by Oliver Trust
BERLIN, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- It was an unpleasant trip in complete silence for the German team back to the team's hotel in the north of Qatar.
Every one of the 110 kilometers seemed endlessly long as the 2014 world champions found themselves in a state of shock after the 2-1 defeat against Japan in their 2022 FIFA World Cup opener in Doha.
It might be a curious side effect that two Japanese players employed by German first-tier clubs scored the winning goals: Ritsu Doan of Freiburg and Takuma Asano of Bochum.
Bad memories might have popped up regarding the 2018 tournament in Russia when an early exit in the group followed a 1-0 defeat in the first game against Mexico.
Currently, there seem not many reasons creating optimism to turn things around this time as Germany is facing Spain, the group's assumedly strongest competitors, on Sunday in a game that already has turned into a final.
Statistics might have hit the mind of coach Hansi Flick as Germany only won one of the last seven encounters against Spain.
Against Japan, Germany's weaknesses in a smashing way came to light as the team lacked efficiency upfront and in the wavering back-line.
Not to have an efficient striker constantly scoring goals, a convincing number nine, and a struggling defense seems to turn into a too-heavy burden.
"We need a different game approach against Spain and we will as Spain is a different team playing other football," Flick stated. The German coach admitted: "We are brutally disappointed as we made mistakes you can't make at a World Cup."
The team and coach seem to feel the pressure emerging considering the second group game. "Today we didn't have the final will to cross the finish line," goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said. "We allowed Japan to come back to life as we lacked dynamic and determination."
Ruling the game over 60 minutes, Germany didn't find answers after Japan changed its tactics and increased attacks. Flick's team gambled away a 1-0 lead and spoiled several chances.
Not turning a lead into a final victory has accompanied the German team over the past months. An exaggerated self-reflection seems an additional problem.
"It's time to show character now. The situation we are in due to our performance is a challenge. The story is: when you are not effective enough you don't get anywhere," Bayern striker Thomas Muller said before admitting: "I am shocked at present."
Flick's tactics to mainly count on a back-row of three with Leipzig defender David Raum as an additional player covering the left flank failed as Japan used the spaces behind. Experienced forces such as Niklas Sule, Antonio Rudiger, and Nico Schlotterbeck couldn't create stability.
Mistakes of Sule and Schlotterbeck allowed Japan to take the lead after German had lost control in midfield after the substitution of Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.
"We have to use the three days ahead to develop a better mood and speak about the things we inevitably have to improve. We will do a lot of talking," Flick said trying to spread optimism "as we know what quality is in our team."
The German coach spoke about six points "that are still at stake and it's on us to do the job."