There was plenty of shock but perhaps a sense of justice when the final whistle blew at the Kazan Arena on Wednesday, condemning defending World Cup champions to an early elimination from the 2018 edition.
Germany just could not get out of second gear and failed to breach South Korea’s defence, finally succumbing to two stoppage-time goals from Kim Young-gwon and Son Heung-min to complete a 2-0 defeat that sent them packing.
In a must-win match for the European powerhouse, this was an embarrassingly tepid display.
DISJOINTED DIE MANNSCHAFT
Results aside, it’s Germany’s performances at the World Cup that have been shocking. Normally such a well-oiled machine, they didn’t just look short of a few nuts and bolts this time around but a change of motor may have been in order.
Die Mannschaft are renowned for their discipline and organisation but neither came to the fore in this short-lived campaign. The well-drilled movement, the carousel of passing and trademark efficiency in front of goal – none featured as their title defence was brought to an embarrassing end.
Players repeatedly got their wires crossed, even the usually slick Mesut Ozil and Marco Reus didn’t appear to be on the same wavelength as their team-mates, only once linking-up well with each other to fashion a chance that Timo Werner blazed over on the volley.
A 1-0 defeat to Mexico, a streaky last-gasp 2-1 victory over Sweden and a humiliating 2-0 defeat to South Korea that dumped them out of in the group stages – all the while playing with the handbrake on and failing to strike fear in the hearts of inferior opposition. It’s almost as if the high-profile yet disappointing England sides of years gone by conspired to masquerade as the reigning world champions in Russia.
Having spent 12 years in the hot seat as the Germany national team boss, Joachim Low’s presence in the dugout was supposed to yield stability and ensure that well-laid plans were brought to fruition. Surely his experience and in-depth knowledge of the squad would give the team a massive advantage over competing hopefuls?
Instead, the 58-year-old has proved stubborn with his selection and determined to be set in his ways. His side finally looked more threatening in the second half against Sweden when he made a much-needed alteration. Werner was moved to the left flank while Mario Gomez was introduced into the middle.
It immediately paid dividends as they had the Swedes on the ropes, created chances from crosses and managed to get the two goals they needed. While that strategy clearly had a bearing on his set-up against South Korea, he only opted for a variation of his tried-and-tested system.
Werner started up front again but was allowed the freedom to run the left channel with Leon Goretzka – starting on the right – then occupying the space in the middle that the striker vacated. However, that was neither here nor there.
It only seemed to create confusion with Werner, Reus and Jonas Hector occupying the same areas at times or the Borussia Dortmund playmaker drifting inside and often getting in the way of Ozil. Sami Khedira had another nothing performance.
If Goretzka were to play in his central midfield position instead with Gomez starting and Werner on the left, perhaps they would’ve generated the same attacking threat they did against the Swedes.
South Korea bow out in the group stages of the competitions but they have been far more impressive than the Germans. The Asian outfit suffered narrow defeats to Sweden and Mexico but had they been more composed in front of goal, it could’ve been a very different story for them.
Even in what will go down as a historic win over Germany, their finishing was appalling. They should’ve buried the game well before they finally did. They had eight shots over the course of the game but only two were on target – both hitting the back of the net.
It’s not just their wayward shooting but their decision-making inside the box. At times they twisted and turned, ultimately failing to pull the trigger while on other occasions they simply snatched at opportunities. Their finishing hasn’t done justice to their overall play in this tournament.
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