Defending world champions Germany crashed out of the World Cup after a shock 2-0 loss to South Korea on Wednesday, leaving fans tearful in the stands and fan zones. South Korea's Kim Young-gwon scored in added time and Son Heung-min added another goal just before the final whistle. The four-time winners, who had not been eliminated in a World Cup first round since 1938, were a shadow of their once dominant selves, managing only two goals in their three group games
Germany had come to this World Cup not merely as defending champions but also as winners of the last summer’s Confederations Cup – with what was in effect a second string. The overhaul of their academy system was the envy of the world, talent production on an industrial scale. And yet, called upon to score a goal against a disappointing South Korea side who had already lost to Sweden and Mexico, that had lost in qualifying to Qatar and China, they struggled to create a chance.
Jogi Löw, the Germany coach, had acknowledged that while the Sweden game was an improvement, his side had still had problems in defensive transition, too often leaving the two central defenders exposed. His solution was to bring Leon Goretzka on to the right of the 4-2-3-1, while restoring Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira, who had both been left out of the win over the Swedes.
It gives some indication of the difficulties Germany have had that only three outfielders started all three games. Thomas Müller, who has been struggling for form for a couple of years, was one of the latest sacrifices, the first time he had been left out of a tournament game by Germany since the semi-final of Euro 2012.
Neuer has also started all three games despite not having played for Bayern since September, when he fractured a bone in a foot. He has not been his usual assured self either and 19 minutes in, he fumbled a free-kick from Jung Woo-Young before recovering to fist the ball away as Son closed in. To blame him would be absurd, but equally he is clearly far from his best, and in retrospect forcing him back ahead of Marc-André ter-Stegen was perhaps an error.