South Korean players celebrate while German players look dejected after their 2018 FIFA World Cup match in Kazan, Russia, on Wednesday (27/06). (Reuters Photo/Dylan Martinez)

Germans Shocked by World Cup Defeat, Fans Call for Shake-Up


JUNE 28, 2018

Berlin/Kazan. German fans were left shocked and dismayed after the national team was eliminated in the opening round of the World Cup for the first time in 80 years.

Top-selling daily Bild splashed "OUT!" across its website after the defending champion's 2-0 defeat by South Korea, calling it a nightmare but adding "We didn't deserve any better."

"The biggest disgrace in German World Cup History. The 0:2 loss is the embarrassing end to a catastrophic group phase," it wrote on its website.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who often attends national team games, expressed her disappointment at an event on artificial intelligence in Berlin.

When the robot Sophia said the German team remained one of the best in the world, Merkel said, "That's true, if you take a long view. But this evening we're all very sad."

In West Berlin, along the swanky shopping avenue Kurfürstendamm normally filled with cheering fans and honking cars, the mood was eerily silent. Glum-faced fans in Germany shirts moved slowly and quietly away from cafes and bars.

Tens of thousands of German supporters who had gathered to view the game at the Brandenburg Gate stood stunned after the South Korea loss, some moved to tears.

"It didn't go well from the start. The first game wasn't great, the second game wasn't great and we shouldn't even talk about today," said Robert Küschinger, one emotional fan.

"We deserved to lose. Something definitely has to change now."

Another tearful fan, Janin Roethig added: "The team just didn't even fight. It was a terrible game."

Coach Joachim Loew told broadcaster ZDF it was too soon to answer a question about his future as the national trainer.

"I'm terribly disappointed," Loew said. "I need a few hours to digest it."

Die Welt newspaper dismissed the team's performance as "disgraceful." "Tame, lacking in ideas and passion – the team deservedly lost against South Korea," it said.

Germany's only win in Russia was against Sweden last Saturday in Sochi – thanks to a stoppage-time goal from Toni Kroos.

"'The miracle of Sochi' was not repeated today," the German Interior Ministry tweeted. "Out in the group stage. The Sports Ministry is as sad as you all are."

Felix Kroos, brother of midfielder Toni, tweeted: "That's sport. Heads high for all those who truly cheered on."

German comedian Jan Böhmermann offered hope for the future.

"Chin up. In the next World Cup, Germany will form a joint European team with Italy, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Croatia and Spain, and will be world champion every time thereafter," he said on Twitter.

Shambolic Germany

Long the benchmark of excellence in the sport, Germany's dismal campaign ended meekly, with stoppage-time goals by Kim Young-gwon and Son Heung-min condemning Loew's side to finishing bottom of the group.

On a warm and sunny afternoon at Kazan Arena, some 42,000 flabbergasted fans witnessed the fall of a titanic team who had made the semifinals or beyond in every World Cup since 2002.

Four-times champion and four-times runner-up, Germany was heavily backed to retain the title and add another triumph to Loew's long list of honors.

Instead, the team will head home after a scarcely believable failure, having also suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Mexico in its opener and only scraped past Sweden with a stoppage-time winner.

"At the moment ... the disappointment of being eliminated is just huge. We need to congratulate our opponents," an apologetic Loew, who has overseen a golden era in German football since 2006, told reporters.

"We didn't deserve to win the title again, we didn't deserve to get into the last 16.

"We wanted to win but we didn't have what it takes."

With the group going down to the wire, Germany needed victory against the lightly regarded Koreans to give itself a chance of progressing.

Yet it scarcely looked capable of scoring, let alone going on to claim another trophy. The Germans became the fourth champions in five World Cups to fall at the first hurdle during their title defense.

The German players trudged off goalless at halftime, with frowns on faces and whistles ringing out from the terraces.

Sense of Doom

An early fumble on the goal line by captain and keeper Manuel Neuer betrayed their nerves, and all but delivered the Koreans' first goal.

A sense of doom grew in the stadium as Sweden leapt out to a 2-0 lead against Mexico in Yekaterinburg, forcing Loew to make changes in a desperate push for a winner.

Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller, who was dropped from the starting side, were injected soon after the break but a collective paralysis seemed to have taken hold.

Offered a free header from close in with minutes left on the clock, center back Mats Hummels missed the ball completely, a perfect snapshot of an afternoon of serial ineffectiveness going forward.

"We had a lot of chances, even me I should have scored in the 87th [minute]," a rueful Hummels said.

"Today it was not easy but, yes, no team could get through easily."

Kroos, who curled in the winner to beat Sweden, tried to spark his side but was denied by Cho Hyun-woo in the 88th minute, one of a number of fine saves by the South Korean keeper.

"We were playing for the Korean people," said Cho, a cult figure at home for his ostentatious, orange bouffant.

"It was only after the match that we found out the other score, of course we were disappointed and that's why some of us cried."

Hogging 70 percent of possession and launching 26 shots at goal, Germany pushed forward in numbers but found no way through the Korean stonewall.

Its own defense was exposed on the counterattack, however, and it finally buckled in the third minute of stoppage time when a corner fell to an unmarked Kim who poked the ball home from close range.

Although ruled out offside, the goal was confirmed with a review of the Video Assistant Referee, sparking mad celebrations from the Koreans and a gasp from the crowd.

Minutes later, Germany's humiliation was completed with a touch of farce.

Son sprinted to retrieve a long ball, and with Neuer having gone upfield to try to help his side score, the Tottenham forward rolled a low, angled shot into the open goal to seal one of the most unlikely wins in recent World Cup history.

The Koreans, who had no idea of the score in the other match, rejoiced as if having won the tournament, while 11 German players hoped the ground would swallow them.

Loew, who recently signed a contract extension, said he would take time to consider his future.

"I must take responsibility for this. The entire German football lost," he said.