Germany crash out of World Cup after shock loss to South Korea
It’s the first time since 1938 that Germany have gone out at the first stage of the finals
Germany’s Julian Brandt and Thomas Muller look dejected as South Korea players celebrate on the pitch after their 2018 World Cup Group F win. Photo: Michael Dalder/Reuters
The champions have crashed out of the World Cup here in Kazan after Joachim Löw’s side were beaten by South Korea in a game that only came to life late on and in which VAR once against played a crucial role.
South Korea had to resist long spells of German pressure but ultimately deserved their win against a side that simply couldn’t find a way to break them down or beat goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo from distance.
The goalkeeper, third choice coming into the tournament, made a couple of good stops late on, most memorably from Julian Brandt while Mats Hummels narrowly missed the target.
But, already behind to a Kim Young-gwon strike from close range in the final minute of normal time, Germany conceded a second three minutes later when Ju Se-jong got the better of Manuel Neuer who had ventured into the opponent’s half and sent the ball soaring 60 metres into the path of Son Heung-min who had only to keep his head to convert, which he did.
There were tears amongst the supporters in the stand, most likely of both teams, and a general sense of shock amongst the Germans as they wandered the pitch afterwards clearly struggling to take in the fact the country had been eliminated from a World Cup in the first round for the first time since 1938. To the Koreans, meanwhile, it seemed not to matter at all that they will be going home too despite the win.
They had shown a little of the spark that ultimately earned them victory even early on. Mats Hummels and then Sami Khedira were hustled out of possession in quick succession and it seemed, for a moment or two, as though the world champions might be given as uncomfortable time throughout the game here as they had been by Mexico in Moscow.
But the pressure largely subsided with left -sided midfielder Moon Seon-min one of the few to make much of a mark on that front after Jung Woo-young received an early caution for a slightly over-zealous challenge on Jonas Hector.
Germany then settled in to take control but despite having 80 per cent of the possession over the course of the first half they managed just 50 per cent of the attempts on target or, put another way, one. Neuer came closer to conceding than Cho Hyun-woo when he spilled a Jung free-kick before recovering very impressively to prevent Son Heung-min turning the loose ball home.
In attack, though, the Germans again looked toothless, at least until the end when their lives depended on it. Timo Werner’s pace caused the Asians some problems but he looked more effective as a floating member of the supporting cast than a threat on goal himself and behind them there was too much prevarication with Mezut Özil, one of five outfield players to come in for this game, twice playing the ball out wide when there was the opportunity to push forward more directly and test Cho himself.
Löw looked to change things again, throwing Mario Gomez on for the second of his defensive midfielders, his side scarcely appeared to need a second one of those against opponent posing next to no threat but Khedira was scarcely off the pitch when his teammates started to look exposed. After Son had been booked for diving inside the area, he and Moon Seon-min went close enough to have German hearts in mouths.
The pressure steadily mounted at the other end, meanwhile, with Özil and Marco Reus having their moments although there were others when it looked less than telepathic. Gomez lumbered, Thomas Müller tried but failed to make a difference and Julian Brandt was given another opportunity to do better than excite by going close.
He couldn’t and aside from a low Kroos drive and his late strike, Cho was hardly required to make a save.
Given the other group result, the win was required by Germany but they could hardly have anticipated actually losing. But Kim’s goal moved them to the brink of defeat and elimination with the brief reprieve granted by a mistaken offside decision overruled by VAR as it became clear that Kroos had essentially passed the ball back to the Korean defender.
The last few minutes - the champions were given six of added time in which to somehow save themselves - had more than a touch of mayhem to them and while Son’s goal made no material difference, it certainly added to the sense of drama on a day that will be remembered in World Cup history however hard the Germans try to forget.
SOUTH KOREA (4-4-2): Cho; Yong Lee, Yun, Young-Gwon Kim, Hong; Jae-Sung Lee, Jung, Jang, Moon (Ju 69); Koo (Hwang 56), Son.
Booked: Jung, Jae-Sung Lee, Moon, Son. Goals: Young-Gwon Kim 90, Son 90.
GERMANY (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Hummels, Sule, Hector (Brandt 78); Khedira (Gomez 58), Kroos; Goretzka (Muller 63), Ozil, Reus; Werner.
Referee: Mark Geiger (USA).