World: World Cup
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(1 - 0)
İ. Gündoğan (33)
R. Doan (75), T. Asano (83)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

German players and pundits deliver unsparing criticism following loss to Japan

Initial reactions from German national team actors and the punditry team working for German public broadcaster ARD were sharp and unsparing following the 1-2 loss to Japan in Wednesday's World Cup opener. 
German public broadcaster ARD carried the German national team's initial group stage match against Japan on Wednesday. The Bundesrepublik's premier television station accordingly held the first rights of access to the disappointed players as they reflected upon their second consecutive loss in an opening World Cup group stage match.

Goal-scorer Ilkay Gündogan was the first to speak to the ARD microphones. Reflecting upon the defensive breakdown that enabled VfL Bochum's Takuma Asano to score the 2-1 in the 83rd minute, the Man City professional griped that "there may not have been an easier goal ever scored at a World Cup."

Gündogan also conceded that the team, despite lording over some 74 percent possession, "lacked conviction playing out of the back". The 32-year-old criticized the entire squad for its offensive performance, noting that "not enough of us wanted the ball".

A dejected looking Manuel Neuer was the next to speak to the ARD interview team. The dejected squad captain lamented the "many missed opportunities" that could have allowed the DFB-XI to build upon their 1-0 halftime lead.

Neuer noted that the two late goals stemmed from a "lack of composure at the back" and, in the same vein as Gündogan, admitted that the German build up play simply wasn't good enough. From Neuer's vantage point, "the balls out of the back were poor".

Thomas Müller, who did play an important role in the sequence that enabled Germany to take a 1-0 lead via a penalty in the 33rd, spoke of "shock" at what occurred after he was subbed off. Müller then said that the team "lacked efficiency on both sides of the ball."

Bundestrainer Hansi Flick briefly joined the ARD team at the studio desk. The Nationalmannschaft gaffer spoke of "individual mistakes that must not happen" when asked to explain the two late goals.

Standing right beside him, German 2014 World Cup winner specifically called out Niklas Süle for not being attentive to his defensive duties on Asano's goal. A stolid-faced Flick blankly stared ahead and offered no disagreement.

Schweinsteiger was by far the most unrelenting critic among the ARD punditry team. The former FC Bayern München star had strong words for Leon Goretzka's coverage on Ritsu Doan's equalizer. Schweine, with Flick by his side, questioned whether the current FCB midfielder should have either started or had a clearer role as a sub.

Back in the ARD main studio, the punditry team of Thomas Hitzlsperger, Sami Khedira, and German women's national team goalkeeper Almuth Schult questioned Flick's substitutions. Goretzka and Jonas Hofmann entered as like-for-likes in the 67th as Flick declined to adapt to Japanese trainer Hajime Moriyasu's 3-4-3 reformat. Niclas Füllkrug, Mario Götze, and Youssoufa Moukoko came on too late to make a difference.

Khedira and Hitzlsperger called out Süle and Goretzka for the poor marking on the goals. Khedira also noted that he felt the overall defending was too zonal and opined that the build-up play lacked urgency and pressure. Schult essentially concurred, while also emphasizing that the many missed chances from the likes of Gündogan, Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala could have left the team discussing a very different result.

No one involved in the broadcast came close to cracking anything resembling a smile. ARD opted to play melancholic music over a replay montage recapping the match. Schweinsteiger closed the analysis section by expressing stark skepticism that the team could hope to defeat Spain on Sunday in its current form.

The general mood in the Bundresrepublik - in which virtually no German flags hang from the windows, adorn cars, or can be found on the streets this year - is understandably quite somber. Domestic interest in the tournament may very well continue to decline.

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