Germany, the World Champions from 2014 were dumped out this year’s competition after a shock 2-0 defeat to South Korea. In the other clash in Group F both Sweden and Mexico progressed to the last-16 and the Scandinavians topped the group with their brilliant 3-0 victory.
Where Did it go Wrong For Germany?
Their Confederations Cup win in Russia one year ago showed everyone that the World Cup winners would be ready to go once again in 2018. Whether you had them to win or not, everyone expected them to continue their record of getting past the group stage in every tournament since 1938.
Joachim Löw’s side were the clear favourites in the group with Mexico, Sweden and South Korea expected to battle out for second spot. However, right from the off against Mexico something just wasn’t right with the Germans.
The 1-0 loss to Mexico in the opening game put huge pressure on them when they faced Sweden in Sochi. A late bit of Toni Kroos magic saved them but the celebrations didn’t last long as their poor form continued into the group finale where they got a taste of their own last-minute goal medicine courtesy of Kim Young-Gwon then Son Heung-Min.
So what led to the failed defence of their World Cup crown?
From their first group game to their last, there was a key theme of slow laboured passing. Their approaches to score seemed as they would continue passing side and side and hoping or expecting that something was going to happen. It never really did.
Mesut Özil, the assist king of the Premier League and a stable of this German outfit was nowhere to be seen. Leipzig’s Timo Werner who occupied the centre-forward role was too keen on moving to each wing. Movement up front is good but a decent ball into the box was hopeless as Werner was found nearer the corner flag than the goal.
In each game, the towering Mario Gomez was introduced in the second period as a target man. So, the slow passing approach changed to lumping balls towards Gomez and this simply wasn’t creative enough to break down strong Korean and Mexican backlines.
The stars on either side of the midfield in Thomas Müller and Julian Draxler were dropped for the final game, showing their coach’s thoughts on their impact on the tournament. An ageing squad, many of which who triumphed four years ago, just couldn’t find a way to win.
After recent international dominance, complacency, not something usually associated with Germany, may have crept in here.
Their supporters would have expected to steamroll past Mexico and Sweden and so it seemed did the players. A brilliant goal by Hirving Lozano gave them a shock from which they never recovered.
The jubilant celebrations after their late win over the Swedes looked as if they thought they were through. Completely disregarding any challenge from the Koreans. As we saw, wrongly so.
A Shaky Defence
Over the years of watching Die Mannschaft on the World stage, you always expect a steady and solid defence. In Russia, this was far from the case.
The naivety of Jerome Boateng and Antonio Rüdiger was astonishing to see, especially for defenders of their experience and calibre. The number of times Mexico were able to break in behind them even in the first half was a real surprise.
The ease at which Marcus Berg broke through to lob the ball home for Sweden showed their real weakness at the back, even with Mats Hummels back at the helm.
A dismissal for two yellow cards for Boateng against Sweden just about summed up his wretchedly poor World Cup.
Young Blood Didn’t Help
Bayern Munich’s Nicklas Süle seemed a tidy option but was only given his chance in Germany’s final bow. A clear improvement on the antics of Boateng. Future teammate Leon Goretzka was given his chance in the midfield but did not stand out amongst the team’s usual starters.
The decision to leave Leroy Sane at home is all the more bemusing. Whilst the Manchester City winger wouldn’t have won them the trophy, a bit of skill and pace on the wing certainly would have helped.
All this combining leaves Germany deservedly heading home, while Sweden will take on Switzerland in an intriguing last-16 encounter. Mexico meanwhile, take on the might of Brazil where they will hope to replicate their heroics against the Germans.
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