FIFA World Cup 2022: Opening match against Japan is most important game, says Germany's Neuer

Die Mannschaft open their World Cup campaign against Asian powerhouses Japan. Germany failed to qualify past the group stage in Russia 2018 after finishing last in their group

AgenciesUpdated: Wednesday, November 23, 2022, 01:53 PM IST
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Germany look for a strong start against Japan in their World Cup opener |

Berlin: Tension is rife around the German team ahead of the group opener against Japan at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Crossing swords with Japan this Wednesday is the tournament's most important game from the perspective of German captain Manuel Neuer.

"You gain confidence for the following games with a successful start and avoid getting under pressure in the second group game," the Bayern goalkeeper said before the German squad took off to Doha.

"It is the game to a great extent deciding about your progress in the tournament," Neuer added, reminding him of the defeat in the 2018 group opener against Mexico.

Selection headache

While the 36-year-old Neuer is trying to sharpen the team's senses, coach Hansi Flick is forced to do the job without Leroy Sane.

The Bayern striker is suffering from a knee problem, the German football association announced, but is said to be back in time for action for the group encounters against Spain and Costa Rica.

Young sensation Jamal Musiala is expected to move to the left wing as a replacement. Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan might complete the composition next to Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka.

Regarding the spearhead place, it seems a close race between Kai Havertz and 2010 golden boot winner Thomas Muller.

Winning mantra

Neuer demands a robust back-line as the key to success "for the entire tournament."

The German captain called opponent Japan a tricky team to play as most players made their way to European clubs including the German national league, reports Xinhua.

Positive memories seem to play a vital role in the 2014 world champions' preparation.

Choosing a remote base camp in the North of Qatar, 110 kilometres off the capital, is said to create a similar inspiring team spirit as was the case with the team's headquarters in Brazil, the famous Campo Bahia located far off the usually busy hotspots.

Hansi seeking to replicate club success

A calm way to deal with the circumstances around a winter World Cup has become a guideline coming along with Flick's achievements as a club coach.

"Hansi is a coach for special tournaments. The 2022 World Cup is an unusual tournament played in the middle of a season next to a short preparation phase," Neuer stated.

The 57-year-old coach in his perspective is a perfect match when it comes to adopting unusual situations, Neuer said mentioning 2020 when Bayern won the Champions League with the final rounds played in tournament modus in Lisbon.

Despite being praised for his empathy, Flick's most pressing issue remains to create a robust defense line as his team struggled in previous tournaments when facing counterattacks.

Supervising his first World Cup as head coach, Flick assembled a newly-formed defense around Real defender Antonio Ruediger. The German coach is speaking about getting into a flow and making up for the disappointing 2018 tournament in Russia coming along with a painful group exit.

While Neuer and Flick talked about the goal to win the 2022 World Cup, the Qatar tournament is a re-start for a team currently containing three generations from Youssoufa Moukoko and Musiala to Thomas Muller and Neuer.

Despite the ambitions in Qatar, Flick's job is about developing a competitive national team for the 2024 Euro hosted by Germany.

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