South Korea 2 Germany 0
Mexico 0 Sweden 3
KAZAN • Germany crashed out of the World Cup in the first round for the first time in 80 years with barely a flicker of resistance yesterday after a 2-0 defeat by South Korea.
They had come to this World Cup not merely as defending champions but as winners of last summer's Confederations Cup with what was effectively a second-string team.
The overhaul of their academy system was the envy of the world, talent production on an industrial scale. And yet, called upon to score a goal against a South Korea side that had already lost to Sweden and Mexico, they struggled to create a clear-cut chance.
In the end, it was VAR that undid them, Kim Young-gwon's strike that had initially been ruled out for offside given as a goal when it was realised that the ball had been played to him by Toni Kroos.
And then, even after that, there was a beautiful farce of a goal, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer caught in possession miles upfield as Son Heung-min chased on to Ju Se-jong's long ball and rolled the ball into an empty net.
"At the moment it is hard to say (why we have been eliminated). The disappointment of us being eliminated is just huge," said Germany coach Joachim Low.
"We didn't deserve to be winning the World Cup once again, we didn't deserve to move into the round of 16.
"Our team in this match was missing the ease of play and the classiness that we normally display. Also the dynamism that led to the goalscoring opportunities was not there, so we deserve to be eliminated."
Germany are the third straight reigning champions to go out in the group phase - following Spain and Italy - but this was as limp a defence as any side had managed.
There was no defining defeat, as Spain had suffered to the Netherlands, just a whole load of baffling mundanity.
Germany are the fourth team since the turn of the millennium to exit at the group stage as champions after France (2002), Italy (2010) and Spain (2014).
Left-back Jonas Hector is the only outfield player to feature for Germany without taking a shot.
Germany scored just two goals after taking a tournament-high 70 shots in three group matches.
South Korea are the first Asian team to beat the reigning World Cup holders in a competitive match.
SAFE HANDS, BUT NOT ENOUGH
I've never had a perfect game like this before, all my career. I wasn't saving all the shots by myself today, other keepers Seung Gyu and Jin Hyeon were also giving me a hand. It was only after the match (Mexico and Sweden) that we realised the score and of course we were disappointed, that's why a lot of us cried.
CHO HYEON-WOO, South Korea's goalkeeper, on his clean sheet.
Germany are the defending champions and No. 1 in the Fifa rankings... they probably felt they would be able to beat us - that's what everybody thought. I thought we could use that as a reverse strategy and that has really hit the nail on the head.
SHIN TAE-YONG, victorious Korean coach, on turning the tables on the defending champions.
BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW
It is a very bitter evening for us and all German football fans... We put ourselves in this situation after the Mexican game. The last game we delivered a good performance was in the autumn of 2017.
MATS HUMMELS, Germany defender, who missed more than one clear-cut opportunity in front of goal.
WE DESERVED IT
Our team in this match was missing the ease of play and the classiness that we normally display. Also the dynamism that led to the goalscoring opportunities was not there, so we deserve to be eliminated.
JOACHIM LOW, Germany coach.
There was a chance, three minutes from time, to steal a goal as they had stolen a late winner against Sweden in the second game but, presented with a free header eight yards out, Mats Hummels somehow misjudged his effort to the extent that the ball looped wide of his shoulder.
"It is a really, really bitter evening for us," Hummels told ZDF. "The situation is very difficult to put into words."
Low had acknowledged that while the Sweden game was an improvement after the opening-game loss to Mexico, his side were still having problems in defensive transition, too often leaving the two central defenders exposed. His solution was to bring Leon Goretzka onto the right of the 4-2-3-1, while restoring Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, who had both been left out of the win over Sweden.
It gave some indication of the difficulties Germany have had at the start of this tournament that only three outfielders have started all three games.
Thomas Muller, who has been struggling for form for a couple of years, was one of the latest sacrifices, the first time he had been left out of a tournament game by Germany since the semi-finals of Euro 2012. Perhaps the aim here was simply to deny South Korea the counter-attacking chances Germany granted Mexico and Sweden and, in that sense, the game could be regarded as a success.
The gegenpressing was more efficient, but then the opponents were weaker, and there were significant costs in terms of attacking threat.
But with news coming through that Sweden had scored and that Germany, therefore needed to score as well, Low threw on Mario Gomez and then Muller. Immediately those issues in defending against the counter returned.
Slowly, but surely, Germany were exposed, until there was finally no way back.
Sweden and Mexico both qualified on six points for the round of 16 after the Swedes beat the Mexicans 3-0 in the other match to top the group on goal difference.
Germany finished bottom behind South Korea because of an inferior goal difference.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN