Germany must shake off deserved loss vs. Japan at World Cup

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DOHA, Qatar — There’s a 1980s Richard Pryor movie called “The Toy,” in which Jackie Gleason’s character delivers a speech to his son about the difference between “truth” and “reality.” Four decades later, Germany boss Hansi Flick might want to do the same thing.

The “truth” of their 2-1 defeat at the hands of Japan is that they dominated possession (74% to 26%), put together more than 2.4 expected goals (plus a converted penalty), forced a couple of great saves from Japan keeper Shuichi Gonda, hit the woodwork twice and, had their finishing been better, they would have been home free before Japan’s rousing second-half comeback.

– Reaction: Germany stunned by Japan in latest World Cup shocker

The “reality” is rather different. For all the dominance of the first half, Germany took the lead only because Gonda gifted them a penalty. All those shots — Germany had 26, Japan 11 — that add up to a gaudy expected goals total? Well, 10 of them were from outside the area, which is rather suboptimal. Germany were undone by Japan’s athleticism, stamina, power and self-belief, exactly those qualities which, historically, were the secret to Germany’s success.

And there’s more reality. Germany’s central attacking players, Kai Havertz and Thomas Muller, mustered a single attempt on goal between them (and even that one was off target). Flick had no answers for Japan boss Hajime Moriyasu’s second-half substitutions and change of tactics; as a result, this is the second straight World Cup in which Germany lost their opening game.

Then there’s the harshest reality of all. Next up for Germany are Spain, who crushed Costa Rica 7-0. If Germany drop points in Sunday’s game, they no longer control their own destiny and could go out of their second straight World Cup at the group stage. It’s a prospect as unthinkable as Oktoberfest with nonalcoholic beer and tofu bratwurst.

The challenge for Flick is making sense of what went wrong against Japan. He knew his front line was about…

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