Monday 04 April 2022, 10:00

A maiden meeting between familiar faces

  • Germany and Japan were drawn together in Group E at Qatar 2022

  • They are set to compete in a competitive fixture for the first time

  • There are Bundesliga players aplenty in the Japan squad

The final draw for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ threw up some exciting fixtures for Germany, with Hansi Flick’s squad set to face Spain, Japan and the winners of the intercontinental play-off between Costa Rica and New Zealand in Group E in November. Germany have met Spain on a number of occasions in their World Cup history, and in the opening match of the tournament on home soil in 2006, they played Costa Rica. There will, however, be at least one World Cup first for Die Mannschaft, as the four-time champions have yet to play either Japan or New Zealand on football’s biggest stage. And as they wait to discover which of those two they will face, they can ink the match against Japan into their calendars already.

The Asian Cup 2019 runners-up will have a slew of players in their ranks who will be familiar to German fans – in fact, almost as many as in their own team. Coach Hajime Moriyasu will be able to call on a number of players who are either currently plying their trade in Germany or who have graced the Bundesliga in the past. No fewer than 12 Japanese players are active in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 at the moment, nine of them having made their full debuts for their country. These include Eintracht Frankfurt’s Makoto Hasebe, who called time on his international career after the heart-breaking loss to Belgium in the Round of 16 at Russia 2018, having amassed an incredible 114 caps for the Samurai Blue. Seven Germany-based players took part in World Cup qualifying this time around for Japan – Wataru Endo (Stuttgart), Daichi Kamada (Eintracht Frankfurt), Genki Haraguchi (Union Berlin), Takumo Asano ( Bochum), Ko Itakura (Schalke), Ao Tanaka (Fortuna Dusseldorf) and Sei Muroya (Hannover) – and all of them will be hoping that the coach includes them in his squad for Qatar 2022. As well as the current Bundesliga players, there are other established members of the Japan team who have turned out for German clubs in the past, the best-known being Yuya Osaka (Werder Bremen, Cologne, 1860 Munich), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover) and Ritsu Doan (Arminia Bielefeld).

Qatar will be the third time that Germany and Japan have faced off, but the first time that there is anything at stake other than pride. In 2004, Germany won a friendly in Yokohama 3-0 thanks to two goals from Miroslav Klose and one from Michael Ballack. Two years later, the pair drew 2-2 in another friendly, this time in Leverkusen. Former Hamburg player Naohiro Takahara bagged a brace for Japan to give them a 2-0 lead, before Klose and Bastian Schweinsteiger got Germany back on level terms late on in the match. Coincidentally, the two countries had arranged another friendly ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, but the Final Draw put paid to that particular fixture. After all, neither side will be looking to give anything away so near to the group game, which will be on the opening matchday in Group E. Whoever loses on that day will then find themselves under real pressure when they face Spain in what promises to be a very tough group.