Yuki Kobayashi isn’t in the Japan squad. But the 22-year-old centre-back is nevertheless in the news today. He’s agreed to leave J-League club Vissel Kobe for Celtic. He’ll join the Scottish champions at the start of December, and will be eligible 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 has not 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.
Subs: 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.
Subs: Kawashima, Yamane, Taniguchi, Shibasaki, Doan, Mitoma, Minamino, Morita, Tomiyasu, Asano, Machino, Ueda, Schmidt, Soma, Hiroki Ito.
Which Germany are going to turn up this time, then? The one that spanked Brazil 7-1 en route to winning the 2014 World Cup? Or the rabble beaten by Mexico and South Korea four years later, in their worst showing at a finals for eight decades? That 3-3 draw with England a couple of months ago doesn’t really answer the question, does it.
Hansi Flick’s men haven’t been firing on all cylinders recently. They shipped that two-goal lead at Wembley, lost at home to Hungary, and only beat Oman 1-0 last week. But they do 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 around in 2014 and know exactly how it’s done.
They’re still sixth-favourites to lift the trophy next month, behind Brazil, England, France, Argentina (yes, still) and Spain. And as the 11th-best side in the world according to the Fifa rankings, they should have enough to deal with Japan, ranked 24 and priced at 475-1 to become champions. But then the same was said about the Koreans four years ago. In any case, the Samurai Blue have plenty Bundesliga quality of their own, including Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Daichi Kamada, Wataru Endo of Stuttgart and defender Maya Yoshida, once of Southampton but now at Schalke, so Die Mannschaft will know they’ll be given a game this afternoon. Kick off is at 1pm GMT, 4pm at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. انه يحدث! It’s on!