Four-time World Cup champions Germany are keen to hit the ground running when they take on Asian giants Japan but coach Hansi Flick said his team won’t take the ‘Samurai Blue’ lightly.
The two teams clash for the first time at a World Cup when they face off at the iconic Khalifa International Stadium today.
Champions in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014, Germany are clear title favourites in Qatar.
After tackling Japan - the three-time Asian champions - Germany take on Spain and Costa Rica in Group E of the 32-team tournament being held for the first time in the region.
Japan, on the other hand, have never gone beyond the Round of 16 though they are making their seventh trip to the World Cup.
The German coach said his team respects the quality of the Japanese side.
“I have to come out as a fan of Japanese football. The players are tactically and technically very well trained. It is a very big task that awaits us. But we’re going into the game well prepared. Anything is possible, you saw that today (Saudi Arabia beating Argentina). We don’t underestimate an opponent,” Flick said yesterday.
“Many of Japan’s players play in the Bundesliga and almost all of them are very agile, very fast, and are strong players,” Flick said at a news conference.
“They have great technique so we have to be careful.”
Flick, who saw Joachim Low-coached Germany go out in the first round at Russia 2018, will have the services of experienced players in Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer. Muller and Neuer are appearing in their fourth World Cup.
“I’m totally happy that we have these players in the team, that they play for Germany. With their quality, they give us an enormous number of opportunities,” Flick said.
“We have had very good training sessions in the last few days. We have had good training conditions for the game.
“The group is very strong, but we go into our matches with a positive mind. We are happy that things are starting for us,” Flick said yesterday.
“All the top teams set themselves the goal of becoming world champions. That’s why we’re here in Qatar. I think you have to deal with the pressure positively. We have to go to our absolute performance limit, you can expect that from the players because they have enormous qualities,” he added.
Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu knows his team is up against the might of Germany in the Group E clash today. The 54-year-old made a candid admission at the pre-match press conference that his team would fight but won’t get ahead of themselves considering the high skill-set the Germans bring to a game.
“We are very grateful to the Germans, they are role models for us,” Moriyasu said yesterday. “We are still developing and of course at the same time have incorporated good qualities from them into our playing style. So, yes, we have kind of mixed feelings about playing against Germany,” he added.

‘Going to give our absolute best’

Moriyasu quickly added: “But no matter who our opponents are, we are going to give our absolute best performance that we can on the pitch. We have prepared well for all the tournament matches in which we seek to go far by achieving the best results.”
Moriyasu will rely on the brilliance of Takumi Minamino of Monaco and Schalke centre back Maya Yoshida when they take on Germany today knowing they have only met two times in friendly games. Moriyasu also know he has in his squad eight players who feature in the Bundesliga.
“We will look to present the best level against the German national team, which we know well. 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. “Germany have won the World Cup and that is our aim too - they are role models for us,” Moriyasu said yesterday.
“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 this game as if we are playing any other team and just do our best.”
Captain Maya Yoshida - who is appearing in his third World Cup - yesterday echoed his coach’s sentiments about Germany’s firepower.
“We understand that they have good qualities - speed, pace and physical ability as well,” said Yoshida.
“The key is we have to defend well. Probably less opportunity to attack, but we need to make counter-attacks,” the former Southampton player added.
Yoshida urged Asian fans to cheer for Japan.
“Germany is so strong so we need some support,” Yoshida 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.
“We believe that we have a chance,” he said yesterday.
Flick confirmed yesterday that Germany will miss Germany winger Leroy Sane who is down with a knee injury.
“It is extremely tough to have to play without Leroy because with his qualities he is a player who can turn a game around by himself,” Flick said.
“Hopefully he can play on Sunday.
“The whole medical staff are working on it,” he added.