Hansi Flick will remain in charge of Germany through Euro 2024 despite a disastrous World Cup campaign following discussions with the German Football Association (DFB).

The former Bayern Munich boss succeeded Joachim Low following Euro 2020, and was tasked with reviving the national team's prestige after back-to-back disappointing major tournaments 

But, as at Russia 2018, Germany instead crashed out in the group stage at Qatar 2022, sparking serious questions about leadership at the top, and leading to the exit of technical director Oliver Bierhoff.

Flick's own future has been up in the air too, but after holding talks with DFB president Bernd Neuendorf and vice-president Hans-Joachim Watzke, he has now been confirmed to be staying on board.

"My coaching staff and I are optimistic about the European Championship in our own country," Flick said. 

"As a team, we can achieve a lot more than we showed in Qatar. We missed a great opportunity there.

"We will learn our lessons from that. We all want the whole of Germany to gather behind the national team again at the home European Championship in 2024."

Neuendorf added Flick has the full backing of the DFB, while also revealing that a replacement for Bierhoff will not be explored until a potential leadership reshuffle.

"We are all convinced that the 2024 European Championship in our own country represents a great opportunity for football in Germany," he said.

"Our goal is to make this tournament a sporting success. We have full confidence in Hansi Flick. He will master this challenge together with his team.

"With regard to Oliver Bierhoff's successor, we have agreed that we will first discuss the future structure of this area of ​​responsibility within the DFB and then make a personnel decision."

The race to sign Palmeiras teenager Endrick is on.

Endrick turns 18 in July 2024, and he cannot officially join a European club until then, but teams are jostling for position in the meantime.

The 16-year-old has scored three goals in seven appearances for Palmeiras in the 2022 Serie A season.

 

TOP STORY - LOS BLANCOS HOME IN ON BRAZILIAN TEENAGER ENDRICK

Real Madrid are closing in on a deal worth €70million for Palmeiras teenager Endrick with personal terms agreed, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Madrid are in the final stages with the talented left-footed Brazilian striker with contracts discussed and they hope to complete the deal this month.

Romano claims that Paris Saint-Germain have withdrawn from the race despite a €58m offer a few days ago. Chelsea were previously interested too. 

ROUND-UP

Paris Saint-Germain were tracking Portugal's last-16 hat-trick hero Goncalo Ramos in the off-season, claims Fabrizio Romano. The 21-year-old forward is contracted with Benfica until 2025, with his price likely to surge after his latest World Cup display.

Manchester United have pulled out of the race to sign Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund, claims Sky Sports Germany. Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid all remain interested but the England international may cost around £130m (€150m).

– Bild claims Manchester United have commenced talks with Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who is out of contract at the end of this season, but Fichajes reports they have identified Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak as their main target.

Tottenham are looming as a possible option for Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie with Barcelona eager to sell him, according to Sport. Kessie joined the Blaugrana in July but has only made five starts this season.

– Nicolo Schira reports that Hansi Flick's future as Germany's head coach is in doubt following their World Cup group-stage exit. The German Football Association could move in a different direction amid links with ex-Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel.

Hansi Flick has revealed his dismay at Oliver Bierhoff leaving his role as Germany team director, with the coach stunned by the decision.

Former Germany striker Bierhoff stepped aside on Monday, saying he had come "to an understanding on the matter with president Bernd Neuendorf" after the national team's group-stage World Cup exit.

Neuendorf, in charge of the German Football Association (DFB), may now face a battle to appease Flick, who is due to remain in post through to the Euro 2024 finals.

Germany will host that tournament, and Flick described it as having been a "common goal" of his work with Bierhoff.

Flick said Bierhoff, who many will see as a scapegoat for Germany's World Cup failure, would be difficult to replace, both on a personal and professional basis.

By Flick's reckoning, Bierhoff achieved great things during his 18 years with the DFB. He picked out overseeing the 2014 World Cup triumph as the peak of the achievements, but also noted the "professionalisation of the national team and its environment" and development of the DFB academy and campus.

"He pushed all of this forward with great personal commitment and against a great deal of resistance," Flick said. 

"At the moment, my coaching team and I are having a hard time imagining how the gap created by Oliver's departure can be closed, both professionally and personally.

"Our cooperation has always been characterised by loyalty, team spirit, trust and reliability. Cohesion was in the DNA of our team.

"Oliver was my first contact and friend within the team. Our common goal was the Euro 2024 project in Germany. For Oliver, the focus was always and exclusively on the well-being of the national team, the DFB and German football."

The nature of Flick's reaction, which was published on Tuesday by the DFB, has sparked speculation about the coach's own future. Reports have said Thomas Tuchel, Ralf Rangnick or Fredi Bobic could be possible successors.

Of Bierhoff, Flick said: "I would like to thank him personally and as the national coach for this long collaboration and the invaluable trust that has been placed in us. Trust is and remains the greatest asset in football.

"The last few days have not been easy, and I wish Oliver and his family the very best from the bottom of my heart. German football and the national team in particular owe him an incredible amount."

Germany can no longer call themselves an elite football nation after enduring an "embarrassing" elimination from the World Cup, according to former defender Holger Badstuber.

Hansi Flick's side finished third in a closely contested Group E despite beating Costa Rica 4-2 on Thursday, with Japan and Spain advancing after the Samurai Blue claimed a memorable 2-1 win over La Roja.

Germany have now failed to reach the knockout stages at consecutive World Cups and have gone 12 major tournament games without a clean sheet – their longest ever such run.

Writing in his World Cup column for Eurosport, Badstuber – a bronze medallist at the 2010 tournament – called for Germany to go back to basics.

"It is a debacle. Weak, embarrassing, unworthy, disappointing," he said. "Our defence no longer has anything to do with world class, not even with European class. 

"Defence wins titles. This old saying has not changed at all. Hansi Flick has to question himself, of course. I think he sees what's going wrong. 

"At the press conference, he already addressed the deficiencies in the training of the defence, but the basic structure of the national team also needs to be questioned hard.

"In the end, it was no longer about pure football, it was no longer about this game itself, about the association, not about the elite of German football. 

"Germany is no longer elite. Germany is definitely no longer one of the top nations in world football. We are no longer a top nation."

 

The form of Bayern Munich attacker Jamal Musiala has been one of the few positives to emerge from Germany's dismal campaign in Qatar, and Badstuber believes the teenager is the only player who escapes blame.

"I would like to exclude Jamal Musiala from my criticism," Badstuber continued. "At 19, he is already a brutally good player.

"I have to hold back, because I'm usually sparing with superlatives for such young players like him, but it's just pure pleasure to watch him. 

"He is incredibly stable and always ready to work on the defensive side as well. It's great to have him in the team, he will bring a lot of joy to Germany's football."

Former Germany international Dietmar Hamann has called for Hansi Flick to be replaced as the team's head coach after overseeing a "pathetic" group-stage exit from the World Cup.

A late double from substitute Kai Havertz helped Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in their final Group E game on Thursday, but Japan stunned Spain with a 2-1 win at the Khalifa International Stadium to send the four-time winners home.

Germany have now suffered group-stage eliminations from consecutive World Cups, having avoided falling at the first hurdle on each of their last 16 appearances at the tournament before 2018.

The coaches of some eliminated sides – such as Mexico's Tata Martino and Belgium's Roberto Martinez – have already announced their departures, and Hamann thinks Flick should do the same.

Speaking to Sky Sports in Germany, a furious Hamann said: "I think it's impossible that we can continue with the coach. 

"After this debacle, we only have 18 months until the European Championships at home, that was pathetic.

"Costa Rica had one shot on target in the first two games and we made them look like Brazil. In the team, everyone does what they want. I see no reason why Flick should remain as coach.

"When I hear some comments from those responsible [with other teams], I have to say that responsibility looks different. Excuses, excuses, excuses. It's time for a cut."

Germany have failed to keep a single clean sheet in their last 12 games at World Cups or European Championships, their longest ever such sequence. 

The last side to fail to score against Germany in a major tournament match was Slovakia, who were beaten 3-0 by Joachim Low's side in the round of 16 at Euro 2016.

Hansi Flick intends to remain in charge for Euro 2024 on home soil, even if Germany suffer a shock early elimination from the World Cup.

Germany are bottom of Group E heading into the final round of fixtures after losing 2-1 to Japan and drawing 1-1 with Spain in their opening two games.

That makes Flick just the second Germany manager to fail to win his first two World Cup games, after Josef Herberger, with none having failed to win their first three in charge.

The four-time world champions must now beat Costa Rica and hope Spain defeat Japan to guarantee a place in the last 16. 

A draw between Spain and Japan, or a victory for the latter, would take the equation down to goal difference should Germany pick up all three points against Costa Rica.

Exiting the competition at the first hurdle would raise questions over whether Flick should remain in the job, but the ex-Bayern Munich boss has no intention of stepping aside.

"I don't know what else will happen, but from my side, my contract runs to 2024 and I'm looking forward to the Euros," he said at Wednesday's pre-match press conference.

"But we have a while to go until then. We go into the Costa Rica match trying to make things clear from the start, to exert pressure – these are our intentions. 

"Of course we know it'll be difficult against a team who normally defends. We need to adopt the same mentality as we showed against Spain."

Germany failed to reach the knockout round in Russia four years ago and exited Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage in last year's rescheduled tournament.

 

Flick, who took over on the back of those disappointments, is hoping to avoid more major competition disappointment on Thursday.

When asked to explain why Germany have underwhelmed at recent tournaments, Flick said: "Maybe you can ask me this question tomorrow, though I hope not.

"Normally I'm an optimist who thinks positively. I'm not considering anything like [exiting the tournament] for the time being.

"We know it's not entirely in our own hands and it goes without saying we didn't get the result we wanted in the first game.

"But we're here to reach the knockouts and we'll play our next match with confidence. Whatever happens, happens. Like after the Japan loss, I'm not feeling any pressure.

"We're heading in the right direction. Things are getting better in training and we're continuing to learn. We're finding solutions with the ball and that's why I think we're improving."

Germany are facing Costa Rica at the World Cup for just a second time, having previously won 4-2 in the opening match of the 2006 edition when hosting the tournament.

They have won six of their eight World Cup matches against CONCACAF nations, though their only loss in that run was in their last such match against Mexico in 2018.

Costa Rica have won just one of their past 11 World Cup games against European nations, meanwhile, with that including a 7-0 loss to Spain in their opening group match.

However, Luis Fernando Suarez's side beat Japan last time out and can themselves reach the last 16 by defeating Germany at Al Bayt Stadium.

A draw would also be enough if Spain overcome Japan, as many expect, and Flick expects Costa Rica to set out defensively in order to take a point.

"If we look at the table then Costa Rica has an opportunity to go last 16 if they draw, so I assume they'll try to defend as much as possible as they did against Japan," he said. 

"It's important for us to find a solution. It's our own fault we're in this situation and now we have to do what we can. It's about giving 100 per cent and performing on the day."

Hansi Flick praised Germany's mentality and remains upbeat despite their World Cup destiny no longer being in their hands after Sunday's 1-1 draw with Spain.

Niclas Fullkrug cancelled out Alvaro Morata's earlier effort to earn a point but, following the 2-1 defeat by Japan, the four-time champions have failed to win their opening two matches at the finals for the first time.

Die Nationalmannschaft must beat Costa Rica in their final Group E match to stand any chance of progressing to the last 16, while hoping the Samurai Blue fail to beat La Roja in the other showdown.

Addressing the media during his post-match conference: Flick said: "The team maintained a great level. I am very satisfied with the mentality and the team's work today. This was a match on a high level.

"Those are things we want to see from this team, but this was only a first step. We want to see [more in the] next match and create the conditions to go through

"Spain are a great team with many young players, some experienced players, they're technically very refined. They started well, but we pushed against them.

"We were also able to defend well, we went in hard. But this is an opponent who plays so freely with great qualities, they are difficult to defend against, and we need to work on that and improve in defence.

"But what's important is the mentality was there. They showed they want to get points, create chances and that's what we did, that's why we're more than satisfied with the result."

Germany are aiming to avoid falling at the first hurdle in successive finals, having also crashed out in the group stages in Russia four years ago.

But Flick remains optimistic, and believes a repeat of the character demonstrated in the Spain draw will stand his side in good stead.

"In these matches, there are things to do better, but I am very upbeat," he added. "Maybe, this result will help us improve morale for the future. I liked the mentality of the team during the 90 minutes and that's what we have to show."

After suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to Japan on matchday one, Germany could ideally do with a swift and straightforward response.

Unfortunately for them, awaiting Die Nationalelf at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday will be a Spain side that remarkably won 7-0 against Costa Rica last time out.

Germany know defeat could doom them to a second successive group-stage elimination at the World Cup, an astonishing turn of events given that before 2018 they had not failed to get past the tournament's first round since 1938.

Another loss would consign Germany to three consecutive World Cup defeats for the first time ever – they have also never been beaten twice in the group stage of a single edition before.

The pressure is already on head coach Hansi Flick, who suggested one of his main objectives before Sunday's game is to ensure the team believes they can prevail.

"The team and every person can always develop," he said. "That's why the team still has potential, which it's not quite delivering at the moment.

"Nevertheless, I believe we have good quality. Yes, we trust the team. We're positive and just really want to see that we approach this game on Sunday against Spain positively.

"It's simply important to deal with defeats, but also to clear your head and focus on the new task, and that's our goal, to get the team to the point where they naturally believe that they can push this thing in the right direction on Sunday."

Regardless of Germany's belief, Flick's side can at least take solace in the fact they pretty much know how Spain will play – Luis Enrique is never secretive about his expectations for La Roja.

In their obliteration of Los Ticos, Spain recorded a possession figure of 81.9 per cent, setting a new record since Opta have this data available in the World Cup (from 1966), surpassing Argentina’s 80.3 per cent against Greece in 2010.

That was Spain's biggest ever World Cup victory and they also boast a strong recent record over Germany, having lost only one of their previous seven meetings.

Granted, Spain have only won their first two games of a World Cup three times and not since 2006, but Luis Enrique was adamant after the Costa Rica win that complacency will not be an issue.

 

This may be a young Spain squad, but they have long resembled an immensely unified unit under the guidance of Luis Enrique, who acts as a sort of pressure sponge, and Rodri believes their overall connection is their key strength.

"It's true we have been working very good for a long time, maybe on the results front," he said. "Nowadays in football there is great equality, but the performance was there [against Costa Rica], and it was good.

"The sensations were great, the team is whole in every line, defensively and offensively the team worked like an accordion.

"The goals for me were a consequence of our play, and what I liked more about the other day is that we know that the collective is what will bring us success.

"That is why everyone was remarkable, everyone had a great contribution, and everyone respected his position and his role."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Spain – Pedri

He was withdrawn before the hour mark against Costa Rica, but that was more than enough time to show just how integral Pedri is to how Spain play. He completed 97 per cent of his passes (86/89), but what made that even more impressive was the fact he was the fulcrum of La Roja's attacking play, with only Dani Olmo (33) attempting more passes in the final third than him (30).

Managing to maintain that accuracy in such a congested area of the pitch where he was expected to take risks was mightily impressive, and he even managed to tally a joint-high three key passes. Germany would be wise to pay him special attention.

 

Germany – Serge Gnabry

The defeat to Japan was a game to forget for Germany, but Gnabry did at least look lively. He managed six shots on matchday one, with three of them on target, and was very involved.

In fact, he played a part in 12 open-play sequences that ended a shot, with Kylian Mbappe (13) the only player to better him in that regard over the first round of matches at the tournament. He will need to do better in front of goal, but he clearly has the capacity to cause Spain problems.

 

PREDICTION

There is every chance this will be close.

Spain go into the game as the favourites with a 42.7 per cent chance of success, according to Stats Perform's AI model, but this means there is a 57.3 per cent likelihood of them failing to win.

That incorporates Germany's 31.9 per cent probability of emerging victorious, which also highlights how difficult this game is to call from the outset.

Hansi Flick unequivocally dismissed the suggestion Germany lost their World Cup opener against Japan because they were distracted by the controversy surrounding the OneLove campaign.

Germany were one of several European teams planning to have their captains wear the OneLove armband to highlight discrimination and human rights abuses by World Cup host nation Qatar, where homosexuality is criminalised.

In response, FIFA threatened to apply "sporting sanctions" to the teams involved, who all subsequently backtracked on their commitment to wear the armbands.

Germany felt FIFA was attempting to "silence" them, and they responded by holding their hands over their mouths while lining up for a team photo before the match against Japan.

After they ended up losing to the Samurai Blue, some Germany critics tried to link their defeat to the idea they were distracted by their moral stance.

When Flick was asked if that was the case ahead of Sunday's pivotal clash with Spain, his response was blunt.

"No," he said followed by a long pause. "Not at all."

Flick was surprisingly attending Saturday's pre-match press conference alone.

Teams are contracted to attend the events with at least their head coach and one player, and they can be fined if they fail to adhere to those rules.

However, Germany are based in the very north of the country near Al Ruwais, meaning any player attending a press conference will be away from training for approximately three hours.

Given the crucial nature of Sunday's encounter, Flick was simply unwilling to compromise the team's preparations by allowing a player to attend, even if it means the German Football Association (DFB) potentially copping a fine.

"I came by myself to the press conference because we didn't want any player to spend almost three hours driving. We don't expect any player to drive for so long. It's a long drive," he said.

"It's a very important match, so everyone, all 26 players are important [for training], that's why we didn't want to take a player with us. They should now prepare for the training.

"I think we could have done [the press conference] in our media centre as well, that is really good, it would have been better. But we have to accept this."

Earlier on Saturday, Spain coach Luis Enrique said Germany were the team most similar to La Roja at the World Cup in terms of their style of play.

Flick concurred, and although Spain thrashed Costa Rica 7-0 on matchday one, the Germany coach chose to remain optimistic as he urged his team to be courageous at Al Bayt Stadium.

Asked about Luis Enrique's assessment, Flick added: "I can only confirm this. I think both teams, if you look at systems, it's one-to-one in each position, and this is what we tell our players, to be in position to win the duels.

"Spain, of course, is a team who have always played the 4-3-3 formation like Barcelona, regardless of their opponent. They then have clear automatic moves and we need to find a way against it, we have a plan and we hope to implement it.

"The main focus for me has been the football, I think I'm convinced about what we want to do, how we want to play football.

"[Germany's situation] could've been avoided, but we still stick to our guns because we have the quality. We can implement what we want.

"This is what it's all about, being brave, believing in our quality and going into the match like that."

The official line is that it doesn't matter. It's an irrelevance. In fact, why are we even talking about it?

"I don't think that it plays any role. It was two years ago," said Julian Brandt on Friday.

But Spain's 6-0 slicing and dicing of Germany in November 2020 looms large over Sunday's re-match at Al Bayt Stadium, however much any protagonists pretend to ignore its presence.

Germany's record defeat in a competitive international came in that Nations League contest played in Seville, and while Joachim Low hung on a little longer as coach, that was the night when his fate was as good as sealed.

So there's one thing that has changed since the humiliation at La Cartuja: Low has gone and Hansi Flick is pulling the strings for Germany, the former Bayern Munich boss entrusted with leading the team into the World Cup.

"We are in a different position now and have improved in a lot of areas – even if not everything is going smoothly," said Germany midfielder Brandt.

How's about that for understatement of the year?

Germany are positively reeling, on the brink of a second consecutive World Cup group-stage elimination after folding to a 2-1 defeat against Japan in their Group E opener.

Their hopes hinge, more than likely, on finding a way to beat Spain, a team who left scorched earth in their wake while crushing Costa Rica 7-0 on matchday one.

"At the end of the day, it is a chance to change the mood," reckoned Brandt. "A game like this can energise you a lot. The 6-0 doesn't play a part for any player."

To which one can only hold one's hands up and commend the focus of the modern-day player if they can genuinely freeze out memories of such dark nights.

 

Brandt was an unused substitute for that six-goal shellacking, so perhaps the scars genuinely have faded in his case.

As a bystander, he could hardly be held responsible, and Brandt was also a bench-warmer throughout Germany's capitulation against Japan, so he gets another free pass there.

Where is there accountability then? Perhaps German FA (DFB) technical director Oliver Bierhoff is the man to be looking at, having been in post for coming up to five years.

Bierhoff gave Low his backing after the Spain shambles two years ago, and bringing his involvement up to the present day, the former striker said Germany were "really, really angry" at themselves for folding against Japan.

The Euro 96 final match-winner described the upcoming Spain game as "the first final" for Germany at this World Cup.

He also told broadcaster ARD it was "a myth" the team needed to be friends and said "friction and conflict" could be positive.

So there might not be absolute love and harmony in the ranks, but Bierhoff insists Germany are fully focused on their mission.

"That's the most important thing," Bierhoff said, "that in the end, even though we are many different personalities and have different ideas, we all submit to one single goal: to play a successful World Cup."

Germany have never lost consecutive group games in a single edition of the World Cup, but this team doesn't let history stop them achieving firsts. After all, they had only lost their opening game at a World Cup once in their first 18 appearances at the finals, prior to 2018, but now they have surrendered openers at consecutive editions.

In World Cup games where Germany had scored at least once, they were unbeaten in 29 matches (W25 D4) before tossing away a first-half lead to hand over three points to Japan on Wednesday. Their last such defeat was the famous 2-1 quarter-final loss to Bulgaria at USA 94.

They've never lost three consecutive World Cup games, but their 2018 campaign ended with a painful defeat to South Korea, then came Japan, and now Spain stand in their way.

The good news for Germany is that Spain have not won their opening two games at a World Cup since 2006. In 2010, when they went on to lift the trophy, Spain lost to Switzerland in their opener, so mishaps can happen.

Rather more bleak for Flick and Co is that Germany have won just one their last seven games against Spain, a 1-0 friendly success in November 2014. They have drawn two and lost four in that span and have not beaten Spain in a competitive game since Euro 88, drawing two games and losing three.

Where should Germany look for positives?

Young midfielder Jamal Musiala has emerged in the two years since that dismal trip to Andalusia, but Germany sorely lack a world-class striker, the sort that might have put the Japan game to bed before the underdogs set about fighting back in the final quarter.

Arguably the same might be said of Spain, but Ferran Torres hit three in the 6-0 rout and netted twice against Costa Rica, so Germany must be watchful there.

Spain toppled Germany 1-0 in the 2010 World Cup semi-finals, the first and only time they have defeated the four-time champions in the tournament's history.

They have talent pouring through the ranks, with the likes of Pedri, Gavi and Dani Olmo impressing against the outclassed Costa Ricans, while Germany bring a familiar cast, star-studded but struggling to equal the sum of their parts.

After the Spain game in 2020, Flick, then with Bayern Munich, said of the national team: "I was disappointed with the way we played football. On the other hand, these things are possible in football, sometimes you get run over and, in the end, you have to draw the right conclusions."

He added: "But that's not my job."

Now, however, it emphatically is his job. Flick has to work out how to lift a group left shattered by Japan's comeback, while ignoring the elephant stomping around the room, trumpeting the message that the last time Germany encountered Spain, it went down as one of the national team's darkest days.

But it could get darker still. If Germany crumble again to La Roja, this time at the World Cup, prepare for a total eclipse of Die Mannschaft.

Hansi Flick knows Germany are now "under pressure" but would not accept their focus on the OneLove campaign as an excuse for their defeat to Japan.

Germany lost 2-1 at Khalifa International Stadium on Wednesday in a match that appeared set to be second billing to a demonstration ahead of kick-off prior to the second-half turnaround.

Die Mannschaft captain Manuel Neuer did not go through with wearing the OneLove armband, which promotes "inclusion and sends a message against discrimination of any kind", with those planning to wear the armband having been threatened with sanctions by FIFA.

Instead, Germany's players lined up for their pre-match team photo with their hands over their mouths, saying FIFA was "denying us a voice".

Much of the attention around the match was on this even after Ilkay Gundogan opened the scoring from the penalty spot, but goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano dealt Germany a stunning defeat.

Asked if their protest had contributed to a below-par display, Flick replied: "No. We're not looking for excuses. That would be too easy.

"I said it ahead of the game, Japan have a strong team, great players with good technique, good tactics. They are well trained and they showed their strengths today. They played very efficiently.

"I would have liked to see that from my team, but we can't make excuses. We made too many mistakes."

These errors were "mistakes we should never make in a World Cup", Flick said, with the second goal that condemned them to "a great disappointment" particularly sloppy.

Germany certainly cannot afford to be distracted as they head into their second match against Spain, as Flick added: "We'll analyse this game as we always do.

"Spain is a different team, it is not Japan, and we'll have a different game plan.

"Of course, now with this defeat, we are under pressure, no question, and we're to blame. We can only blame ourselves.

"We have to make sure we can come out of this. We need to be courageous and decisive; we need the aggression in the game that's necessary at the World Cup."

Japan may now be in a stronger position, but they are likewise staying focused on their second group game versus Costa Rica.

"This is a big win, but it is not the end, obviously, so we were not going to get too happy or too sad," said coach Hajime Moriyasu. "We're going to prepare for the next game."

Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda added: "We would like to go to the quarter-final. That is our goal.

"This is our first step, and we are very pleased to have won. But our next game is against Costa Rica and we have to do our best again."

Japan staged a sensational fightback to deal Germany a shock 2-1 defeat in their World Cup opener as Bundesliga players Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano came off the bench to stun the four-time winners.

Germany made headlines by covering their mouths in a pre-match protest against FIFA's decision to ban Manuel Neuer from wearing the OneLove armband, and they looked set to make a positive start in Group E when Ilkay Gundogan converted a first-half penalty.

Hansi Flick's side then squandered several golden opportunities to put the game to bed before Freiburg forward Doan made them pay from a rebound 15 minutes from time.

With Germany chasing a winner, there was to be one final twist as Asano raced onto a long ball before firing beyond Neuer, leaving Die Mannschaft under huge pressure ahead of Sunday's meeting with Spain. 

Joshua Kimmich's "childhood dream" has been somewhat ruined by Qatar hosting the World Cup, with "no real joy" for Germany in the build-up to the tournament.

Bayern Munich's Kimmich made three appearances at right-back as Germany crashed to a group-stage exit at Russia 2018, with Qatar 2022 proving his first real opportunity since making a name as a midfielder.

But the 27-year-old has been left wanting with the ongoing concerns surrounding the human rights record in Qatar, where same-sex relationships are prohibited and homosexuality is illegal.

Kimmich remains underwhelmed due to the ongoing off-field distractions, though he assured Germany are firing on all fronts ahead of Wednesday's Group E opener against Japan.

"I would like to be able to look forward to a World Cup, even if it takes place here," Kimmich said on Tuesday.

"It's a huge dream for all of us, we're all on fire. We all want to play a good tournament, we all want to win tomorrow and yes, it's not our fault where the World Cup takes place."

Germany have made their dissatisfaction with the hosts known as Die Mannschaft supporters have repeatedly voiced their opposition to the tournament in the Middle East.

"I don't feel like there's any real joy there," added Kimmich on the lack of interest in the tournament back home.

Kimmich, like many other big-name footballing stars, promised to speak out where he sees fit, though he suggested the backlash to FIFA's 2010 decision on Qatar has come too late.

He continued: "We've talked a lot about the fact the World Cup was awarded here.

"That was 12 years ago, when I was 15, and now I somehow always have to comment on it. I don't know if it's always justified.

"But we also have to manage this balancing act of focusing on the sporting side. I mean regardless of where the World Cup is taking place, it's a World Cup, it's the biggest competition for us footballers there is.

"It's a huge childhood dream to play tomorrow, and yet somehow I have the feeling that it's always being talked down a bit or that you can't really look forward to it."

Japan will mark coach Flick's first game at FIFA's top tournament, too, and the German acknowledged a tough task awaits at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

"I have to out myself as a bit of a fan of Japanese football. They are really doing it well," Flick said. 

"We see the quality they have in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt's [Daichi] Kamada playing a great season or [Wataru] Endo, who is one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga.

"It is a very big task but we go into the match prepared and look forward to it."

Germany coach Hansi Flick refused to hide his frustration at FIFA's decision to ban teams from wearing the OneLove armband at the World Cup.

The OneLove campaign, which promotes "inclusion and sends a message against discrimination of any kind", grew in significance ahead of the tournament in Qatar, partly due to the host country's criminalisation of homosexuality and poor human rights record.

Germany were one of seven European nations to back the initiative, which involved captains wearing special armbands featuring a multi-coloured heart.

The move was shelved on Monday after it emerged FIFA was set to impose "sporting sanctions" on the teams involved, with the expectation being that captains would be booked at kick-off for wearing the armband.

While FIFA has been criticised for seemingly opposing an anti-discrimination gesture, teams have also been slammed for lacking the bravery to proceed regardless of sanction threats.

Although Flick did not address the criticism of the teams, he did express regret regarding FIFA's decision.

"About the armband, together with the DFB [German Football Association] and the other countries, we wanted to do this to take a stand, and then what happened is FIFA threatened us with sanctions and the associations were told [on Monday] at short notice," Flick told reporters ahead of Wednesday's Group E opener against Japan.

"If you want to run a campaign as a group, you should stick to decisions.

"Of course, it's a shock for the team to not do it, it was a sign of human rights and diversity. And the way I treat my team, the values I and the team represent, well all of that is based on mutual respect, mutual appreciation, that's just part of life. I expect that from everyone.

"There are some parties involved who think differently. We wanted to embody our values."

Regarding the threat of a potential instant yellow card, Flick said: "We talked about it, a yellow card can happen. If [Joshua] Kimmich then has to leave pitch, we have options. However, it was unclear and the mere threat of sanctions was difficult for us, especially because it was so short notice before the England and Netherlands games, that's when the decision was communicated.

"We didn't have time to react, the federations decided to take responsibility off the players' shoulders and that's why the situation is what it is now.

"I'm sorry we can't be here and take a stand for human rights, apparently."

Midfielder Kimmich largely echoed the sentiment of his coach, expressing shock at Monday's announcement.

He also questioned how much players should be expected to use their platforms to fight for social causes, pointing out that ultimately they are in Qatar to play football.

"Eventually there was a decision of the DFB, a decision supported by everyone: England and all the other teams," Kimmich said.

"Generally speaking, I was quite surprised because a few weeks ago when we discussed the armband, I felt people were criticising it. A lot of people thought it was pointless, a fig leaf, but I think it was a strong stance to take.

"We as players, and the DFB, have addressed the issues and problems. We had a campaign on human rights, and in Nepal we'll work on donations for supporting people. I think we're good at pointing out things around the world that are not going well, but now we concentrate on the football.

"On Qatar being awarded the World Cup, it was 12 years ago, I was 15, now I have to keep making statements.

"We are all very aware. Time and time again we have had the opportunity to point out mistakes and issues in the world, but we have to be honest as well, here we don't learn enough about what's going on in the world because we are busy training, playing games. You [the media] have the opportunity to go out and see.

"I think it's important us as players to take advantage of our platforms to point out wrongs, but we also have to focus on the game regardless of where the World Cup is hosted.

"It's the greatest competition out there for footballers. It's every boy's dream to participate in it. I think a lot of people tried to convince us we shouldn't be looking forward to it, many at home aren't excited, but I should be able to look forward even if it's here."

Germany are not used to World Cup failures and do not intend to reflect on their Russia 2018 experience as they prepare to begin their 2022 campaign against Japan.

Die Mannschaft are four-time world champions and have reached at least the semi-finals at four of the five tournaments since the start of this century – more than any other nation over this period.

But the exception came four years ago as Germany – then the holders – exited in the group stage, losing to Mexico and South Korea.

It was the first time since 1950, when Germany were last absent from the World Cup, that they had failed to progress beyond the first round.

Defender Niklas Sule's only finals appearance to date was in the 2-0 reverse against South Korea, and it is not an experience he is particularly keen to revisit.

"It doesn't matter anymore," he told the media.

"We are in a fast-paced society where there is no time for success and failure. I also explicitly mention the successes. What happened yesterday no longer interests anyone." 

 

Germany, who will be without the injured Leroy Sane, have been drawn into a tough group that includes Spain and Costa Rica as well as Japan, but they rebounded impressively in qualification.

After hosts Qatar, Hansi Flick's side were the first to book their place at the finals, with only England (39) scoring more goals in the European qualifiers (36).

"We have the quality to go far," World Cup debutant Jamal Musiala added. "We go in with the mindset to win the title. We believe in it and are all eager for it to start now."

Opponents Japan have won only one of their last eight World Cup matches, although that sole victory – in their Russia opener against Colombia – was enough to take them through to the round of 16 last time out.

The Samurai Blue have plenty of experience on the global stage, appearing at a seventh straight finals, although they have never advanced to the second round at consecutive editions.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Germany – Jamal Musiala

Thomas Muller has been Germany's main man at recent World Cups, with his 10 goals and six assists in 16 appearances the most of any player since his finals debut in 2010. Only Miroslav Klose (16), Gerd Muller (14) and Jurgen Klinsmann (11) have more World Cup goals for Die Mannschaft.

But Muller may no longer be a guaranteed starter under Flick, with Bayern Munich team-mate Musiala the face of this younger team.

The 19-year-old, who could have instead been playing for England in Qatar, is more than capable of picking up the mantle, having scored nine goals and assisted six more in the Bundesliga this season. His 15 goal involvements are the most of any teenager across Europe's top five leagues.

Japan – Takumi Minamino

Minamino, like Musiala, is in line for his World Cup debut, despite being named in Japan's preliminary squad as long ago as Brazil 2014.

An underwhelming stint at Liverpool slowed the attacker's progress at club level, and he has netted only a single goal for Monaco this season, having been limited to just 333 minutes in Ligue 1 across nine appearances.

However, for Japan, Minamino was the key man in qualification, scoring 10 goals and assisting four – form he will hope to carry into the finals.

PREDICTION

This is the first meeting between Germany and Japan at a World Cup, but Die Mannschaft are unbeaten across their two previous encounters in friendlies – and Stats Perform's prediction model expects them to maintain that record.

In his first game as a head coach at a major tournament, Flick is given a 65.4 per cent chance of leading Germany to victory.

Japan are an outside 14.1 per cent shot, while the draw is rated at 20.5 per cent – a result Germany perhaps cannot afford with Spain still to play. 

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