Kazan should have witnessed the birth of Germany’s knock-out story. Instead, it was the last stop in a sorry tournament for a team which failed to make it to the second round for the first time since 1938.

The reasons, the result were beyond German reason; wasn’t this the same team that had made the semi-finals of the last six major tournaments? A 2-0 loss to South Korea was the final chapter of a struggle which had shown its roots early, yet one which was never fully acknowledged or taken seriously till the World Cup’s second match.

Four years is a long time in football, and it can make or break a player’s career at the top level. An obstinance to change, to stick to an old style despite new personnel and a certain brand of arrogance orchestrated Germany’s downfall in Russia.

The numbers don’t make for good reading. A total of 72 shots yielded one goal from one-play and Toni Kroos’ goal against Sweden proved to be a brief stay of execution.

Suddenly, there was talk of the tournament hardened-Germany, Turnierrmanschaft, would turn up and carry the job out in an orderly fashion. They were ponderous in attack throughout the three games, and their tactics have baffled, as their only response to going a goal down have been predictable, ponderous attacks.

In 2010, Germany were more direct, scything through opponents at will, not always with the same accuracy but with enough to bring the house down. Cue Brazil, where post the emergence of Pep Guardiola at Bayern, Germany bought into his philosophy and played more intricate, short passes. In Russia, they were at sea, opting to overload the wings and hope for a ball to reach the front line, a strategy they had used previously with Miroslav Klose, a man with an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time.

Toni Kroos, essentially the team’s chief creator was bogged down by the responsibility of being the side’s ball carrier and the screen in front of the defence. In front, Timo Werner, the team’s number 9 was asked to give up individuality for his team ethos and drift outside to stretch the play with his pace but the system was clearly ill-suited to his strengths.

A rotating front quartet kept changing throughout; it was Werner, Ozil, Thomas Muller and Julian Draxler against Mexico. Ozil was dropped for Marco Reus against the Swedes and then restored at the expense of Draxler for South Korea, as Muller made way for Leon Goretzka on the right. As teams sat deep and remained compact, the four-time champions made one-too many passes in front of goal.

Against Sweden, Ozil didn’t start for the first time in his major tournament career spanning 26 games till that point. Muller, when he dropped to the bench in Kazan, had always made the starting World Cup XI since his debut in 2010. Mats Hummels, despite obvious signs that he had lost a fair bit of pace since 2014, returned against South Korea. Sami Khedira, who was underwhelming in that 1-0 loss to Mexico, started his second game in Russia.

All these signs of player loyalty point to a sentimentalist in Low, one who stuck to his core group from yesteryears for longer than he should have. A year ago, Low won the Confederation Cup with most of his regulars rested and a relatively young squad making light work of teams such as Chile, Mexico and Cameroon.

He was considered the luckiest coach in the world to have so many options at his disposal and pictures floated online of Germany being able to field four teams. The Confed Cup should have seen many of the youngsters who swept to victory being awarded a berth in Russia.

Instead, only Werner of all the Confed Cup winners under 25 started regularly in Russia as spots went to trusted Low lieutenants, even when they turned in sub-par performances. Julian Brandt was not trusted despite showing glimpses in cameos. Ilkay Gundogan, Sebastian Rudy, Goretzka were better choices for the number six’s role despite Gundogan and Goretzka not being naturals at the position but Khedira kept geting back into the coach’s plans.

Transitionally, Die Nationalmannschaft veered between periods of sacrificing attacking fluidity for defensive stability and vice-versa. In their first game against El Tri, they were ripped open as Mexico’s pace was too hot to handle.

As Low kept playing a high line and removing defenders for attackers, Germany were lucky for Mexico’s profligacy for a respectable scoreline. Against Sweden, this pattern continued but the holders escaped further punishment due to the slow and revering nature of their opponents. A 10-man Germany was there for the taking, but Sweden opted to sit back and defend rather than take the game to their illustrious rivals.

South Korea were known to be a fast team and to counter that, three central midfielders were picked to give the defence extra protection on the counter but the attack suffered greatly. Going forward, Germany were sluggish and their lethargy saw them create precious little and miss routine chances that rarely came their way.

The retirements of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phillip Lahm have deprived Low of a midfield Kommandant who would destroy incoming attacks and an intelligent leader of the defence specialising in organisation. Low gambled on plans that he had used before, only that he had used outdated ones for a new squad.

Despite being offered a contract extension till 2022, Low may reconsider the offer once he looks back at this campaign and the fall-out from it. The decision might be his to take, but his time might have come at the helm after a memorable 12-year-stint.

Many of the regulars, Khedira, Boateng, Hummels and Muller will be 32 and above by the time the next World Cup in Qatar rolls around and an incoming coach may take a dim view of their performances in Russia, making their decisions easier on them.

Heads will roll. Inquests will be carried out. Systems will be overhauled. This is how the very self-critical Germany machinery has functioned since time immemorial. German efficiency? No. In Russia, an innate, blinding trust in the Germany way made for a very painful exit.