITV report also told football fans about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s embassy in Istanbul and reported claims that the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s purchase of Newcastle United was intended to distract from such incidents.

However, after the brave broadcast, viewers were shown upbeat adverts during the same programme, paid for by Visit Saudi Arabia – an arm of the Saudi government – promoting the country as an exciting new tourist destination.

An ITV spokesman said that “as an advertising-funded channel, we take our responsibility to our viewers very seriously” and that all ITV advertising was approved before transmission to meet legal and industry requirements.

But while legal, the decision by ITV – and other European broadcasters who show the ad – to take the Saudi money highlights the challenges of scrutinizing sports laundering and human rights abuses while still trying to make money as a commercial broadcaster.

The teams are out! Germany wear their famous white shirt – with a huge black stripe running down the middle – while Japan are in first-choice blue. We’re leaving soon, right after the anthems. “I know that Rewe, it’s near the Natural History Museum,” writes Tim Woods. “It really is a high-end supermarket. Up there with Waitrose at Twickenham, and that’s not an honor I throw around lightly.”

Up in strips. The One Love debate continues, with German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck telling ZDF: “I’m not the media advisor of the DFB (German FA) and I’m not Manuel Neuer, but the opportunity is there. I am a politician trying to do my job properly, but what if this happened now? I would like to know and I would risk it.”

Meanwhile, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, during a visit to the DFB event in Doha, called Fifa’s stance on the matter “a big mistake”, adding: “This is not right, as the federations are under pressure. These were not security guarantees which I got [Qatar’s] Minister of Internal Affairs. Nowadays, it is incomprehensible that Fifa does not want people to openly advocate for tolerance and against discrimination. It does not fit our time and it is not suitable for people.”

Like the English FA, the DFB, under pressure from Fifa, decided to withdraw its decision to wear the rainbow armband. As a result, Rewe, one of Germany’s largest supermarkets, dropped its advertising campaign with the DFB.

This aesthetically pleasing branch of Rewe in Berlin scores a 9/10 on our Booth-o-meter
This aesthetically pleasing branch of Rewe in Berlin scores a 9/10 on our Booth-o-meter Photo: Eden Breitz/Alamy

Yuki Kobayashi is not in the Japanese team. But the 22-year-old central defender is still in the news today. He agreed to leave the J-League club Vissel Kobe and go to Celtic. He will join the Scottish champions at the start of December and will be available to play when the January registration window opens.

Manuel Neuer becomes the first goalkeeper to play in four consecutive World Cup finals for Germany. Thomas Muller, who has not played a full 90 minutes since September, starts up front. Celtic striker Daizen Maeda leads the line for Japan.

Teams

Germany: Neuer, Sule, Rudiger, Schlotterbeck, Raum, Kimmich, Gundogan, Gnabry, Muller, Musiala, Havertz.
Substitutes: Ginter, Kehrer, Goretzka, Fullkrug, Gotze, Trapp, Klostermann, Brandt, Hofmann, Sane, Gunter, ter Stegen, Adeyemi, Kotchap, Moukoko.

Japan: Gonda, Sakai, Itakura, Yoshida, Nagatomo, Tanaka, Endo, Junya Ito, Kamada, Kubo, Maeda.
Subs: Kawashima, Yamane, Taniguchi, Shibasaki, Doan, Mitoma, Minamino, Morita, Tomiyasu, Asano, Machino, Ueda, Schmidt, Soma, Hiroki Ito.

Preamble

So which Germany will appear this time? The one who thrashed Brazil 7-1 en route to winning the 2014 World Cup? Or the mob that Mexico and South Korea beat four years later, in their worst finals showing in eight decades? That 3-3 draw with England a few months ago doesn’t really answer the question, does it?

Hansi Flick’s men have not been firing loudly lately. They blew that two goal lead at Wembley, lost at home to Hungary and only beat Oman 1-0 last week. But they have plenty of fit Bayern Munich players to call upon – Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry – and four players (Thomas Müller, Mario Götze, Matthias Ginter and captain Manuel Neuer) who were present in 2014 and know exactly how do you do that.

They remain sixth favorites to lift the trophy next month, behind Brazil, England, France, Argentina (yes, still) and Spain. And as the 11th best team in the world according to FIFA rankings, they you should they have enough to deal with Japan, ranked 24th and priced at 475-1 to become champions. But then the same was said about the Koreans four years ago. In any case, the Samurai Blue have plenty of Bundesliga quality, including Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Daichi Kamada, Stuttgart’s Wataru Endo and defender Mayo Yoshida, formerly of Southampton and now at Schalke, so Die Mannschaft will know they will get a game this afternoon. Kick-off is 13:00 GMT, 16:00 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. انه تعريف! It’s on!