World Cup start: The defeat against Japan awakens the old demons of the DFB team

The defeat was not half an hour old when it was already fundamental in the cabin aisle.

World Cup start: The defeat against Japan awakens the old demons of the DFB team

The defeat was not half an hour old when it was already fundamental in the cabin aisle. Ilkay Gündogan complained about "a lack of maturity, maybe also quality", Leon Goretzka missed "greed in front of the goal" and Manuel Neuer "missed balls that have a message".

That was the analysis of those involved in the accident after the 1: 2 against Japan on Wednesday afternoon. The German footballers let themselves be run over twice by counterattacks, and it happened so quickly that nobody knew exactly what had happened at the scene of the accident, the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. "I haven't seen it on video yet," Goretzka said of the Japanese team's winning goal, "at least it felt safe on the pitch." Joshua Kimmich speculated: "I think we wanted to play offside there." But he wasn't quite sure.

The defeat left the players distraught, and even if the DFB video analysts will be able to close some memory gaps with archived moving images in the next few days, irritation and bewilderment will not leave the German camp anytime soon. Because this opening defeat will fuel debates that you really wanted to end. And this goes far beyond the purely sporting: the fuss about the "One Love" bandage, the buckling in front of Fifa and the outrage about it in Germany - was it all too much? Too much politics, too little focus on your core business, sport?

The universally praised team spirit, eleven friends on the pitch and a few more on the bench - just an empty claim? Anyone who heard Manuel Neuer speak after the game, his complaint that there was not enough willingness to help on the pitch, "basics that everyone has to bring with them when they play for Germany" - could have had doubts about the working atmosphere in the team.

And of course after the game there was talk of 2018 again, the 0-1 draw against Mexico in the first round of the World Cup in Russia. Mexico was the beginning of a short, ominous journey that ended for the Germans after the group stage. This demon was awakened on Wednesday, the parallels are obvious: just like Mexico, Japan was considered a weaker opponent. Like Mexico, Japan read the German game very carefully and revealed its weaknesses.

And they are, then as now, in defence. National coach Hansi Flick made it easy for Japan by forming his defense in a very unconventional way. He put Niklas Süle, who actually plays in the centre, in the position of right-back. Süle was a stranger in the new position, he usually pushed the balls to the side or back to goalkeeper Neuer, he couldn't think of more. And then he canceled the offside in the 83rd minute, which promptly led to 2-1 for Japan.

Nico Schlotterbeck, who played alongside Antonio Rüdiger in central defence, didn't do any better. He gave his opponents too much freedom; that too was punished with a goal.

In addition to the defense debate, there is now the tedious centre-forward debate. Kai Havertz helped out against Japan – and hit nothing. Neither did Niclas Füllkrug and Youssoufa Moukoko, who came on as a substitute. The fact that the DFB team lacks rushing into the penalty area has been a well-known problem since Miroslav Klose resigned in 2014. For a long time, this could be compensated for by having attacking midfielders take over tasks in attack. On Wednesday, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry and Ilkay Gündogan had the best chances and didn't use them.

Loaded with debates and demons, the German team goes into the game against Spain. This second preliminary round game is already a final for the DFB team. If you lose, the tournament ends after the group stage. Just like in 2018.