“Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” – Gary Linekar
Well, it wasn’t the case this time as Germany was knocked out following the defeat from South Korea in one of World Cup history’s biggest upset. This is the first time since 1938 that Germany has been eliminated from the opening stage. Their performance was nothing short of a horror show.
The four-time World Champions were drawn with Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea in Group F. They were expected to top their group and win all three of their fixtures. But to everyone’s surprise, they finished bottom of the group losing to Mexico and South Korea. They only managed to beat Sweden, thanks to Toni Kroos’s brilliant strike in extra time. Germany scored only two goals in the tournament – both of which came against Sweden while they conceded four.
Let’s take a look at some key factors which gave rise to Germany’s elimination from the World Cup.
Defending Champions Curse:
There are many reasons for Germany crashing out of the World Cup. One of them being the defending champions curse. Yes, coming into a World Cup as defending champion can be a disadvantage. Germany became the fourth World Champions out of last five to go out of group stages.
Spain (2014), Italy (2010), France (2002) came into the World Cup as defending champions but were unsuccessful in qualifying for the knockout stages. Germany suffered the same fate and headed home early after a dreadful campaign.
Joachim Löw – A Tactical Disaster class vs Mexico:
Joachim Löw was tactically outdone by Osario in their first game against Mexico. Germany played a high defensive line and pushed more players forward. Fullbacks were playing high up on the pitch. Midfielders Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos failed to provide any protection to the central defenders and left them exposed.
Thus, allowing Mexico to hit on the counter every now and then, finally leading to Hirving Lozano’s goal which saw him one on one against Ozil who was covering the space left open by the absent Joshua Kimmich. Had Mexico been more clinical, they would’ve easily scored more goals.
Mats Hummels after the game said:
“If 7 or 8 players attack, then it’s clear the offensive force is greater than the defensive stability. Our cover wasn’t good, too often it was just Jerome and I at the back”
This game set up the tone for what turned out to be a disastrous World Cup for Germany.
Late Winner vs Sweden:
Germany dropped Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira for this all-important match. Mats Hummels was also replaced by Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger after hurting his neck to partner Jerome Boateng in Central Defence. Sweden leads 1-0 at halftime. Marco Reus equalized early in the Second half.
Jerome Boateng was given a second yellow card in the 82nd minute. Germany was reduced to 10 men at this extremely crucial stage. Kroos scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner to make up for his earlier misplaced pass which leads to Sweden’s goalkeeping Germany’s hopes alive to make it to the next round.
Upset vs South Korea:
Germany needed a win to make it to the next round. South Korea defended well and stopped Germany from scoring. Germany created some chances late in the game but none of them were converted which included Mats Hummels’ missed free header in the 87th minute. South Korea scored twice in the extra time to complete an upset against the mighty Germans. They completely deserved their victory after putting up a great show against the four-time world champions.
Manuel Neuer or ter-Stegen:
Before the World Cup begin, Joachim Löw had a big call to make between Manuel Neuer and Ter Stegen for the Goalkeeping spot. Neuer who hadn’t played for Bayern since September vs Barcelona’s No. 1 Ter Stegen who had an amazing season keeping 19 clean sheets second only to Jan Oblak in Europe’s top five leagues.
But the Die Mannschaft manager chose his more experienced man and the winner of 2014 Golden Glove but this decision backfired as Neuer looked rusty and far from his best. He was beaten at near post by Hector Lozano which proved to be a match winner for Mexico, got chipped by Sweden’s Toivonen and lost the ball in opposition half leading to South Korea’s second goal.
No one can doubt Neuer’s talent and class but to put him straight into the starting lineup after coming from a long injury ahead of someone who just had the season of his life ended up being a wrong decision.
Löw’s trusted men let him down:
Germany has been the most consistent team in terms of performance under Löw at least making it to the Semi-Finals of the major tournaments. But this time they didn’t play as a team. There was no spark, coordination and creativity were lacking. Löw’s tactics became very predictable. He chose to rely on his experienced big names but most of them performed well below expectations.
Thomas Muller who was Germany’s top scorer in last two World Cups scoring ten goals in total failure to make an impact this time around. Muller looked like a shadow of his former self. He was not in starting lineup for Germany’s final match against South Korea due to his poor performance in first two fixtures.
Sami Khedira was too slow and looked more like a liability than an asset in the midfield. Mesut Ozil offered nothing in the midfield. Mats Hummels lacked the pace to deal with the threat of counter attacks. 22 years old RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner scored three goals in last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup but failed to score a single goal this time.
Toni Kroos is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the world. Apart from his match-winning goal against Sweden, he had a disappointing tournament. Playing as DM, Kroos joined the CBS to allow fullbacks to play higher up the pitch. He struggled defensively and didn’t either make a significant contribution to his team’s attack.
Löw’s call to not include PFA Young Player of the Year Leroy Sane in the 23-man squad also raised a lot of questions. Germany lacked pace and agility, and Sane’s pace could’ve helped them but Löw preferred to start Muller and Goretzka on the wing rather than taking Sane with him to Russia.