One new Liverpool signing may just played a role in a manager’s downfall with a starring display that saw him hailed by the media as ‘unbelievable’ and a ‘genius’.
Before long, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp may be subject to an approach from the German national team, with Hansi Flick’s job in peril.
According to Jan Åge Fjørtoft, the DFB ‘dreams’ of appointing Klopp as manager and could even offer him the chance to continue coaching the Reds in conjunction with national team duties, though he’d likely turn down the opportunity.
Flick and Germany suffered a shock group-stage exit at last year’s World Cup, having been expected to sail through alongside Spain after it was drawn against Japan and Costa Rica, and the misery has only continued since.
The Germans have played six matches this year, winning one (a 2-0 victory over Peru back in March), drawing one (a six-goal encounter with Ukraine in June) and losing the other four. A 3-2 defeat to Belgium was conscionable, a 1-0 reverse against Poland and a 2-0 loss to Colombia less so. On Saturday, Japan — such a nuisance to Die Mannschaft in Qatar — inflicted the worst defeat yet, winning 4-1 in Wolfsburg.
This time around, there was nothing tangible riding on the game, but it’s still a result that leaves Flick hanging by a thread, such is the team’s broader direction of travel.
One of the architects of Germany’s, and perhaps Flick’s, downfall on the night was Japan skipper and new Liverpool midfielder Wataru Endō.
Endō was one of the most prominent players for the Samurai Blue, ranking third for both touches (54) and completed passes (35). He would finish with an accuracy of 88 per cent, repeatedly helping Japan escape the German press with his composed and precise distribution, and finding a teammate with three of his five long passes, setting up dangerous wingers Junya Itō and Kaoru Mitoma to attack their full-backs.
Endō was simply everywhere over the course of the game, both contesting (13) and winning (seven) more ground duels than anybody else. He also led his side for total tackles (four), with the most significant a brave challenge on Robin Gosens as the wing-back loaded up a shot in the penalty area.
Endō faced a daunting assignment up against İlkay Gündoğan, now at Barcelona but a legend at Manchester City, where he made more than 300 appearances, won five Premier Leagues, two FA Cups (partly thanks to a double in this year’s final against Manchester United), four Carabao Cups and a Champions League. But, against the odds, it was the Liverpool man that prevailed, dominating his decorated opponent throughout.
Endō prevailed in their physical tussles, bumping Gündoğan to the floor and launching a pass out to Itō before drawing a foul from the Manchester City hero by getting his body between man and ball. Later in the game, after Endō pounced on a loose pass from ex-Liverpool midfielder Emre Can, Gündoğan tried to put him under pressure, but he was able to offload the ball nonetheless. In stark contrast to his opposite number, he would only win two out of five ground duels during the game.