Ahead of Wednesday’s crucial clash with South Korea, Joachim Low said he wanted the “euphoria” of Germany’s last-gasp win over Sweden to quickly “subside”. Exiting the World Cup in the opening round for the first time since 1938 should do the trick.
A third uninspiring performance in a row ensured Germany became the third successive World Cup champions to fall at the first hurdle in their title defence, a dramatic and shocking 2-0 defeat in Kazan proving the deserved death knell.
While their loss to Mexico could be explained by a lack of cohesion between defence and midfield when coming up against counter-attacks, there is little excuse for failing to even score against a Korea side who came into the game without a point.
Their coach Shin Tae-yong even suggested pre-match his team had a “one per cent chance” against Germany, yet they finished well on top, taking apart Low’s crumbling side to leave the defending champions humiliated.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 27, 2018
Low again shuffled his pack in Kazan, making five alterations to the team which just about scraped past Sweden, welcoming Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Mats Hummels, Niklas Sule and Leon Goretzka into the starting XI.
The return of Ozil, after being dropped as a result of his performance against Mexico, was particularly notable, giving every suggestion Low was annoyed by a lack of creativity on show in the clash with Sweden.
However, even with Ozil’s restoration, Germany looked sapped of craft and ingenuity in the final third.
Ozil appeared their best route to goal in the first half, his silken touches, clever turns and intricate line-splitting passes exhibited on several occasions.
But around him Germany offered precious little – Marco Reus drifted ineffectively, Goretzka struggled out wide and was sloppy in the middle, while Khedira again looked hapless in the final third.
On top of that, Joshua Kimmich endured a difficult time when pushing forward from right-back, his crosses invariably going straight out of play or too far to find a team-mate.
There were a couple of instances of promise early in the second period – Goretzka and Timo Werner going close following good deliveries from Ozil and Kimmich, but it was hardly the start of an imperious onslaught.
Germany still needed more, their combination of slow movement and laborious thinking in the final third causing their chances of avoiding embarrassment to diminish by the minute.
Just a reminder that Germany switched their World Cup base from Sochi to Moscow because it would make travel easier in the knockout rounds. I guess there are direct flights back to Berlin…
— Jon Reeve (@jon_reeve) June 27, 2018
With Sweden unexpectedly cruising against Mexico, Germany’s forays forward became more and more desperate, while Son Heung-min led a spirited counter for a Korea side really starting to threaten on the break.
When you play with less urgency than a side that considers its own chances to be minimal, you know you have a problem.
Structural issues have blighted Germany’s campaign and Korea’s late surges again showed them to be tearing at the seams.
Shin’s men took full advantage – Kim Young-gwon scoring from close range in the second minute of stoppage time, before Son rounded things off with Manuel Neuer caught up the pitch.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 27, 2018
Low has often had to contend with critics claiming his success only came about after he took the reins at the start of a golden era, with some suggesting the country’s World Cup triumph of four years ago owed more to the strengths of the players than his coaching.
When the going got tough on this occasion, he and Germany failed on the world stage, any sense of euphoria embarrassingly vanishing.
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