Germany became the second giants to succumb to shock defeat at the 2022 World Cup, losing 2-1 to Japan in their tournament opener – but not without their starting XI having suffered. makes a powerful gesture as he lines up for his team photo. Following the OneLove armband controversy, Germany decided to stand up to FIFA by covering their mouth with their right hand.
Elsewhere, Spain proved their qualities in tournament play, beating an admittedly poor side from Costa Rica on seven occasions. If they have what it takes to go all the way, only time will tell.
Meanwhile, Belgium’s aging stars really look like they’re struggling to replicate the magic that saw them finish third at the 2018 World Cup, with the day starting with yet another goalless draw. FourFourTwo question, is there a serious lack of hard-core attackers today?
Japan follows the example of Saudi Arabia
Just as our pulses were returning to normal after Saudi Arabia’s stunning victory over Argentina, another monumental shock struck.
This time it was Japan who were the unlikely hero, coming from behind to beat Germany in a match that bore striking similarities to the upset the day before.
First, although the Japanese were outplayed in the first half and looked far from a comeback, they came into the break still 1-0 down – as did the Saudis.
Secondly, they improved their game hugely after the break to tip the momentum in their favor – just like the Saudis.
Helped by a top performance from their keeper – just like the Saudis.
And to top it off, Takuma Asano’s winning goal was quite a moment of individual brilliance like Salem Al-Dawsari a day earlier.
Germany ready to take a stand against FIFA
One of the main talking points surrounding Germany’s turbulent World Cup opener came before a ball was even kicked.
As the star-studded German squad lined up for the usual pre-match team photo, they all covered their mouths with their right hands in protest.
This follows controversy surrounding FIFA’s decision to threaten to punish teams for wearing the OneLove armband, which the German FA are considering challenging legally.
Although Manuel Neuer didn’t wear the armband – like Harry Kane, Gareth Bale and Virgil van Dijk – his team made a statement which they later explained on social media.
“We wanted to use our captain’s armband to uphold the values we hold in the Germany national team: diversity and mutual respect. Together with other nations, we wanted our voice to be heard,” the DFB wrote. .
“It was not about making a political statement – human rights are not negotiable. This should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t. This is why this message is so important to us. Denying us the armband is like denying us a voice. We maintain our position”.
Spain is the real deal
Spain’s 7-0 victory over Costa Rica is perhaps the most convincing of any team to have played in the World Cup so far, with the European side controlling the game from start to finish with a dominant display on the pitch and throughout the 90 minutes. .
Sure, Costa Rica were very poor defensively, but Spain can only beat what’s in front of them – and we’ve already seen in the 2022 World Cup through teams like Argentina and Germany that beating supposedly lesser opposition is not always inevitable. With this result, Spain were elevated alongside Brazil as one of the tournament favourites.
The three-man Spanish midfielder, made up of only Barcelona players, really stands out in the team. Gavi provided class and produced a sublime finish at just 18, while Pedri played a game well beyond his years. Team captain Sergio Busquets expertly organized the midfield, allowing the young upstarts to wreak havoc in front of him.
Their loss on penalties in the Euro 2020 semi-finals to eventual winners Italy could also be a milestone in the development of this Spanish side. They know what it’s like to suffer agonizing grief, to build their character to attack this tournament – and, in Luis Enrique, they have arguably the best manager in the tournament.
A lack of a clinical striker could cause Spain to unravel against better defences, but they did very well with Cesc Fabregas the most advanced man in 2010, didn’t they?
Clear lack of quality forwards
As the tournament progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the World Cup lacks quality strikers at their peak. The draw between Croatia and Morocco was the third game in four without a goal as neither team was able to put the ball in the back of the net.
Later, Canada deserved to get something out of their clash with Belgium but, likewise, they lacked a seasoned poacher in their ranks. This is the theme of the tournament, with many teams lacking a quality centre-forward. Senegal are sorely lacking in Mane, Denmark v Tunisia ended scoreless despite an overabundance of chances, Mexico and Poland could have gone 12 hours without a score (Robert Lewandowski is top class, yes, but he has now 34) and Germany lost because they couldn’t convert their early dominance into goals.
There is some evidence to suggest wet conditions can contribute to low scoring games, but clearly a shortage of snipers is affecting things.
Belgium is catching up with age
Yes, they beat Canada, but Belgium’s age is starting to show. They were slow in the first half against technically limited but hard-working opponents. Too often they found themselves chasing the white shirts towards their own goal as the North Americans looked to exploit aging legs with balls behind. This was best illustrated by the fact that Belgian centre-backs Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld entered this clash with a combined total of 248 appearances. It was seen.
Kevin De Bruyne & Co. remain a dangerous team in possession, but many of their golden generation are over 30 and nearing the end of their careers. They may have to adapt their style to sit deeper, or they will soon find themselves punished by more clinical teams.