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Germany 1-2 Japan: Niklas Sule at right-back was ‘a mistake’ in World Cup defeat, says Holger Badstuber


Former Germany defender Holger Badstuber has hit out at Hansi Flick for playing Niklas Sule at right-back during their shock 2-1 defeat to Japan in his latest Eurosport Germany column.

Sule, who traditionally plays as a centre back, was the key Germany player at fault for Japan’s winning goal scored by Takuma Asano in the 83rd minute.

The Borussia Dortmund defender kept the Bochum winger onside before he slotted his finish beyond Manuel Neuer to steer Japan to a surprise win over the 2014 champions.

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Badstuber, who has 31 caps for Germany between 2010 and 2015, has criticised Flick’s decision to play Sule at right-back.

“Putting Niklas Sule on as a right-back was a mistake,” he told Eurosport.

“He can play that, but he is a central defender. He also wants to play inside, you can see that. He feels most comfortable in the centre of defence, that’s where he works best.

“At a World Cup, players should play where they regularly play at a high level for their club.

“When the decisive goal was conceded, Sule overturned the offside and thus started the chain of errors: Asano had a two-metre lead on Nico Schlotterbeck, who in turn relied too much on Manuel Neuer at the end when the angle to the goal became increasingly impossible.

“Such individual mistakes are deadly at this level. Here they led to a deserved defeat.”

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Badstuber was also critical Germany’s defensive display in general and did not feel there was enough cohesion along the backline.

The former Bayern Munich and Stuttgart defender added: “In view of the defensive performance against Japan, I am rather sceptical anyway. The defence, the entire defensive behaviour, the aggressiveness, everything was too weak. The defensive shape is not well rehearsed, the players don’t behave cleverly enough, there is a lack of unity and communication.

“I don’t feel any solidarity on the pitch. You can only win a World Cup title with a strong defence.

“The huge holes that existed at the back create spaces for every opponent. The greater the quality, the better they exploit it. Japan exploited it well and punished it. Especially in the second half, when Japan changed the system and became bolder, the glaring deficiencies became visible.

“Japan is peppered with Bundesliga players and is on the whole at an appealing level. Then they went all out, exerted more pressure with the ball and against the ball and thus created a scoring threat. Germany allowed that to happen. That is negligent – and a pity.”

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Badstuber believes that despite the surprise defeat, Germany still have enough quality in the squad to get through the group stage with a tough game against Spain coming up next on Sunday.

He said: “The German national team must pick itself up quickly. Spain must be fought passionately. The footballing class is still there, the only thing that matters now is the basis of football, the basic virtues.

“Everyone has to be there for each other, not be afraid to go that extra metre, maybe even commit tactical fouls to disrupt the flow of the Spanish game. Another possibility would be to play on the counter-attack. There is enough speed on the attack.

“Whether it’s played with a three-man or a four-man backline doesn’t matter at all. It’s not about the system.

“Hansi Flick is a very experienced coach. I trust him to make an impact with a few changes.”

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To celebrate the 2022 World Cup, we have launched our new bracket game, where you can give your predictions, challenge friends and create mini-leagues.

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