Celtic’s World Cup players: Maeda tires out Germany but Juranovic and Mooy struggle


A win, a draw and a loss for the World Cup bhoys.

Celtic’s four representatives experienced the full spectrum of outcomes in their nations’ opening matches in Qatar.

Cameron Carter-Vickers was an unused substitute for the US against Wales on Monday but Daizen Maeda, Josip Juranovic and Aaron Mooy started for Japan, Croatia and Australia respectively.

Japan, who shocked four-time World Cup winners Germany with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory on Wednesday, have looked like one of the more tactically coherent sides in the first round of matches so far and their game plan almost led to an early goal for Maeda.

They defended in a narrow 4-2-3-1 shape, with Maeda as the centre-forward, which became a compact 4-4-2 when Germany had sustained possession, and attempted to force the ball into central areas before winning turnovers and counter-attacking at speed.

In the eighth minute, Ilkay Gundogan lost the ball in midfield and Japan surged forward.

The ball was fed to right winger Junya Ito and Maeda outpaced the German central defence with a run from the halfway line into the penalty area.

However, he was clearly offside and his ‘goal’ was instantly ruled out. Maeda’s over-eager run meant VAR wasn’t even needed to spot the infringement.

Germany went on to dominate the first half.

They had 78 per cent possession and 16 attempts on goal to a single effort by Japan — a difficult header skewed wide by Maeda just before half-time. Germany’s 422 completed passes were a new record for a first half at the World Cup since detailed data collection began in 1966 — although that was surpassed by Spain (537) a couple of hours later as they thrashed Costa Rica 7-0.

Changes by Japan’s manager, Hajime Moriyasu, to the formation and personnel in the second half turned the game around.

Maeda was withdrawn after 56 minutes. having helped tire the German back line with his pressing and frequent runs into space. 

The quality of Japan’s substitutes helps explain the absence of his Celtic colleagues Kyogo Furuhashi and Reo Hatate from Moriyas’s 26-man squad. Two of the subs scored the goals as Japan grabbed a shock win.


In this game, Japan had the second-lowest possession figure for a match in World Cup finals history. They face Costa Rica next and will expect to have much more of the ball there.  This could mean that Maeda drops to the bench and he may prove to be another useful game-changer for Moriyasu. 

He’s only missed one Celtic match across all competitions this season, making 22 appearances so far. However, he’s played more than 45 minutes in just 10 of those games. Maeda is used to being expected to make a quick impact.

Meanwhile, Juranovic failed to make any real impact for Croatia as they played out a drab goalless draw with Morocco. Croatia dominated the ball, having 65 per cent of the possession, but created just 0.52 expected goals (xG). 

Juranovic was positioned very wide in possession as Luka Modric dropped between the central defenders to act as a playmaker. There was none of the inversion or moves into central areas Ange Postecoglou requires of his full-backs at Celtic.

Juranovic played the full 90 minutes but only completed two passes into the final third and attempted the same number of crosses, neither of which resulted in an attempt at goal.

His most dangerous moment was a crossing opportunity which only came as a result of Morocco being temporarily reduced to 10 men. Left-back Noussair Mazraoui was off the pitch injured, so Juranovic spotted the opportunity to make a run into the vacated space.

Modric, under little pressure in deep midfield, played a perfect lofted pass to his onrushing right-back…

…but Juranovic’s control was heavy and his attacking team-mates were also behind him, failing to present quick crossing options against a disrupted defence.

Ending up squeezed tight to the byline, Juranovic chipped a slow delivery to the far post that was cleared easily.

On Sunday, Croatia face Canada, who impressed despite losing to Belgium later on Wednesday.

Juranovic is likely to have Bayen Munich’s Alphonso Davies as an opponent on his flank. He could have more involvement in this middle group match as a result and will need to show more quality at both ends of the pitch for his nation to progress.

Celtic summer signing Aaron Mooy won his 54th cap in Australia’s 4-1 loss to France on Tuesday in Group D. 

Playing as the deepest midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation, Mooy started the game reasonably well.

He was nicely positioned to cut out crosses in the penalty area on two occasions as France probed down the left wing. In possession, France striker Olivier Giroud grew visibly frustrated with his team-mates as Mooy escaped his man and was able to play good medium-distance forward passes between the lines in central areas. 

Craig Goodwin scored in the ninth minute, which shocked the World Cup holders into action; from then on, the match became more difficult for Mooy. 

France left-back Lucas Hernandez was injured in the passage of play leading to Australia’s goal and had to go off, with his brother Theo, a more attacking player, replacing him. This meant that Kylian Mbappe drifted inwards from the left and into the space behind Mooy. In addition, midfielders Adrien Rabiot and Antoine Griezmann had free roles, constantly moving around and interchanging their positions. 

Mooy played a very passive role.

He occupied space in front of the Australian back four but rarely disrupted the French play, as the pass network below shows.

France ended this game with their highest single-match xG number on record at a World Cup.

The odds were stacked against him but Mooy was ineffective against their movement and passing. In addition, his controlled style on the ball made sense in the early stages but once Australia were losing, often lacked the required urgency. 

Australia now face Tunisia on Saturday before a final group match against Denmark (those teams drew 0-0 earlier on Tuesday) on Wednesday, and the positive for Mooy and company is that second place in Group D still looks wide open at this point.

In fact, despite the mixed start on an individual basis, all four of Celtic’s representatives at this World Cup are still well-positioned to progress to the knockout stages.

The other plus point for Celtic fans? No injuries to report thus far.


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