Just like 1938: Abject Germany bundled out of World Cup by solid South Korea

After the staggering comeback against Sweden, everything is back in Germany’s hands for their final group phase match against South Korea in Kazan. A win should guarantee safe passage through to the knockout stages, and despite the shaky start Jogi Löw’s team should be feeling confident in making it through. South Korea themselves have a small change of squeezing through, which should make it an interesting contest.

Having covered the team news and the various group table permutations earlier today, there is no need to run through all of this again. This is Germany’s third match against South Korea in the World Cup. The Mannschaft would emerge triumphant in the two previous meetings, 3-2 in 1994 and 1-0 on Korean soil in 2002.

Having finished the Sweden match with what looked liked a decent lineup, Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw is rung the changes. Some good, some not so good, some pretty, well, strange. The Maharishi Jogi is here again.

First, the good news. Leon Goretzka and Niklas Süle get their first starts. Süle is in for Antonio Rüdiger, and the fit again Mats Hummels returns for the suspended Jérôme Boateng. JoJo out on the outside. All good so far.

Now for the strange news. Thomas Müller is benched. No great shock there, given his poor form in the first two matches. Bus who is his replacement? Julian Brandt? No… Goretzka. What, isn’t Goretzka in the defensive midfield? What is going on? Who is there alongside Toni Kroos?

Sami Khedira. Gulp.

Having dropped Khedira for his tired performance against Mexico, he is back in the starting eleven. As is Mesut Özil.

I was not alone in thinking that the team had looked a whole lot better against Sweden, with both of these players on the bench. I had hoped to see the same thing again today. But asking Jogi to bench two of his favourite pets for two matches in a row is asking a little too much, I suppose.

Unless he has been astonishing in training, Khedira is a cumbersome liability right now, a shadow of the player who bossed the midfield in 2014 with his strength, energy and box-to-box ability. There is no explicable reason for his return. As for Özil, this is a little more controversial. We all know what he can do. But against Mexico, his game was disjointed and messy.

With Khedira back in his usual spot, it means that Goretzka, who was fantastic last year in the Confederations Cup in that Khedira position, is a straight swap for Müller out on the right midfield. It is nothing short of strange, especially with the impressive Brandt on the bench. Bizarre.

There is enough in this starting eleven to beat South Korea, who have lost both of their opening matches. There should be enough momentum following that dramatic win in Sochi. But just looking at this lineup, and the thinking behind it, makes me slightly queasy. It smacks of a mix of arrogance and desperation. Or a case of Jogi being the Maharishi Jogi.

Against South Korea, not the tallest of sides, I would have expected something more old school. Guys who can get the ball into the box, and a big striker to finish. But no. It looks like the plan is to thread our way through the Korean defence rather than outflank them and beat them in the air. Or just bore them to death with ninety minutes of lateral passes. Again, bizarre.

The South Korean coach, once described as the Asian Löw for his sartorial selections, has played down his team’s chances. In the buildup, Shin Tae-yong has given his team a “1% chance” of beating the reigning world champions. Sounds like a sound strategy to me. The Taeguk Warriors may be a lot weaker on paper, but they have shown that are far greater than the sum of their parts. Which is something one cannot say about this German team right now.

Jogi’s Jungs will need an early goal to settle their nerves. Against both Mexico and Sweden, there were chances to take an early lead. Had this happened, things could have been very different. But it did not, and the result was a defensive shambles, and a sense of desperation and panic fuelled by poor finishing and far too much emphasis on possession.

Until that dramatic last quarter of an hour against the Swedes, the team had failed to do the simple things right. Against a team like South Korea, it should be all about the basics.

The two teams emerge from the tunnel, on what is a warm and sunny yet muggy afternoon in Kazan. It is curiously reminiscent of that first meeting in Dallas in 1994. Continuing with the strange kit selections in this tournament, the Mannschaft are sporting their new retro green shirts with white shorts and green socks. The Koreans, meanwhile, are in their usual red/blue/red emsemble.

The national anthems are played, and we are ready to go. Germany should be confident, but not let this go to their heads. Again, get the basics right.

1 min. A shrill peep from the whistle of American referee Mark Geiger, and Germany get things underway.

2 mins. The Koreans are already pressing hard. Lee Jae-sung looks to combine with Son Heung-min, but they are closed down quickly.

5 mins. Not much has happened so far. Timo Werner makes a break down the left and look for Marco Reus, who is beaten to the ball.

6 mins. Collecting a pass from Süle, Reus sends a cross across the Korean penalty area, but there are no green shirts waiting.

7 mins. Khedira does well to win the ball under pressure on his own byline, and clears effectively.

9 mins. Jung Woo-young goes high in on Hector, and the Korean midfielder is booked.

10 mins. Kroos jaunts and jinks into the Korean box, but there are too many red shirts in there.

11 mins. Germany win a free kick in a dangerous position out on the right. Kroos is standing at the ready. The ball is swung in towards Hummels, but the Koreans are able to clear their lines.

12 mins. Joshua Kimmich looks to dink the ball into the box for Jonas Hector, but ‘keeper Cho Hyun-woo gets there first.

14 mins. Reus wins the ball in the Korean half, and charges towards goal. He has Werner in space to his left, but opts to pass right to Goretzka. The Bayern-bound man’s cross is blocked, and the ball goes behind for a corner. That was an opening there. The corner is swung in, and Khedira’s looping header is easily caught by Cho.

16 mins. Another German corner, this time swung in towards Süle. The big centre-back goes for the ball against a much smaller Korean defender, and there is only going to be one outcome. There is not much in the challenge, but the defender goes down in a heap.

18 mins. Khedira’s high foot against Jung presents the Koreans with a free-kick some 25 yards out. Jung steps up to have a go, and his effort loops and dips. Manuel Neuer goes to make the catch and makes a horrible fumble. It is a heart in mouth moment as a red shirt closes in on the German ‘keeper, but Neuer does well to keep his nerve and punch the ball away.

22 mins. Kimmich is everywhere at the moment. He sends in a high cross towards the advancing Goretzka, but Cho makes a safe catch.

23 mins. Goretzka is bundled over by Hwang Hee-chan, who is the second Korean player to get his name in the American referee’s notebook.

24 mins. A dangerous diagonal ball is played by Yong Lee toward the German box, and there is a half a chance for Son. He gets plenty of purchase on the ball, but his shot blazes just over the target.

26 mins. Kimmich is bundled over by the right touchline. The free-kick is taken quickly, but is easily cleared.

28 mins. Kroos sends a lovely ball through the middle of the Korean defence for Özil, whose cutback cannot find a green shirt. Germany recycle the ball, and Werner charges towards the byline before smashing the ball low into the box. A Korean defender gets there first ahead of Özil to turn it behind. Nothing comes from the resulting corner.

33 mins. As expected, the Mannschaft have bossed the possession and have moved the ball around well. Reus bursts down the centre and his shot is blocked, but his then penalised for handball as the ball comes straight back at him. There’s actually not much he could have done about that.

35 mins. Özil is going nowhere, but wins a cheap free-kick when Moon Seon-min bundles him over.

37 mins. Kimmich sends in a nicely floated cross, but it is too high for Reus. For all of the possession and promise, the Korean ‘keeper has not been tested.

39 mins. Germany win a corner. It is swung in. Goretzka gets the first, Werner scuffs his shot, and from the rebound Hummels has a sight of goal. The central defender does enough to get his shot in, but ‘Keeper Cho wins the scramble and gathers the ball.

43 mins. More possession from the Mannschaft as they continue to rack up the pass count. Hector, looking like a centre-forward, wins the ball in the box and it is nicely set up for Werner, who lashes it against base of the post. Maybe just as well, as Hector has been harshly penalised for an earlier infringement.

45 mins. Son is causing a kerfuffle in the box, and Khedira does well to shepherd the ball behind for a goal kick. There are some shouts for a penalty from the Koreans, but the referee waves play on. There will be three additional minutes.

45+2 mins. Özil strikes the ball firmly towards goal, but his shot is well blocked.

45+3 mins. Son has a snapsnot from outside the box, but it goes wide.

45+4 mins. The whistle is blown for half-time.

Slow. Stodgy. Static. Pretty much as expected after I saw the team lineup. There has been plenty of passing, plenty of possession, but no punch. This has been an anodyne, listless, frustrating 45 minutes of football. If one can call it that. Perhaps it is the heat, but the German team are looking woefully short of ideas. If anything has been learned from the previous two matches, there are no signs of it.

If my statistical memory serves me correctly, this is the first time Germany have failed to score a first-half goal in the group stage in the history of the World Cup. By comparison, they scored nine in 2014. The complete lack of punch up front has been a sorry feature of this German team for a long time now, and something needs to change if they are to ensure a safe passage into the knockout rounds, let alone do anything of note in this tournament.

Elsewhere, Sweden and Mexico are also tied at 0-0 at half-time. It means that Löw’s team are just about hanging on to second place, ahead of the Swedes by dint of their head to head record.

46 mins. Here we go. 45 minutes to find some sort of momentum and get this job done. Almost immediately, Özil is too slow in possession and loses the ball deep inside his own half. South Korea break quickly, and Jung gets a shot in which is straight at Neuer.

47 mins. A chance. A good chance. In fact, an excellent chance. Kimmich sends in a lovely cross from the right, Goretzka’s header is on target, but Cho does well to push it away. That’s better.

48 mins. Moon Seon-min is booked for a foul on Kroos.

51 mins. Another chance goes begging. More smooth approach play from the Germans, Özil crosses, and Werner blazes his shot wide with the goal at his mercy. That was pretty ordinary from the RB Leipzig striker, who has been poor so far. Meanwhile, Sweden have taken the lead in the other match. It means that as things stand, Germany are right on the brink again. They have to score. They need to score.

53 mins. Koo Ja-cheol has half a chance in the German box, but cannot control the ball. Hummels clears.

56 mins. A first change for the Koreans. Koo is off, and Hwang Hee-chan is on.

58 mins. A poor pass in Korean half, a fast break from the men in red, and there’s half a chance here. Hummels reads it well though. Jogi Löw finally responds. Khedira is off, and Mario Gómez is on. Time to get the ball out wide, and send some decent balls into the box.

60 mins. Özil looks to dink the ball into the box, but it is woefully overhit.

61 mins. Werner breaks fast down the right, and has the better of his marker who claims for a foul. Play on says the referee. The cross comes in from Özil, and Kroos’s effort is badly hit before taking a deflection. Wide.

63 mins. The second change for the Mannschaft. Thomas Müller is on, replacing disappointing Gretzka. Müller. We need him now. The Koreans almost break, but Hummels is there again.

64 mins. Germany win a corner. Özil floats it in nicely. Werner mistimes again. Meanwhile, Sweden are now two in front. It means that Germany now need two goals to win the group, but just the one would be enough to send them into the second round. Just one goal. One goal. The frustration is starting to build now, and that familiar pattern.

65 mins. Son goes down in the box, and is immediately booked for a dive. Ooh. That looked like a foul by Reus at the edge of the penalty area.

66 mins. Moon checks inside Süle and it looks like a certain Korean goal. Somehow, Hummels gets himself in the right position to prevent the shot.

68 mins. Kimmich crosses, and Gómez’s header is well caught by Cho. That was firmly met, but straight at the Korean keeper.

69 mins. Another change for the Koreans. Moon makes way for Ju Se-jong.

70 mins. Kroos gets a sight of goal from distance, but sends it over the target with his weaker left foot.

71 mins. A cross from Kimmich, and a chance for Gómez. The big striker is able to get in front of his man, but misses the ball. Frustration continuing to build.

73 mins. Hummels with a cross from the right, and Yun Young-sun gets in front of Müller to head it behind. The corner is swung in, but is easily cleared.

77 mins. A poor header from Hummels almost lets Son in, but Kimmich and neuer combine to foil the Korean forward. This has been dreadfully poor. Özil has made so many poor passes in the final third. Now it is Müller’s turn. Honestly, that was absolutely dreadful. There has been no urgency, and no communication. Elsewhere. Sweden are now out of sight against Mexico. They have surely clinched top spot in the group with a third goal. Germany still need one, which will push them into second place ahead of the Mexicans.

78 mins. Werner wins another corner for the Mannschaft, but it is easy for the excellent Cho. At the other end, Son has an effort that ripples the side netting. Neuer had it covered. Meanwhile, Germany have made their third and final change, as Hector makes way off for Julian Brandt.

79 mins. Another Kimmich cross, another easy gather for Cho. The final change for South Korea. Hwang Hee-chan has only been on for around 25 minutes, but makes way for Go Yo-han.

80 mins. South Korea break and have a three on two, but Süle holds his ground to make the clearance.

81 mins. Werner tries to tap and run for the byline, but pushes the ball too far ahead. He chases, but to no avail. That has summed up his match so far. Goal kick.

82 mins. Brandt finds Kimmich out wide, and his cross is harmlessly flicked over by Müller.

83 mins. Reus has an audacious effort from the edge of the box. It looks as though it is flying well over the target, but dips. Not enough though.

84 mins. Brandt cuts in, and his shot is blocked. Özil has an opportunity to get shot in from the edge of the box, but bottles it, leaving it for Kroos. Who blazes it over.

86 mins. More defensive wobbles as Jang tries to pick out Son. Korean corner. Time is running out.

87 mins. Özil finds some space out on the right, and sends in a lovely cross. Hummels is in space, and completely mistimes his header. We should be seeing Hummels wheeling away in celebration, but the ball goes wide after coming off his shoulder. He simply had to score there. That was the chance.

88 mins. Another green wave comes forward, and Kroos has a skidding effort that is safely stopped by Cho. Germany have been inept in front of goal, but the Korean ‘keeper has been excellent.

90 mins. Kroos gives the ball away in bizarre fashion. He smashes it straight at Lee Yong, who goes down in a heap. The ball falls nicely for the Koreans, who stream forward. Lee Jae-sung has a shot, which is deflected behind.

90+1 mins. Lee is still flat on the ground, but recovers as Korea prepare to take the corner.

90+2 mins. The corner is swung in. There’s confusion in the German box. Kroos is there with a reed-shirted forward, and the ball finds Kim Young-gwon, who is in acres of space just inside the six-yard box. Neuer attempt to scramble into position, but Kim has enough time to line up his shot. The net bulges, and the Koreans celebrate. But wait. Wait. Wait. There’s an offside flag.

90+3 mins. The Koreans are protesting, and there is only one way to settle this. Looking at the replay, it was Kroos who got the crucial touch, sending the ball back towards his goal and through Süle’s legs. Kim is in front of the play, but it is not offside. That is surely going to be overturned. We are hoping for a refereeing gaffe. It is the only thing that can save Germany now, as that looked like a legitimate goal. Mark Geiger, having looked at the touchline monitor, overrules the decision. Korea have their goal, and there is surely no way back now. 0-1.

90+4 mins. Germany need two goals in as many minutes, plus whatever will be added on for the time spent on the video review. We have seen many stories of pulling the impossible out of the fire, but this is surely asking way too much. Play restarts, and even Neuer is making his way forward into the opposition half.

90+5 mins. Hummels, who has been more effective that any of the offensive players in the Korean box, heads over.

90+6 mins. Neuer is still in the Korean half, and his robbed by Ju Se-jong. The entire pitch is wide open now, and Ju lifts the ball into the German half for Son to chase down. This he does, pursued in vain by Süle. Son catches up with the ball, and tucks it away. There’s a look by the VAR, but Son was in his own half when the ball was played. So no problem there either. That is the final knife in the heart. It is all over. 0-2.

90+8 mins. With all all of the VAR shenanigans, this match is still going on. Germany can only get a consolation now, but Cho is determined to rub it in deep. Brandt gets a shot on target, but the Korean ‘keeper makes another excellent save. The reality is now dawning on the German players. The final whistle is yet to be blown, but there are some teary faces already.

90+9 mins. There is even time for Hummels to get another header in. Over it goes.

90+10 mins. Finally, it is all over. The German players collapse to the floor, the shock etched on their faces. The Koreans, meanwhile, are in a massive red bundle. They are also on their way home, but on the back of a headline-making achievement.

With what can only be described as a surreal ending, Germany have been knocked out in the first phase. With it, 80 years of history have come to an end. The last time this happened was in 1938. Eighty years ago, over a year before the start of the Second World War. This simply could not happen, we all said. But it has. I am now finding it difficult to type. In fact, I have been all over the place for the last twenty minutes or so. This is going to take some editing work, once I find the strength to do it.

We have almost three more weeks of football to go, and Germany are going to play no part in it. It is happening right in front of me, and I am finding it hard to fathom. It is like some nightmare, yet my eyes are completely open. To be honest, I still do not believe it. Yet at the same time, I can. Try as they might, there was no way through for the Mannschaft today. If there was a Plan A, it failed miserably. If there was a Plan B, I certainly did not see it.

This tournament has been a hard slog from the very start. In fact, it started long before that. It has now come to an premature end.

Germany were awful against Mexico, lucky against Sweden, and beyond awful again today. Maybe it is a good thing, this result. It would have been even worse to leave the competition having played out a goalless draw. All things said and done, this German team probably deserve to go out. But for all of their failings, hats off to the Koreans. They did what they had to do.

And that, meine Freunde, is that.

Kazan Arena, Kazan, 27.06.2018
South Korea

0-2 (0-0)
– / Kim Young-gwon 90+3., Son Heung-min 90+6.

Germany: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Süle, Hummels, Hector (78. Brandt) – Khedira (58. Gómez), Kroos – Goretzka (63. Müller), Özil, Reus – Werner

South Korea: Cho Hyun-woo – Lee Yong, Jang Hyun-soo, Kim Young-gwon, Hong Chul – Koo Ja-cheol (Hwang Hee-chan 56., Go Yo-han 79.), Jung Woo-young – Moon Seon-min (69. Ju Se-jong), Yun Young-sun – Lee Jae-sung – Son Heung-min (c)

Referee: Mark Geiger (United States)
Assistants: Joe Fletcher (Canada), Frank Anderson (United States)
Fourth Official: Julio Bascuñán (Chile)
Reserve Assistant Referee: Christian Schiemann (Chile)
Video Assistant Referee: Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)
Assistant Video Referees: Tiago Martins (Portugal), Corey Rockwell (United States), Artur Dias (Portugal)

Yellow Cards: – / Jung Woo-young 9., Lee Jae-sung 23., Moon Seon-min 48., Son Heung-min 65.
Red Cards: – / –

Ball Possession: 70% / 30%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 15 / 6
Attempts off Target: 11 / 5
Corners: 9 / 3
Fouls Committed: 7 / 16

Attendance: 41,835

Man of the Match: Cho Hyun-woo (South Korea)

Just like 1938: Abject Germany bundled out of World Cup by solid South Korea
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3 thoughts on “Just like 1938: Abject Germany bundled out of World Cup by solid South Korea

  • June 29, 2018 at 18:25

    I have supported Die Mannschaft more passionately than then next guy since I was an 8 year old boy. I never bet money against Germany even when I think they would lose, because of the conflict of emotion I would go through. On Wednesday, after I saw Low’s starting eleven against Korea, I put money on Germany losing for the first time. Maybe just to prove a point.

    This starting eleven looked too similar to Italy (2012) and France (2016). A young player who has never played in a certain position before, being played in it in his first Major tournament (Kroos 2012 Right Winger, Emre Can 2016 Attacking midfielder, Leon Goretzka 2018, right winger). These Löw moments which I could never decipher, is something that we got used to, and if he stays, will happen again for sure. In a match where we would face 10 defenders, again, we needed creativity. Werner has proved in this system that he does not function as a center forward, creativity is not Goretzka’s main point, Rues was suffocated by Hector’s continuous presence in the Korean box for some weird Löw reason, Kroos was back to his Mexico game role playing in front of the two center backs which greatly limited his attacking influence, that left us to look for creativity with non-other than …. Ozil. No Comment.

    Why Ozil, who has disappointed in the last 6 (yes 6) years, was playing, no one will ever know. Why Goretzka was playing as a right winger instead of playing in place of Khedira, well; it’s the baggage that comes with Löw. Why hector was the player supporting Werner in the box, it’s a mystery.

    What should have happened:
    1- The most obvious is having a proper holding midfielder to protect the back 4, and free Kroos to venture forward, what Schweinsteiger used to do. I was so happy to see Rudy start against Sweden, because he is exactly that. Other players who can do that are Julian Weigel and Emre Can. Unfortunately, Rudy got injured and we immediately saw the effect after he was substituted. In 2014, the injury of Mustafi against Algeria changed everything. Lahm was brought back to right back, Shweini took the holding midfielder role, and Kroos and Khedira were much more effective going forward, This changed everything starting from the game with France and this is the main reason why we have 4 stars.
    2- Don’t start with Ozil, certainly not as a number 10.
    3- Left back: We had the choice between the invisible man (Plattenhardt) and the weak link (Hector). I would have much better preferred to have someone like Gundogan at left back; he’s fast, good with both feet, and can defend decently. Also, Philip Max would have been a great option. Even Schmelzer would have been a better option.
    4- Team selection: There are a lot of small tactical changes that could have changed things, like starting with Gomez against Korea, or Goretzka playing in his usual position. Team selection in general was questionable, as usual. The team consists of the Bayern players, who are winning in a video-game like setting in the Bundesliga, Hummels and Boateng last played as real defenders in 2014. Since then they have been stuck in the middle of the pitch with Bayern and their system. Muller out of form for 2 seasons now, Ozil for longer. Gomez and Khedira and Rues injured for long parts of the season, Draxler as a substitute all season with PSG. Hector down to Bundesliga 2 with Koln. Meanwhile, Leroy Sane (Best young player in the best league in the world) Philip Max (Best assister in the Bundesliga) and Emre Can (Champions League Finalist) are at home. Maybe Sane’s and Can’s presence could have changed things, maybe not. Was is certain is that they deserved to be in the team, and they deserved a shot at having an influence.

    Löw is a brilliant tactician. He is good at creating combination play and positioning. However, he can never be a great manager. He always seems to get too engrossed in tactics that he misses the big picture, the important stuff. Like having a leader in the team, playing each player to his potential, being a true leader.

    Enough with tactics for now. Yes, I believe Löw’s’s decisions are inexplicable, and yes, as I say after every tournament, including 2014, he should go. But I think German football has much bigger problems. The Bundesliga is at it’s lowest point in decades, Germany have an identity crisis, and the fair play rules are not being met. I think that bringing Guardiola to the Bundesliga was the gravest mistake. This changed the identity of Bayern and Die Mannschaft. He is the kind of manager who thrives when having the better players but struggles badly when facing equally strong teams. And since Bayern is worth 3-4 times more than the next team in the Bundesliga, it has been an all Bayern video-game show in the past 6 years. It made players think that this is real life; well, It’s not. Bundesliga teams are struggling badly in Europe, and Bayern’s hiring strategy which results in weakening the local competition is not helping. It is time to open the Bundesliga up for foreign investment.

    Germany’s history and record in the world cup has been up until three days ago nothing short of a miracle. They have achieved that by doing things the German way. Not by keeping non-performing players, nor by putting players out of position, and certainly not by doing things the Spanish way. Consequently, one of the best generations of German footballers has produced one of the worst results if not the worst.

  • June 29, 2018 at 11:54

    Thank you for sharing this painful and surreal situation. There were few moments where I felt bad in the past (Algeria in 1982, Bulgaria in 1994 and Croatia in 1998) but nothing like this. Football of today needs mental and psychological resilience and our boys simply did not have it. They were too predictable, because they were managing the fear of losing rather than the hunger to win. As Bild said, zu viel Kommerz, zu wenig Herz. The real challenge is how die Mannschaft can bounce back quickly, fiercely and with more scary power. The only way to overcome the bitterness is to hope for a better comeback.

  • June 29, 2018 at 08:32

    Thank you for going through the nightmare of this game again to reclarify for us how it all went down.
    Of course I was watching. Of course I know Germany are out. Of course I understand why. I just still cannot believe it.
    All these post-game articles simply help reiterate reality and provide some much needed closure.

    I looked forward to the rest of your articles, and of course…the new Bayern season!

    Mia San Mia!


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