Germany beaten 4-1 by Japan in friendly deepens crisis for Euro 2024 hosts | Soccer

Germany collapsed in the face of a shock 4-1 home defeat against Japan in their friendly on Saturday, deepening the sense of crisis hanging over the Euro 2024 hosts. Late goals from Takuma Asano and Ao Tanaka completed an embarrassing final scoreline for the hosts at Wolfsburg. It was the team’s third consecutive loss and fourth in five matches, with less than nine months to go before the tournament began.

Junya Ito silenced the home crowd in the 11th minute, firing a low cross to the far post. The hosts quickly bounced back, equalizing in the 19th minute following a superb pass and left-footed finish from Leroy Sané.

Head coach Hansi Flick’s relief was short-lived as the visitors struck again three minutes later. Feyenoord striker Ayase Ueda swung past German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen after a neat move down the right wing.

Ter Stegen denied Japan another goal when Ueda took advantage of a defensive error a little later to charge, but his shot was saved. Japan had two more quick chances in a row two minutes after the restart, but Ter Stegen kept Germany in the game.

The Barcelona goalkeeper was called up in the 70th minute, first fending off Asano’s close-range shot and then stopping Kaoru Mitoma’s rebound as all the pressure and chances went in the visitors’ direction.

Asano made amends in the 90th minute, sealing a repeat of his win over Germany in the 2022 World Cup. Tanaka then headed home a fourth in injury time as the boos and whistles rained down from the stands.

Ao Tanaka celebrates after heading in Japan's fourth goal
Ao Tanaka (right) celebrates after heading Japan’s fourth goal against Germany in Wolfsburg. Photo: Christina Pahnke/sampics/Getty Images

“We have to be honest and say Japan was better. They let the ball run, they played in the right spaces, scored their goals. They were better,” said German captain Ilkay Gündogan. “We made too many individual errors.

“We have to admit that we are just not on the same level with teams like today. We’re just not good enough at the moment. It is reality. Maybe we even think we are better than we are.

The four-time world champions have now won just four of their last 17 international matches, and Flick’s future is in serious doubt. The team badly needs a positive result in their next friendly against World Cup runners-up France on Tuesday in Dortmund.

Bardhi spoils Spalletti’s victory in Italy

Enis Bardhi’s superb free-kick canceled out Ciro Immobile’s header as North Macedonia earned an unlikely draw in their Euro 2024 qualifier on Saturday, spoiling Luciano Spalletti’s debut as a Italy coach.

THE Azzurri dominated the match in Skopje and Immobile scored with a drop header just after the break, following Nicolò Barella who had touched the bar from distance. But midfielder Bardhi thrilled the home crowd when he equalized with a free kick just outside the box that flew into the top right corner in the 81st minute.

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Enis Bardhi celebrates after equalizing for North Macedonia with a free kick
Enis Bardhi celebrates after equalizing for North Macedonia with a free kick. Photography: Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse/Shutterstock

Italy remains third in Group C, tied on four points with fourth-placed North Macedonia, but with a game in hand. The Euro 2020 winners are also two games ahead of group leaders England, who are nine points ahead. Italy will host Ukraine (second with seven points) at San Siro on Tuesday in a crucial match between two teams who have yet to meet.

In group F, Belgium won a narrow 1-0 victory in Azerbaijan to go to the top. Yannick Carrasco’s shot deflected off Johan Bakayoko in the 38th minute, wrong-footing the keeper for what proved to be the winner in Baku after Leandro Trossard hit the post early on.

Sweden continued their recent impressive form with a 5-0 win against Estonia in Tallinn. Five different scorers were on target for the visitors, with Viktor Gyökeres scoring the first goal before Dejan Kulusevski added a second and Alexander Isak headed home to make it 3-0 at the break.

Emil Forsberg was denied by a Karl Hein save in the second half, but substitute Robin Quaison headed home four points. Viktor Claesson added the fifth with another header. The winners reduced the gap with Austria, who they face on Tuesday, to four points, the same gap as that of Sweden. Belgium.

Alexander Isak scores Sweden's third goal in Tallinn.
Alexander Isak scores Sweden’s third goal in Tallinn. Photograph: Sergei Grits/AP

The leaders of Group I, Swisswere twice pegged back by Vedat Muriqi’s goals in a 2-2 draw in Kosovo. The Mallorca striker canceled out Remo Freuler’s first-half volley in the 65th minute in Pristina, only for an Amin Rrahmani own goal to restore the Swiss lead 14 minutes later.

However, the hosts were not denied and Muriqi scored in stoppage time to deny Switzerland all three points. Second Romania were unable to take advantage as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Israelwith Oscar Gloukh equalizing in the second half in Bucharest to boost the visitors’ hopes of qualification.

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