TCM Analysis: Germany v Japan

Japan came from behind to record a historic victory against the four-time World Champions.

Nov 26th 2022

Written by The Coaching Manual


Germany - 1-4-2-3-1

Japan - 1-4-4-1-1


First Half Review

The 2014 World Cup champions Germany came into the World Cup after finishing bottom of their group in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and were looking to bounce back with a lot of changes from that last World Cup squad.

Japan had much better success last tournament, narrowly losing to eventual 3rd place team Belgium 3-2 in the round of 16. 

Germany would start well, with the majority of the possession and would progress through the thirds well until the 18 yard box. They would lack either quality, decision making, or a combination of both in the final third, with the majority of their shots on goal or chances coming from outside of the box.

They had opportunities where they could have made another pass that would have taken them closer into the box, or rebounds from those shots that would go over the crossbar. Germany would play through the defensive and middle thirds well, however Japan would stay compact and narrow which meant it became even more difficult for Germany to create clear-cut opportunities as they got closer to the Japanese goal.

Opportunities came for Germany to take the lead, as Raum (#3) consistently looked to overlap, enabling Musiala (#14) to come inside as a second attacking midfielder or #10. This would often cause problems for Japan as they would struggle to deal with the movement inside, as they would either leave a pass into central areas or a pass out wide where there would be considerably more space for Raum (#3) to drive in towards the goal or to the byline.

In the 28th minute, Raum (#3) would make another overlap found by Gundogan (#21) whose cross towards the front post was cleared by the goalkeeper, creating a clear-cut opportunity for Gundogan (#21) again to finish but his shot hit a wall of Japanese defenders who defended the goal excellently. 


The image above shows the positions Raum (#3) takes up. Germany have a couple of options how they use him in their attacking system of play. They could keep him high and wide to stretch the Japanese back line, which is what France would use against Australia. However, Germany would use him in a different way. He would start deeper, and make a late run to catch out the Japanese defenders, as Musiala (#14) stayed in the width of the 18 yard box in the central channel.

The trigger would be when one of the midfielders got the ball, Raum would make a late run in behind, eventually proving to be successful.

Sule (#15) who is more of a natural centre back, would cover inside with Schlotterbeck (#23), with Rudiger being the deepest, as he is the quickest player to deal with the counter attack. This is another reason why (Raum (#3) would be not as high to start with - in case possession breaks down, he is closer to either press the ball in transition or recover.

Musiala (#14), Havertz (#7) and Muller (#13) who are all more natural #10s would rotate in and out between their positions and rotate who goes in behind and who goes short. This would give them freedom to rotate.


Shortly after the half-hour mark, Germany were awarded a penalty. Japan's shape was very narrow, so Germany switched the play out of pressure from the right-hand side into Kimmich’s feet. Ito, Japan's right midfielder, tracked the run of Raum excellently but Musiala’s position attracted Ito to him, causing him to think that Kimmich would make the pass into Musiala.

Kimmich used that to disguise his pass into Raum, who made the goalkeeper commit and come back inside, which led to the penalty. Gundogan (#21) finished the penalty calmly into the back of the net, putting the Germans 1-0 ahead.

Both Japan and Germany had goals disallowed as the first half was coming to a close, both being ruled out for offside. After conceding Japan responded well, starting to create opportunities on the counter attack and they finished the half well. However, Germany closed the half 1-0 up. 

Coach your players how to create overloads and combinations by watching these two sessions from Gary Mcdemott and Anthony Limbrick. Also, Watch this LMA Masterclass session by Aitor Karnka based on tactical play - which involves some of combination play and attacking overloads. 

Second Half Review

After the half time break, Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu changed formation - and personnel - to include a back 3, changing to a 1-5-4-1 when defending. This was purely to restrict Raum from having space to attack in the wide areas.

This would also allow Japan to get higher up the pitch against Germany’s narrow 1-4-2-3-1 formation and stretch them. Japan would start the second half much more comfortable out of possession, restricting the German left back from getting in behind the Japanese backline. Japan had more success in possession as well by having their wingbacks high and wide to create more opportunities to play forward.

The Japan manager made further changes to make his team more of a threat against the Germans, which proved to be successful. They kept position well and switched play comfortably, due to Germany’s narrow formation struggling to get out to the wing backs.

This is where the equaliser came from. Musiala (#14), Havertz (#7) and Muller (#13) stayed narrow, matching up the Japanese back 3. However, this created an imbalance in Germany’s shape as Gnabry (#10) was defending centrally on the left-hand side, allowing a pass into the Japanese left wing back Mitoma (#9) who received and drove towards the penalty area.

The Japan forward players would make clever runs in behind and as the German defenders engaged Mitoma (#9) he released the ball at the right time for Minamino (#10) to get a quick shot away straight at Neuer (#1) - who would parried the ball straight into the path of Doan (#8) to finish under pressure.

Japan would start to continue this theme and were very good at getting players into the box for moments like the one of which they took advantage for the equaliser. 

Japan would find themselves 2-1 ahead after a long pass up the field towards Asano (#18), who would superbly control the ball using his laces, and get body contact with the defender before finishing past the goalkeeper at the near post.

Japan would then close the game up and go back into their 1-5-4-1 formation, restricting Germany from getting in behind them. Japan would close the half comfortably after a fantastic change in formation and personnel by Japanese manager Hajime Moriyasu. 

Specific Strategy Change of Formation - Japan


The image above shows how Japan dealt with the problems that Germany caused in the 1st half with their left back Raum (#3) making late runs in behind and Musiala (#14) coming inside along with Havertz (#7) and Muller (#13), to create 3 attacking midfielders who would switch between each other's positions.

This created space for Raum (#3) to make runs in behind. The change of formation out of possession became a 1-5-4-1, shown in the image above. This would allow the 4 midfielders to create a wall to restrict any passes into those attacking midfielders in the central channel, as well as providing opportunities for one of the back 3 to step in and be aggressive to win the ball back if the pass does beat that line.

This also enables Japan’s right wing backs to mark Raum (#3), restricting any creativity from him in the second half. Sule (#15) would cover inside with the centre backs, allowing the left wing back to cover inside when needed, or mark the right winger if they drift outside. It also enables him to start higher and counter attack quickly down that side. 


The image above shows how Japan set up when they have the ball. This would move into a 1-3-4-3. When Japan have possession with the centre backs, Germany would match them up, creating gaps in the wide areas for Japan's wing backs to receive the ball and drive into the space, which led to the equalising goal.

This also gives freedom to either drive in with the ball, pass the ball in behind the forward players, or combine with the midfielders and forwards to create overloads, giving them unpredictability when going forward. 

Coach your players how to Attack quickly like Japan did in the second half by watching this session by Alan Irvine. 

Learn more about coaching a 1-3-4-3 below:

Stats of the Game

Credit really goes to Japanese manager Hajime Moriyasu because the change in formation and personnel was integral to Japan’s 2-1 win over Germany. In the equalising goal, 4/5 of the substitutes were involved in the goal.

Tomiyassu (#16) passed into Mitoma (#9) who passed into Minamino (#10) whose finish was rebounded to Doan (#8), who would equalise for Japan. The final goal was scored from a fantastic piece of individual technique from the final substitution Asano (#18), who controlled the ball from the air and held off the defender to finish at the near post and win the game for Japan.  

Next Game 

Japan will look to continue their winning ways against Costa Rica, who recently lost to other group opponents Spain 7-0. 

Germany look to bounce back in an important match against Spain in their second group match. 

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