Germany, Japan’s opponent in their first match, is one of the strongest teams in this year’s tournament, and as of January 19, they are ranked 6th in the odds to win the tournament at betting sites such as betway in the U.K. and tipico, a major betting site in Germany. They are not the favorites to win the tournament, but they are considered to be a strong contender for the quarterfinals.
In retrospect, Germany’s last two tournaments have been a match made in heaven and hell, with their first win since 1990 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, followed by a 1-2 finish at the World Cup in Russia, where they were eliminated from the first round. The team was in tears.
63 players were selected for the World Cup two years ago.
It is well known among soccer fans that Germany, Japan’s opponent in the World Cup, has its own dedicated analysis team, “Team Cologne. This is a joint project started in 2006 by the German national team and the Cologne University of Sport, which was formed two years before the European Championships and the World Cup, respectively, and will be active until the competitions are over. Team Cologne, which has been preparing for the World Cup in Qatar, consists of 63 members who were selected through a test process, including three Japanese. We interviewed one of the three, Kenta Yoshida.
Yoshida, who was born in 1996, is a certified physical education teacher at Saitama Prefectural University. However, seeking a path to become a soccer coach, which he has played since childhood, he studied at the Cologne University of Physical Education, the home of the sport, and is currently enrolled in its graduate school while also serving as an analyst for Victoria Cologne, a team in Germany’s third division.
According to Yoshida, the 63 participants will be divided into six groups. Each group is assigned five or six countries to analyze, and within each group, team analysis, individual analysis, and set play analysis are assigned to each person.
In Mr. Yoshida’s case, he was assigned to analyze individual players.
I analyzed De Bruyne and Witsel of Belgium and Cancelo of Portugal from around July this year,” he said. At the Tokyo Olympics, I experienced a sense of indigestion because most of the players I was assigned to analyze did not participate in the games.
Incidentally, the other two Japanese members of the team, besides Mr. Yoshida, ended up being in charge of analyzing Japan. Mr. Yoshida himself is divided, saying, “I have a feeling of rooting for Japan, but this time I tried to do my best for Germany. Regrettably, the public sees the Japanese team as a natural opponent for the German team to win against.
As for the analysis itself, he analyzes the play mainly through Wyscout, a dedicated website used by scouts and analysts, and video footage. The team analyzes each play, including dribbling, shooting, and crossing, based on the criteria established by Team Cologne, not through data analysis, but rather through Yoshida’s subjective view of the play. He does not analyze very old footage, but only looks at the last few months and a few national team games. This is true not only for player analysis, but also for coach analysis, and even if Hajime Moriyasu were to be the subject of analysis, he would not look back to his coaching days.
Also, what is required of Team Cologne is not just data analysis, but the analyst’s viewpoint. These days, players wear GPS measuring devices in games and practices, and numbers such as the number of touches, running distance, and “one-on-one win percentage,” which has become well known since Wataru Endo became the number one player in Germany for the year, are tracked There is no need to eyeball the data as it comes out. This kind of digitally and almost automatically collected data is analyzed not by Team Cologne, but by the expert staff of the German national team.
Therefore, what is required of the analyst is what cannot be read from simple data.
It is quite subjective. I will tell them that this kind of play is common or effective.
While comparing the results to the standards set by Team Cologne, they compile a kind of analog analysis.
The results of Yoshida and his team’s analysis are then compiled together with the analyzed data and video, and put into a format that can be viewed on a smartphone or other device whenever desired. The video, data, and the analyst’s findings are sometimes used in meetings, and sometimes the players view them themselves.
The German national team does not consider Japan “an easy opponent to beat.
Although they are analysts, they are originally students at the Cologne University of Physical Education and Graduate School. Even though they are specialists in exercise, they are not specialists in analysis itself. For this reason, Mr. Yoshida and the others who have become analysts have attended lectures and submitted assignments about once a month for about 15 sessions (that is, 15 months in a row) to learn about analysis, and then they have begun actual analysis. One of the features of Team Cologne is to provide these special educational opportunities to selected outstanding students. In fact, as a member of Team Cologne, Yoshida-san has been offered a position as an analyst for the top team of Victoria Cologne, a third-division team.
Now that he has an analytical job in Germany, how does Yoshida think Japan should play its first World Cup game against Germany?
I think Japan will be in possession of the ball for a long time, so it will be important for the team to have a common awareness of where and how to go for the ball and how to press the ball.
I think Germany will build up by connecting the ball from behind, so if we can press from the front as much as possible, taking into account the time of day and the situation, and put pressure on the opponent from a high position, there is no doubt that Germany will make some mistakes. After winning the ball, if we can make clever decisions on whether to attack quickly or play ball possession, I think we can expect to see the game develop to Japan’s advantage.
In particular, I have the impression that Germany is a little thin on the right side, with Klosterman, who is coming off an injury, Hoffman, who usually plays an attacking position, and Zülle, whose main job is center back, all likely to play there.
Does Japan have a chance to win?
The World Cup is a one-shot tournament, so to speak, and there are no easy games for any nation. Soccer starts with a 0-0 score, so of course Japan has a good chance to win.
However, listening to interviews with coach Flick and goalkeeper Neuer, I get the impression that the German national team does not feel that Japan is an easy opponent to beat. They have already experienced frustration in the last tournament and in Russia, so I don’t think they are thinking that they will peak for the second match against Spain.
Germany, including our analysis team, is preparing well for the match against Japan, so I think we should be prepared to play Germany at 100% (laughs).
Who do you think will be the key players for Japan and Germany?
The key player for Germany is Fürkrug, who has been selected for the first time. I have the impression that a “striker” has emerged in the center forward position, which is a problem for Germany. He has scored 10 goals in the Bundesliga this season and also scored against Oman the other day. I think he is a player that Japan would not like because of his hunger for goals and his fearlessness in the penalty area.
There are many players in Japan, but if I had to pick one, I would say Wataru Endo. I am worried about the effects of concussion, but he has played in the Bundesliga and understands the characteristics of many players, especially against Germany, so I think that will be an advantage.
And of course the ‘one-on-one winning percentage’ that he is valued for in Germany, but I personally think his off-the-ball movement is very good. When defending, he stands in positions that his opponents don’t want to be in, and when offensively, he takes up positions where he wants his teammates to be. There are many players with excellent individual skills in Japan’s front line, so I think that Endo will make the most of them, which will make Japan scary.”
Team Cologne has the overwhelming manpower to analyze each country with 63 people like Mr. Yoshida, who calmly chose his words, and a system to nurture future professional analysts and leaders at every World Cup and European Championship. This is one of the secrets of the German national team’s strength, no doubt.
Interview and text by： Miko Ryokai
Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1975. Started covering soccer in 2001, and became a writer in 2003 when she covered the World Youth Cup (now the U-20 World Cup) in the UAE. Currently resides in Düsseldorf, Germany, where he has lived since March 11, 2011.