KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- World Cup holders Germany are out of the 2018 finals, sent home in embarrassing fashion. Not only did they lose their last match 2-0 against already-eliminated South Korea in Kazan but they finished bottom of the table.
Germany were poor throughout not merely this match but the entire tournament, displaying little in the way of cohesion and penetration. On the rare occasions when they did create an opening they were unable to capitalise.
In the closing stages they were narrowly off target with a number of efforts – mainly headers – but they were finally killed off by two breakaway goals from Kim Young-gwon, with the help of the video n the final minute, and then Son Heung-min when German keeper Manuel Neuer was caught away upfield.
A first round exit – the Germans’ first since 1938 – is a massive embarrassment, not only because of the results themselves but because of the consistently under-par performances.
Despite having won the warm-up Confederations Cup in Russia a year ago in promising style they succumbed to the World Cup holders’ jinx – crashing out in the group stage just like France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014.
Coach Joachim Low has an ongoing contract but it is inevitable that questions will be raised back home about whether the team has become stale under his management and a fresh approach is needed.
South Korea went into the match with no points from their opening two games after losing 1-0 to Sweden and 2-1 to Mexico. However, they had a mathematical chance of qualifying for the last 16 for only the third time in 10 competition appearances, although they needed Mexico to beat Sweden.
South Korea had the first chance when Jung Woo-young’s free-kick was fumbled by Neuer, who punched clear bravely as Son tried to convert the rebound.
The Tottenham forward also lashed a volley wide when it was goalless, before being booked in the second half as referee Mark Geiger thought he had dived in an attempt to win a penalty.
The Germans will regret their wastefulness in front of goal when the game was goalless.
South Korea’s goalkeeper Cho Hyeon-woo made a fine one-handed save from Leon Goretzka’s header and Timo Werner volleyed wide from near the penalty shot.
Mats Hummels headed over the top when unmarked six yards out in the closing stages, before South Korea’s two late goals.
With Sweden winning 3-0 against Mexico in the other Group F game, and it being goalless in Kazan, Germany knew they had to score in a frantic finish. Victory would have edged out Mexico on goal difference but all the drama came at the other end.
First Kim put the ball into the net from close range. His strike was initially ruled out for offside but the VAR review showed that the ball had deflected into Kim’s path off German midfielder Toni Kroos and the goal was given.
With Germany desperately looking for a goal to stand any chance of rescuing the situation, Neuer raced upfield to join the attack. He was caught far from home however by a lofted clearane which left Tottenham forward Son with the simple task of running the the ball into the net.
That goal sparked jubilant celebrations among the Asian players and their fans and provided enormous consolation for their elimination. It also provided revenge for their 2-0 defeat by Germany in the 2002 finals which had been staged in Korea and Japan.
His goal for the world’s 57th-ranked nation against the No1 also definitely killed off Germany’s hopes of becoming the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil’s victories in 1958 and 1962.