Germany have failed to qualify from the group stages at a World Cup finals for the first time since 1938, after losing to South Korea 0-2 on Wednesday in their final group match of Russia 2018.
A stoppage-time VAR-assisted goal from Younggwon Kim and a late second by Son Heungmin earned South Korea a famous 2-0 win, sending the Germans out crashing. Germany needed to win by at least a two-goal margin to advance.
Here are five reasons why the holders performed so badly in Russia:
Loew’s misguided loyalty
Head coach Joachim Loew has always stuck by his tried and trusted stars – but it was Germany’s undoing in Russia.
Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira are glaring examples of Loew’s misguided loyalty.
Thomas Mueller, one of the heroes from the 2014 win, was rightly dropped from the starting 11 against South Korea but failed to make an impact as he came off the bench.
Even Toni Kroos, fresh from winning the Champions League with Real Madrid, was a shadow of his usual self in Russia, only redeeming himself with the winning goal against Sweden.
A cleanout of the winners from four years ago, many of whom are past their sell-by dates, is on the cards.
Russia 2018 is a serious dent to Loew’s golden reputation and his 12-year reign could be coming to an end.
Loew has already said he is considering his future, despite signing a contract extension until 2022 only last month.
Germany have stagnated in the last 12 months.
Loew has not developed the team tactically, torn between the 4-2-3-1, which won the World Cup, or toying with deploying a back three.
A lack of tempo in Germany’s game has been a glaring factor and when the pressure was on, none of his stars could crack the South Korean defence.
Germany won last year’s Confederations Cup without their stars, but Timo Werner was the only emerging starlet to be given a regular starting berth in the senior team.
Leon Goretzka, who led Germany’s midfield brilliantly at the Confederations Cup last year, Niklas Suele, Julian Brandt and Sebastian Rudy are only given their chance when Loew’s first-choice stars are suspended or injured.
The decision to omit Manchester City’s Leroy Sane, the Premier League’s Best Young Player last season, from the World Cup squad spoke volumes when fresh impetus was badly needed in Russia.
‘Tournament team’ myth
Before the World Cup started, both Kroos and Jerome Boateng confidently described Germany as “a tournament team” who switch on for finals, and the feeling was things would just click eventually.
The myth was blown clean away by the defeats to Mexico, South Korea and the nervy, last-gasp win over Sweden.
It is a consequence of too many Germany stars enjoying their status as World Cup winners without the performances to back it.
Germany qualified for Russia with a perfect record of ten wins and as Mats Hummels admitted after defeat to South Korea, the last time the team played well together was late 2017.
The writing on the wall, from defeats to Brazil and Austria, plus a shaky win over Saudi Arabia in a pre-tournament friendly, was ignored to Germany’s peril.
In Russia, Germany were nowhere near the compact unit which conceded just four goals in seven games at the 2014 World Cup.
First-choice centre-backs Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng are short of pace and too often left to fend for themselves at the back.
Despite only recently returning from a fracture foot, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was too often called upon as Germany’s last line of defence.
The lack of German defenders hurling themselves into tackles, like they did in Brazil four years ago, has been glaring in Russia, as was the lack of composure when defending.