Germany have been eliminated from the World Cup at the group stages for the first time in the nation’s history. Joachim Löw’s men finished bottom in Group F, following a 2-0 defeat to South Korea and Sweden’s 3-0 victory over Mexico in the parallel match. Young-Gwon Kim and Heung-Min Son scored the two goals in injury time.
The World Cup winners' curse has struck again after world champions France (2002), Italy (2010) and Spain (2014) all exited at the group stage in recent tournaments. Sweden and Mexico progressed as first and second in the group.
Löw made five changes to the team that beat Sweden 2-1 on Saturday. Mats Hummels and Niklas Süle both came in for Jerome Boateng and Antonio Rüdiger in front of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Sami Khedira paired up alongside Toni Kroos in midfield, while Marco Reus was joined by Leon Goretzka and Mesut Özil in an attacking trio behind Timo Werner. Jonas Hector and Joshua Kimmich completed the starting XI as full backs.
Germany took control early on in the 30 degrees heat in Kazan, looked confident in their passing and movement, and dealt well with South Korea’s high pressing. But had often been the case at this tournament, the final pass just wasn’t finding its intended man.
The first big chance came after a quick transition in the opponents’ half – Goretzka winning the ball and feeding Reus to set up a 3v3 situation. The BVB man had Werner free on the left, but opted to play through to Goretzka on the right, whose shot was blocked by the brave Koreans.
But there were scares at the other end too – Manuel Neuer spilling Woo-Joung Jung’s 30-yard free kick, before reacting quickest to clear the ball away from the ready-to-pounce Heung-Min Son. The Tottenham Hotspur forward followed up six minutes later, blazing a volley over the bar from close range. Germany increased the intensity towards the end of the half, linking up well until the Korean penalty box where the final pass or shot was repeatedly blocked.
The restart saw Germany create clearer chances straightaway. A delightful cross from Kimmich was perfect for Goretzka, but his header was pushed away after some superb reactions from Cho. Just three minutes later, Werner pulled the trigger from just inside the box, only for the ball to whistle inches the wrong side of the post.
With Sweden three goals to the good against Mexico, it was clear that a draw would not be enough to make the last 16, and Löw responded by bringing on Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller. What followed was an open affair with opportunities for both sides. Hummels had to be at his best to win the ball back off Son, while Cho Hyun-Woo made another great save to deny Gomez and Kroos’ long-range strike cleared the crossbar.
Germany threw everything forward in search of a winner, and again a Kimmich ball in created danger, but this time Gomez couldn’t direct his effort on target. The best chance in the closing stages fell to Mats Hummels, who connected with a cross with his shoulder instead of his head, firing wide as a result.
With all attention on getting a winner, Die Mannschaft were caught cold at the back, an accidental pass from Toni Kroos following a corner setting up South Korea to open the scoring. With Manuel Neuer joining the attack in injury time, a long hoof forward allowed Heung-Min Son to score a second into an empty net and confirm Germany’s exit from Russia 2018 at the group phase.###more###