Since 1938, Germany have either topped or come second in their group at every single World Cup. But for the first time in 80 years, they are out of the World Cup in the group stages!
And it wasn’t the same as any other team getting knocked out in the first round. Germany had arrived in Russia as defending champions. But for some absurd reason, that seems to be the trend of late. Three of the past four holders have also failed to qualify from the group (France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and in Spain 2014). Germany’s exit makes it four in the last five.
It seems almost unbelievable. Germany had arrived at the 2018 World Cup as one of the firm favourites. They had even won the 2017 Confederations Cup despite fielding a second-string team. Marcos Reus – who missed the 2014 World Cup through injury – was back in the squad this time and they were so full of talent that Leroy Sane hadn’t even made the squad.
But once the tournament began, they looked like a pale shadow of the team that had marched to glory in Brazil four years ago. They lost two of their 3 group games. Having been stunned by Mexico in the opening match, they had just about managed to beat Sweden during the final minutes of the second game.
And now, against a South Korean side that had lost both their previous matches, the Germans looked completely out of sorts. They just couldn’t keep up as the Asians ran rings around them. Joachim Low – Germany’s manager during the glorious 2014 campaign as well – looked clueless on the touchline.
Their defensive frailties were quite obvious with the midfield opening up way too easily. Thomas Muller – with 10 goals from the last 2 World Cups – looked rather subdued this time while Mesut Ozil also failed to make a mark.
Their ever-reliant keeper, Manuel Neuer, wasn’t so assured this time. He had missed 8 months of club football through injury and it showed. Maybe they should’ve gone ahead with Marc-Andre ter Stegen instead.
And now, on the long flight back to Munich, the Germans have some soul searching to do. Having been crowned World Champions four times, they were at least expected to make the semifinals. Now they’ll just get to sit and wonder where it all went wrong.