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World Cup 2022 newsletter: How did Germany lose to Japan; why USMNT need to start Gio Reyna vs. England

You wanted more World Cup upsets? You got it. I’m Roger Gonzalez and welcome to the Thanksgiving Eve edition of the Golazo Starting XI newsletter. There’s much to get to today, including Japan’s stunning win over Germany and a big decision for US coach Gregg Berhalter.

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⚽ The forward line

How did Germany lose?

A day after Argentina were somehow beaten by massive underdogs Saudi Arabia, four-time champions Germany joined the club in Qatar. The Germans laid an egg in 2018 and this time around with Hansi Flick, they were viewed as one of the potential title favourites. Much like the Argentines, the Germans conceded two second-half goals to lose 2-1. The two goals for the Japanese came in the final 15 minutes in what was an epic, unforeseen comeback.

So how did Germany let this one get away?

There were a lot of mistakes made by the Germans in this one. Questionable decisions and poor defending were the difference in this one, and now the mighty Germans could be one bad result away from heading home. Super subs Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano each scored in a nine-minute span to give the Japanese their greatest-ever World Cup victory.

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Our buddy Jimmy Conrad pointed out, Flick’s team selection proved to be horrendous. It all starts with understanding that Japan has pace, and countering that with players who can move is a must. The decision to start Niklas Sule, a really slow player, at right back will haunt Flick. He’s got the velocity of Razor scooter being used by a four-year-old, and he was clearly partially at fault on both of the goals that Germany allowed.

So what else did he do wrong?

  • The back line did not keep shape. If you are watching on TV, you want your defense to be in an organized vertical line pretty much at all times in order to have an advantage when it comes to catching the other team offside. That’s how the Saudis pulled off their win over the Argentines.
  • On that first goal, he was at the corner of the box, which is understandable considering he was at right back. But then, what happened next? Sule got twisted like a pretzel and didn’t get enough pressure, resulting in a free shot that was saved by Manuel Neuer. A loose ball falls into the heart of the box, and it’s put away by the underdogs. Just too easy. He needs to get inside and push that attacker wide, knowing a cross is a less dangerous opportunity to deal with.
  • On the second goal, he was so deep and did not offer any cover, moving away from the ball instead of trying to double-team the attacker. He didn’t have anybody else to worry about, so why not approach the ball?
  • There was another instance where Japan was played through over the top, and the only reason why the play was allowed to take place was because Sule was five yards behind the rest of the defenseplaying the runner on.

He’s got to be benched, and Lukas Klostermann needs to take his place if healthy. If not, you are better off playing nobody there. Probably won’t tell the difference between that and Sule.

On a positive note, it’s not that the German attack were all that poorly — they did have the chances needed to win. Germany finished with 26 shots, 14 more than Japan, with nine on goal, and they had 74% possession. But as so often happens in this sport, it boils down to the most efficient team in front of the goal, the one who can take their golden chances. On this day, it was Samurai Blue who shocked the world.

🔗 Midfield Link Play

Reyna needs to start for USMNT vs. England

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The biggest question coming out of the United States’ 1-1 draw against Wales (other than, why in the heck did Walker Zimmerman tackle Gareth Bale like that?) was where in the world was Gio Reyna? The most talented player on the team did not feature at all, riding the bench for the 90 minutes. Look, he seemed like a logical player to put in, knowing his creativity and ability to run at goal could have led to a couple of decent chances in the second half. The US attack was pretty awful outside of the first 30 minutes or so. Gregg Berhalter said after the game that the team did a check on him due to muscle soreness, with the player saying that he is 100%. Berhalter added that he will be available for England, and he needs to be. He is a must-start against the Three Lions.

The United States, despite a strong first half and 59% possession, only recorded one shot on target in the entire match. That is simply not good enough. Reyna, on the other hand, already has as many goals this season for Borussia Dortmund (two), as he did all of last season for the German club.

The US cannot play 45 minutes against a title contender, and they need somebody who can offer a bit of individual brilliance to turn a game. Reyna will be extra motivated facing his birth nation — he was born in Sunderland — and he seems like a logical choice to replace somebody like Weston McKennie or Yunus Musah as a substitute. It remains to be seen if Berhalter will tinker with the attacking trio of Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent and Tim Weah, but after scoring just one goal, he may need to. My call would be to get Reyna in ahead of Weah for about an hour. You cannot exchange him for Pulisic, and the US really needs forward. Or could Berhalter mix things up and go with a false nine? Can’t see him doing that.

In the end, the pressure is on after failing to beat Wales. Getting a point from the England game would be huge, and the US need their most talented player to have a shot.

Listen below and follow In Soccer We Trust: A CBS Sports Soccer Podcast where your three favorite former USMNT players cover everything you could possibly want to know about the United States men’s national team during the World Cup in Qatar.

Let’s get to some links:

💰 The Back Lines

Best bets

Let’s pick some World Cup matches!

All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

  • Uruguay vs. South Korea, Thursday, 8 a.m. ET
    💰 THE PICK: Both teams to score (+115). Uruguay’s defense is aging and South Korea star Heung-min Son can exploit them. I have no concern about Uruguay scoring with all of their attacking talent, but this isn’t the same defense that dominated over a decade ago. The South Americans allowed on average over a goal per game in World Cup qualifying, including 11 in a four-game stretch last year.
  • Brazil vs. Serbia, Thursday, 2 p.m. ET
    💰 THE PICK: Brazil -1.5 (+130). The Brazilians are the most talented team at the tournament and I can’t see a way they don’t score three against Serbia. Because of that, I’ll like the value here of having them win by two goals with Neymar leading the charge. Serbia has talent in attack, but Brazil should be able to control the ball and dictate the game.

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