The defending champions Germany are out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after a 0-2 loss to South Korea on Wednesday afternoon in Kazan.
Germany is shocked, some are numb, no one could believe what happened but if one is honest, then one could see what this could be coming for a nation, which is proud of its football and national team.
Germany was at the pinnacle of their success at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, especially the 7-1 demolition of the hosts in the semifinals, but this team which came to Russia was a pale shadow of their past despite the team having it in them to win the 2018 FIFA World Cup, when one see’s what problems the other favourites or big nations have had, but they at least could come through their groups despite their downs, e.g. Spain; Portugal and Argentina.
But what all went wrong for Germany? And why?
Before we come to the real facts and issues, the unofficial rules of football.
First to mention is the curse of the FIFA World Cup champions and the ominous Group F. In 2002, France were eliminated from the group stage, in 2010 it was Italy and in 2014 is was Spain, which means four of the five last FIFA World Cup winners at the next tournament were eliminated at the group stage.
Then there is the fact that no FIFA Confederations Cup winner has gone on to win the FIFA World Cup the next year. Germany last year had won the FIFA Confederations Cup with a ‘B’ team and at the same time the European Under-21 Championships.
It all looked perfect for Germany, defending champions, a great pool of players but since last summer some things have gone fundamentally wrong. Mats Hummels after the game said, the last good game of Germany was last autumn in the qualifiers, since then only scrappy 2-1 wins over Saudi Arabia in a friendly and Saturday’s late second win over Sweden.
Germany, their team management and players, always said, we are tournament specialists, once the tournament starts, we are ready and will change gears. Sounds arrogant and shows overconfidence, but if one goes back in history, then Germany have had bad phases before tournaments in friendlies and when the tournament started, they were spot on.
Germany relied on a team, which has always been its strength, a rather flat hierarchy which missed real leaders on the pitch except captain Manuel Neuer, but he is too far at the back to influence the game in midfield and attack. It meant that it missed characters like Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Mertesacker. Toni Kroos and Hummels tried to lead from the front but they themselves had issues of fitness and performance.
Head coach Joachim Löw seems to have not picked the right squad, which has been a strength of his coaching career. Many questioned leaving out Leroy Sane, the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year, or a mentality monster like Sandro Wagner.
Löw did not have a Plan ‘B’. Germany’s main aim was to dominate possession and at some stage that domination and possession would give them chances to score. That actually happened, interestingly Germany have had more chances than other team in the group stage but only scored two goals.
The killer instinct and an out and out striker like Miroslav Klose was missing from the squad, take out the Toni Kroos free-kick against Sweden, while other players like world champions Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira were far away from their top form, while others like Jerome Boateng just came back from long injuries.
Overall Germany looked tired, unable to change gears except for the later stages of the Sweden game, they could not penetrate deep defensive sides like Mexico and South Korea, and the defensive unit and shape in midfield, was never ever given throughout the tournament, very unusual for Germany, who had won in 2014 because of their defensive might.
Then there is the political issue of Mesut Özil and Ilkay Gündogan meeting the Turkish president Erdogan in London. A PR disaster from the start for the DFB, who underestimated the issue and its impact on society. And if one looks at the performances of Özil and Gündogan, then it would have been wiser to have kept the duo at home because it was and still is an ongoing issue. Especially Özil is seen by the general fan as one of the key culprits of this disaster though it was complete failure of the whole squad.
Though nothing came out, there must be issues in the squad, then unlike 2014, this team did not look like Die Mannschaft because it lacked the mentality and will to do what is needed to win matches.
But not all is bad. Germany still has a robust youth development system which is bringing out a lot of talent. Some World Cup winners will retire after this failure, some players will not be called-up again in the near future, but the next set of talented youngsters are ready to rebuild Germany’s reputation at UEFA EURO 2020.
The question remains if Joachim Löw, who has worked wonders with Germany over the last 12 years is allowed to remain and rebuild or if a new coach will come in. If not, then Löw should be allowed by the DFB to resign himself for all that he has done for German football and the national team.
I myself am disappointed then I expected more from this despite of all the problems and issues mentioned above, then a team which represents Germany at an international competition is always competitive. This was not the case in Russia 2018, which is sad because I go back and remember the great experience of Brazil 2014, but beware, Germany will be back!!!