No stars, no controversies, little media noise, but an unrivaled sense of rhythm and collective sacrifice: Japan, who beat Germany this Wednesday (2-1), proved once again that they alone embodied a very enjoyable idea of football.
This Wednesday, the tone was first set in the first quarter of an hour. You should have seen Daichi Kamada and Daizen Maeda, the two Japanese strikers, lead the charge of their men with the sword, with the unshakable conviction that the feat was there, very close, within reach of a small footballing nation that wants to think in big. Admittedly, Japan have never been able to go further than in the round of 16 of the World Cup. But he has been looking beyond that for a long time. Beyond the razor-sharp and restrictive prism of the result, beyond his individual limits, beyond the adversary, to whom he never quite adapts. The idea remains the same: to play football, his own, which is really worth watching and enjoying.
The meaning of the party
This football is first of all this all-terrain pressing, where the team block moves as a single man to stifle the opponent’s recovery, even if it means pushing Neuer and Rüdiger to sometimes abuse the long game. After the first 15 minutes, the guys in blue had to take German technical and individual superiority, soon rewarded with a penalty converted by Gündoğan. Just the first blood of a duel that will turn out to be epic. On the hour mark, Japan were able to find canes, in the wake of Junya Ito, who repeatedly made Raum suffer on the right side, but above all thanks to his imponderable collective virtues. In this respect, coach Hajime Moriyasu’s changes proved to be particularly judicious: entering the break, Tomiyasu was able to better balance defensively the Samurai Bluewhen Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano restored momentum and explosiveness on the wings to a formation which, via the sides, made the art of avoidance and doubling its specialty.
Japanese mobility will have, in fact, terribly hampered the rearguard of the Mannschaftlike the second pawn of the Samurai Blue, where Asano dropped Schlotterbeck far behind him, before exploding Neuer’s net with panache, with a closed side shot. It is precisely this panache that sets Japan apart in the modern football landscape. Here, catching greatness is entirely a collective exercise, never a matter of individual achievement, and this, perhaps much more than for any other selection. A synergy, an alchemy of bodies, calls, races, a rhythm that we force ourselves to play together, to beat the one who is naturally stronger, taller, more gifted than is. The first Japanese pawn, marked by another substitute, Ritsu Doan, thus rewarded an exemplary collective action initiated by Mitoma, who also came into play a few minutes earlier. The mark of a formation where the art and the way of playing well are not limited to the eleven type, but seem to imprint the minds of all the players who compose it. The party got off to a great start. So let it continue against Costa Rica on November 27th.
By Adrien Candeau