Germany & Spain is perhaps the must-see match of the group stages. But don't rule out Japan from springing a surprise as we focus on Group E
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Have you heard of the football term a 'Group of Death'? It basically means a group consists of four hard-to-beat teams in a World Cup. When Germany and Spain were the first teams drawn in Group E, people immediately labelled it the 'Group of Death'. Japan, Costa Rica or New Zealand will be looking to dislodge the footballing heavyweights from their perch. Still, with two of the last three winners in the same group, the smart money remains on Spain and Germany to progress through the World Cup stages.
Group E Dates, (Local) Times and Locations
Wednesday, November 23rd
16:00 Germany v Japan - Khalifa International Stadium
19:00 Spain v Costa Rica/New Zealand - Al Thumama Stadium
Sunday, November 27th
13:00 Japan v Costa Rica/New Zealand - Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium
22:00 Spain v Germany - Al Bayt Stadium
Thursday, December 1st
22:00 Costa Rica/New Zealand v Germany - Al Bayt Stadium
22:00 Japan v Spain - Khalifa International Stadium
New start, old glories for Germany?
With 200 days to go until the World Cup begins Germany head to Qatar without that aura of invincibility. They were eliminated four years ago in Russia in the group stages and suffered an early exit from Euro 2020 after losing out to England. That defeat ended Joachim Low's 15 years in charge. New manager Hansi Flick replaced him in August 2021. The former Bayern Munich manager won the treble with the German giants in 2020, including the Champions League Final, which was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He's still yet to taste defeat with the national team, and German sports journalist Jonas Gerdes is optimistic about the future of German football.
"We're coming now to, let's say, the better face of the German national team. I would say what's different - with Hansi Flick - is the communication. He communicates differently. He communicates to the team in a different way and to the media, the audience, and the fans in a different way. So, there is a bit more emotion and more enthusiasm in this new national team constructed by Hansi Flick now." Jonas told Football Now
Could a new coach give new life to the team and lead Germany to victory at the World Cup for the second time in three tournaments?
"It depends on the team's emotions and whether they can build a real team because this time, they won't be together for two, three, or four weeks before the World Cup starts. But every national team will have these difficulties. I think the coach is very well organised, so it may be possible to get together and (quickly) build a team." Jonas continued.
Spanish on the comeback trail?
From 2008 to 2012, Spain was quite simply the best team in the world. The power may have shifted somewhat in recent years, but a revival could be on the cards. Two European Championships and the World Cup came at a time when clubs from LaLiga dominated European football. At Euro 2020, they were only beaten by an Italian side on penalties after being the better side for most of the 120 minutes.
Defeat to France in the Nations League Final may show they can't quite get over the finishing line like they used to. However, with teenager Pedri helping Barcelona fans forget about Lionel Messi, perhaps he can do the same and inspire the Spanish fans who look back fondly on those golden years.
Japan - the underdogs
1998 - Eliminated at Group Stage
2002 - Exit in Round of 16
2006 - Eliminated at Group Stage
2010 - Exit in Round of 16
2014 - Eliminated at Group Stage
2018 - Exit in Round of 16
2022 - ?
If Japan follows the pattern of its last six appearances, they are likely to be taking an early plane home to Tokyo. In Russia, they were within 20 minutes of making it to the quarter-finals when Belgium fought back from two down, ending the hopes of the Japanese. This year, they go into the group as the underdogs. Alan Gibson from JSoccer Magazine believes they could use this to their advantage.
"They have this habit of disappointing when we expect them to do something and then pulling something out of the bag when we think they have no chance. So, with Germany and Spain in the same group, I get the feeling we'll be expecting very little from them. So, hopefully, that means that they will raise their game and surprise us.'
The Japanese team have some influential players on the world stage. The names to look out for at the Qatar 2020 World Cup include Liverpool's Takumi Minamino. Premier League star Takehiro Tomiyasu who is in his first season at Arsenal. Celtic's Japanese revolution in Scotland continues with Daizen Maeda, Yosuke Ideguchi, and Reo Hatate following in the footsteps of Kyogo Furuhashi, who has quickly become a fan's favourite in Glasgow and will be hoping to make the plane to Qatar.
World Cup Winners' View
France began the tournament in 1998 with a comfortable 3-0 win over South Africa. World Cup winner and Football Now World Cup pundit Frank Leboeuf believes it's vital that any team with aspirations to win the tournament get off to a quick start.
"If you lose the first game, you are under pressure immediately and need to win the next two games. You need to win the first game in order to be more relaxed or more comfortable, or more confident in getting out of the group stages. That's the importance of that first game, and it also launches your competition. You start with a defeat, and it's not easy to win a World Cup. I think it happened once. I think Spain lost the first game against Switzerland and won the World Cup in 2010. That's exceptional. But normally, you have to win the first game. Otherwise, you have big, big pressure." Frank explains.
So, the Group of Death could throw up some surprises. However, the one match every football fan can't wait for is Spain against Germany on Sunday, November 27th. A win for either team will place a marker for all the other contenders in Qatar.