Yuki Kobayashi is not in the Japan team. But the 22-year-old central defender is nonetheless in the news today. He has agreed to leave J-League club Vissel Kobe for Celtic. He will join the Scottish champions in early December and will be able to play once the registration window opens in January.
Manuel Neuer becomes the first goalkeeper to play in four consecutive World Cup finals for Germany. Thomas Muller, who hasn’t played a full 90 minutes since September, starts up front. Celtic striker Daizen Maeda leads the line for Japan.
Germany: Neuer, Sule, Rudiger, Schlotterbeck, Raum, Kimmich, Gundogan, Gnabry, Muller, Musiala, Havertz.
Replacements: Ginter, Kehrer, Goretzka, Fullkrug, Gotze, Trapp, Klostermann, Brandt, Hofmann, Sane, Gunter, ter Stegen, Adeyemi, Kotchap, Moukoko.
Japan: Gonda, Sakai, Itakura, Yoshida, Nagatomo, Tanaka, Endo, Junya Ito, Kamada, Kubo, Maeda.
Replacements: Kawashima, Yamane, Taniguchi, Shibasaki, Doan, Mitoma, Minamino, Morita, Tomiyasu, Asano, Machino, Ueda, Schmidt, Soma, Hiroki Ito.
Which Germany will show up this time, then? The one who spanked Brazil 7-1 en route to winning the 2014 World Cup? Or the scum beaten by Mexico and South Korea four years later, in their worst final performance in eight decades? That 3-3 draw with England a few months ago doesn’t really answer the question, does it.
Hansi Flick’s men haven’t been firing on all cylinders lately. They took that two-goal lead at Wembley, lost at home to Hungary and only beat Oman 1-0 last week. But they have plenty of in-form Bayern Munich players to call on – Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry – and four players (Thomas Müller, Mario Götze, Matthias Ginter and captain Manuel Neuer) who were there in 2014 .and know exactly how it’s done.
They are still sixth favorites to lift the trophy next month, behind Brazil, England, France, Argentina (yes, still) and Spain. And as the 11th best team in the world according to the Fifa rankings, they should have enough to face Japan, ranked 24 and priced at 475-1 to become champion. But the same thing was said about the Koreans four years ago. In any case, the Samurai Blue have their own Bundesliga quality, including Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Daichi Kamada, Stuttgart’s Wataru Endo and defender Maya Yoshida, once from Southampton but now at Schalke, so Die Mannschaft will know that they will receive a match this afternoon. Kick-off is 1pm GMT, 4pm at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. انه يحدث! It’s on!