Die Mannschaft’s dire 2018 World Cup campaign came to a premature end in Kazan with a 2-0 defeat against South Korea. Joachim Löw and his side got what they deserved after shambolic displays and internal fractures.
Unthinkable has happened
Was that a bad dream? It’s still difficult to comprehend Germany exiting the World Cup in the group stage. For many people, this hasn’t happened in living memory. Having got to the second round in every World Cup since 1954, the four time winners are gone.
It’s up there with Italy failing to qualify for the tournament for the first time since 1962. With all respect to Mexico, Sweden and South Korea, Group F should have been no problem for a superior German side that were perfect in qualification.
In the end, Germany followed the path of recent World Cup winners to fail miserably in their title defence. Germany’s worst result in 18 World Cups was 10thin 1938. They are on target to finish 23rdin Russia.
The statistics once again tell a lie. 74% possession means little in the end with a 2-0 South Korea victory in the record books. Another four changes as Löw dropped Antonio Rüdiger, Julian Draxler and Thomas Müller. Niklas Süle, Leon Goretzka and Mesut Özil came in with Sami Khedira back for the injured Sebastian Rudy.
What we saw was what we should have expected. More meaningless possession, wasted opportunities and horrendous exposure on the counter attack. Manuel Neuer’s role in South Korea’s second goal, losing the ball in the opposition half, neatly encapsulates the match and campaign as a whole.
Julian Brandt evidence
Löw’s losing of the plot was evident with his use of Khedira and Özil but confirmed with his use of Julian Brandt. Down 1-0 against Mexico since the 35thminute, the Bayer Leverkusen attacker was given four minutes to shine in which he hit the woodwork, just centimetres away from the equaliser.
With the match against Sweden tied at 1-1 and a man down in the 87thminute, Löw gave Brandt another run and he hit the frame of the goal again before Toni Kroos sealed the deal. Hitting the post twice in 10 minutes of action would normally be a sign to start the player in the next match. Not for Löw though.
Goretzka and Özil started against South Korea, and when Löw looked for replacements it was Mario Gomez and Müller coming on before Brandt. Inexcusable.
Cracks show early
Germany played six friendlies from November that resulted in one win, three draws and two defeats. They faced some top-quality teams during that stretch, but a loss to Austria and narrow win against Saudi Arabia in the final friendlies were wasted opportunities and a sign of things to come.
The political drama and public fallout with Özil and Ilkay Gündogan was an unwanted distraction that went far further than Löw may have anticipated. Say what you want about the importance of friendlies, but winning form, building confidence and peaking at the right time is invaluable in a major tournament.
The Mexico match and aftermath was unbelievable in many ways and set the tone for Germany’s campaign. The statistics will show Germany had 66% possession and double the shots on target, but the amount of times they were outnumbered on the counter attack was shocking to say the least.
The post-match comments from Jérôme Boateng: “People were just running through and nobody said anything,” and Mats Hummels: “Our cover wasn’t good, too often it was just Jerome and I at the back” revealed a lack of leadership on and off the pitch.
It was all going to get better against Sweden, but trailing 1-0 at half-time the roller coaster of expectation was plummeting. Reus’ equaliser and a last gasp strike from Toni Kroos rescued a vital win, but the upswing in confidence was all a fake charade that would soon be revealed.
Löw made four changes against Sweden. Antonio Rüdiger, Sebastian Rudy, Jonas Hector and Marco Reus came in with Reus arguably man-of-the-match. Particularly striking was Özil being dropped for the first time since making his debut at the 2010 World Cup.
Boateng’s performance was alarming on several levels. With Hummels injured there was extra responsibility on his shoulders but he came up short. His sending off was the highlight of a miserable match for a player who has been one of the top central defenders for many years.
Despite the nature of the last-minute win, it seemed that Löw and Germany had turned a corner. We would surely see an improvement against South Korea? An easy win to ride into the last 16 on a wave of momentum? At 1.15 favourites the bookmakers were certainly taking no chances.
Löw has to go
Joachim Löw’s image has been mostly rock solid since taking over in 2006, continually making the semi-finals in major competitions and achieving glory at the 2014 World Cup. He was the symbol of a nation that had developed an infrastructure to ensure Germany’s permanent place amongst the elite.
All good things come to an end however, and it’s time for the 58-year-old to step aside. All the signs of a manager losing control are here; embarrassing results, bad personnel and tactical decisions, underperforming players and team, getting outcoached, confused players, players voicing internal grievances to the media.
What about the lack of discipline, arrogance and bad attitude, not only from the players but staff members? In case you missed it, the DFB suspended media officer Ulrich Voigt and director of the DFB office Georg Behlau for their behaviour against Sweden.
They thought it was fine to charge towards the Sweden bench after Kroos’ winner, antagonising and taunting their opponents by pumping their fists. Their bosses at the DFB labelled their behaviour “unsportsmanlike,” it appears to be part of a rotten culture and Löw needs to take responsibility for letting it fester.
The DFB made a huge mistake in May 2018 by extending his contract until 2022. We all know what contracts are really worth, and after careful consideration and reflection he has to cancel it, resist his ego and urge to stay for the benefit of his team and nation.
We’ve seen this many times before. Vicente del Bosque with Spain in 2014 is a prime example. Arsène Wenger held onto his pride for far too long when it was clear his run and positive effect was over.
Lucien Favre is a fine coach but things went very wrong for him in a short space of time at the beginning of the 2015-16 season at Borussia Mönchengladbach. He realised his time was up and walked away. It’s time for Löw follow suit. He is a fine coach but his expiry date is up. It’s time to rebuild his career or sail off into the sunset.
By Matthew Marshall.