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Japan hopes to upstage ‘role model’ Germany

By AFP - Nov 22,2022 - Last updated at Nov 22,2022

Japan’s midfielder Takumi Minamino takes part in a training session on the eve of their match against Germany at the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament in Doha on Tuesday (AFP photo by Philip Fong)

DOHA — Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu is hoping the apprentices can upset the masters when they take on “role models” Germany in their World Cup opener on Wednesday.

Germany has become a popular destination for Japanese players in recent years, with eight of the current squad playing in the Bundesliga.

Moriyasu paid tribute to the contribution German football has made to his players’ development but urged them to show their own qualities when the teams meet in Doha.

“Germany have won the World Cup and that is our aim too — they are role models for us,” the manager said on Tuesday.

“We are learning from Germany but we also want to compete on the world stage with the qualities that Japan has.”

“We have a lot of feelings towards Germany but we have to treat tomorrow’s game as if we are playing any other team and just do our best.”

Japan have been handed a tough group, with Costa Rica and Spain also lying in wait in Group E.

The Blue Samurai have never gone beyond the last 16 at a World Cup but Moriyasu said they were hoping to “change history” by reaching at least the quarterfinals.

Captain Maya Yoshida acknowledged that their chances of progress could hinge on the result of their opening game.

The centre-back has witnessed Germany’s players at close quarters since joining Schalke in July, and is impressed by what he has seen.

“We understand that they have good qualities — speed, pace and physical ability as well,” said the former Southampton player, who is appearing at his third World Cup.

“The key is we have to defend well. Probably less opportunity to attack, but we need to make counter-attacks.”

Japan have had several injury scares in the build-up to the tournament, with doubts over the fitness of influential midfielder Hidemasa Morita.

Moriyasu said his entire squad was available for selection and wants his team to play “with no regrets”.

“We have players in the Bundesliga, playing with or against the best players in the world, and I want them to be confident when they play in tomorrow’s game,” he said.

Asian teams have suffered a torrid time at the tournament so far, with host nation Qatar losing 2-0 to Ecuador in the opening game and Iran hammered 6-2 by England.

Yoshida urged fans from across Asia to cheer on Japan.

“Germany is so strong so we need some support,” he said. “We are representing Japan of course, but at the same time representing Asia.”

“So hopefully many fans come to the stadium, not only Japanese but also the many Asian fans.”

 

Belgium ‘respect’ Canada

 

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez on Tuesday said his side have “huge respect” for Canada who will be playing their first World Cup game for 36 years when the teams meet in Qatar.

Martinez’s side finished third in Russia four years ago and will be heavy favourites against Canada, playing at the finals for the first time since 1986, on Wednesday.

Belgium faced a similar proposition in 2018 when they beat tournament debutants Panama 3-0 in their opening game with three second-half goals.

“We have huge respect for what Canada have achieved because when you finish top of the [qualifying] group ahead of national teams such as United States and Mexico, it’s something with substance, it’s not a coincidence,” Martinez told a pre-match press conference.

“They look like a team, not just a group of players coming together to play for the national team.”

“That’s a very dangerous situation, when you’re playing a team with nothing to lose. We saw that with Panama for 50 minutes, and we have to match that enthusiasm.”

Belgium, ranked second in the world behind Brazil, played a warm-up friendly against Egypt last week in Kuwait but lost 2-1.

“The friendly was important for us and we took that game almost as a competitive training session,” said Martinez.

Belgium’s record goalscorer Romelu Lukaku is set to miss their first two matches as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.

But veteran defender Jan Vertonghen said Belgium would be ready, despite the unusual build-up to the first World Cup played midway through the European club season.

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