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Korea loss sends Germany to shock early World Cup exit

Ed McCambridge
June 27, 2018

Two late South Korean goals have sent Germany crashing out of World Cup 2018 at the group stage after another poor display. The reigning champions finish bottom of Group F, while Sweden and Mexico make the last 16.

FIFA Fußball-WM 2018 in Russland | Deutschland vs. Südkorea
Image: Reuters/D. Martinez

South Korea 2 - 0 Germany
(Kim 90+3, Son 90+6)

This simply doesn’t happen. Germany, the reigning world champions, four-time winners of this competition and FIFA’s highest ranked nation have stumbled at the first hurdle of a World Cup for the first time since 1938.

Two late goals from South Korea hammered the final nails in the coffin, though, in truth, the writing had been on the wall since Germany’s opening clash with Mexico. For all the talk of wakeup calls and character after that defeat, there was little sign of either, as Germany became the fourth reigning champion to fall at the first hurdle in the last five World Cups.

In the wake of two dismal performances, Löw made bold choices with his lineup on Wednesday. Thomas Müller was dropped to the bench in favor of the dynamic, yet not-ideally suited, Leon Goretzka on the right side of attack; suggesting Löw had little idea how to wring the best out of this squad. It was telling that Germany’s coach was forced to reverse this decision in the final third of the match, his tactical masterplan bearing no fruit whatsoever until that point.

Germany looked shaky from the off, with Manuel Neuer spilling a innocuous freekick straight into the path of Son Heung-Min in the 19th minute. He managed to get to the loose ball just ahead of the Tottenham forward and parry it to safety. It was a sign of things to come.

Son went close again six minutes later, blazing over the bar from close range when he really should have punished Germany’s sloppy defending. The Korea captain was a thorn in Germany's side for much of this match, driving his team forward at every opportunity.

Germany dominated possesion for much of the first half but did little with it. A champion team with A-list talent, woefully short of ideas. When Mesut Özil found Timo Werner on the edge of the Korean penalty area shortly before halftime, Germany’s only real chance of the half was snuffed out by some dogged defending.

FIFA Fußball-WM 2018 in Russland | Deutschland vs. Südkorea
Germany's Toni Kroos reacts after a missed opportunityImage: Reuters/M. Dalder

Germany came out with all guns blazing in the second half. Leon Goretzka went close with a glancing header from a Joshua Kimmich cross on 48 minutes but was denied by goalkeeper, Jo Hyeon-Woo, who pulled off a great save to keep his side in the match. The momentum didn’t last long, though, with the news that Sweden had scored against Mexico adding pressure to an already explosive situation.

Sweden’s goal, on the 50 minute mark, was scored by Werder Bremen's Ludwig Augustinsson. The defender fired home from a  cute angle to drag his side ahead of Germany in Group F. A draw would no longer be enough, with Germany needing a goal if they were to advance to the next round.

The introduction of Mario Gomez for Sami Khedira just before the hour mark, made sense. Korea had been sitting deep since that earlier Goretzka opportunity and the need for a physical presence in attack was clear. It almost paid off immediately, as Kimmich found him with a beautifully-weighted cross in the 64th minute. The Stuttgart man really should have done better, heading straight into the grateful arms of goalkeeper Jo .

Two further goals from Sweden, a penalty from captain Andreas Granqvist and an own goal from Edson Alvarez changed little. A Germany goal would still be enough to see them through.

It simply wouldn’t happen, however, with Toni Kroos blazing over the bar on the 73rd minute after Mesut Özil fed him inside the Korea penalty area. Several more frantic attacks were snuffed out before Mats Hummels was presented with perhaps Germany’s best chance of the game.

Again it was from a Kimmich cross, again the recipient should have done better. Hummels can claim that he was short sighted, with the ball blocked from view as a defender stretched to head it clear, but it should have been routine for a player of his pedigree. The Bayern defender missed the ball with his head and watched as it drifted agonizingly over the bar after ricocheting off his shoulder. 

Then Korea struck. After winning a corner in stoppage time, Son Heung-Min whipped a low ball into the box that should have been cleared. Instead, it bounced awkwardly off Kroos and was poked in from close range by Kim Young-gwon. The referee opted to check VAR for offside but the outcome seemed oddly inevitable. Germany were about to be knocked out of the World Cup.

The second goal came as a result of Germany's desperate attempt to find an equalizer. Neuer was high up the pitch when the ball was cleared to Son, who raced clear into an empty half and put the game to bed with the simplest of finishes. Cue bedlam.

There will be inquests of course, calls for Jogi Löw to step down as coach of the national team; a glorious tenure ending in ruin. Germany are out of the World Cup. This simply doesn't happen.


+++ As it happened+++

South Korea 2 - 0 Germany
(Kim 90+3, Son 90+6)

A lot of talk now will revolve around Joachim Löw's tactical decisions as well as the futures of some of his key men.

Some strong words from plenty of people in Germany, including Mats Hummels, who says this one has been a long time coming.

Well, this is incredible. Germany are the fourth world champion of the last five to go out at the group stage. And it's hard to argue that they deserved more. Mats Hummels is the unlucky man who has to do the pitchside interview at full time and he's lamenting the missed chances. But, in truth, most of those came in a desperate ending when South Korea also had their share. The camera now cuts to the German bench where no words are being exchanged and thousand yard stares are everywhere. Our match report will be with you any minute.


90+6 - Neuer is up the pitch and Son picks up the ball with the whole half to himself and taps in an empty net. That's it. GERMANY ARE OUT OF THE WORLD CUP!

90+5 - Hummels again with a chance but heads on to the roof of the net.

90+1 - THE GOAL IS GIVEN It came from a low corner. A Korean player flicked it on and then it appears to have bounced off Kroos and was turned in by Kim at the back post. Germany are surely out.

90+1 - Korea have the ball in the net but it's ruled out for offside. That looked very, very tight. They're going to VAR.

90' - Kross tries to drive Germany forward but smashes it in to Lee. South Korea break but Lee's shot is deflected out for a corner. There will be SIX minutes of injury time.

88' - Kross finds a yard on the edge of the box but the shot is saved by Jo. So many chances fro Germany here.

87' - What a miss! Özil swings in a brilliant ball, Hummels is free on the edge of the six yard box but misjudges the flight. It hits his shoulder and flies wide.

86' - Jang does brilliantly to wriggle free down the left. He's got two teammates free on the far side but he can't quite thread the needle and Süle clears behind before Germany clear the corner.

84' - At least they're creating them. First Brandt's shot is blocked then Kroos fires an optimistic effort over. 

83' - Now it's Reus' turn. He lets fly from the edge of the box. The shot has a nice shape on it but it's a yard wide.

82' - Müller now flicks a header wide from yet another Kimmich cross. Very tough chance but Germany need to take one of those.

81' - Werner tries to beat his man on the left but over-runs it. The camera cuts to Müller expressing his frustration, as well he might.

79' - End to end now as Kimmich whips one in for Germany before South Korea make a mess of a 3 v 2 on the break. 

78' - Son breaks now and strikes low and early. But it flashes just wide of Neuer's right post.

Löw really rolling the dice now, with Brandt on for Hector. Müller is also on the pitch, for Goretzka. This is do or die stuff.

76 - Germany again get to the edge of the Korean box but Gomez and Hector fluff their lines.

74' - Another goal for Sweden this time from the boot of Mexican defender Alvarez. That doesn't change too much for Germany at this stage.

71' - For the umpteenth time Kimmich finds a great cross, but once again Gomez can't convert. This time with his feet. Could this really happen? It's beginning to feel like it could. But this is Germany...

69' - Another change for South Korea, who replace Moon with Ju.

68' - Kimmich again finds space on the right and again digs out an excellent cross. Gomez powers it towards goal but it's too close to Jo.

67' - Moon gets some space in the box but fails to get a shot away. A decent opportunity that, the tension is rising by the second.

65' - Son goes down on the edge of the German box after bumping in to Reus. The referee rightly decides it's a dive and books the South Korean skipper.

64' - Hummels just stretches to cut out a dangerous through ball. This is on a knife edge but one thing is clear, Germany need a goal. Werner has another chance to get that but pulls it wide from a tight angle.

62' - Granqvist nails the penalty home. It's 2-0 to Sweden.

60' - Sweden have a penalty!

58' - Löw makes the change now and it's an attacking one. Gomez comes on for Khedira, whose poor World Cup continues. Germany looking for greater presence upfront.

56' - South Korea make the first change of the match. Augsburg's Koo can't carry on after picking up a knock and is replaced by Hwang. 

55' - Korea are very much in this one and look dangerous on the break but Lee wastes a couple of decent opportunities on the right.

53' - Kroos whips in a corner from the right but it's easily cleared. 

50' - Sweden have taken the lead over Mexico in the other game through Werder Bremen's Ludwig Augustinsson. Which means Germany are out as it stands. To add insult to that injury, Timo Werner fires a decent chance wide for Germany.

48' - So close from Goretzka! Reus does brilliantly to find Kimmich on the right. He dinks one up to the new Bayern man who connects well with the free header but Jo flings himself to his right to tip wide. That's Germany's best moment so far.

46' - We're off again in Kazan. Can Germany finally find their groove?

HALF TIME: So it's as you were in Group F at the break, with both games deadlocked at 0-0. Which means Germany are edging in to the last 16. Joachim Löw's men have been underwhelming once again, with Korea matching them, in terms of chances if not territory. Huge 45 coming up for all four nations.

45+3 - Now the men in red break and Son gets a shot off. But it's not troubling Neuer.

45+1' - A cutback from Kimmich almost finds Werner, before Özil's follow up effort is blocked by Yung. Korea hanging on a little in the closing stages of the half.

45' - Khedira and Son tangle in the Germany box and the Korean goes to ground. No real suggestion of a penalty there though.

43' - Werner spanks a shot against the post but the whistle had already blown for a foul by Jonas Hector which, on the replay, looked a little dubious.

39' - Özil finds Werner to his right and the Leipzig man strikes early, but it deflects over. From the corner, Werner cuts a loose ball back to Hummels who turns smartly in the area and forces a close range save from Jo. That's as close as Germany have come.

37' - Kimmich lifts another in from the right but this one is overhit. It's not quite happened for him yet but he is finding space regularly.

33' - Reus has options as he breaks through the middle but opts to shoot. It's blocked but loops up to Hector. He wins the header and it falls to Werner whose snapshot flies over.

30' - Over in the other game, the VAR has just refused a penalty claim for Sweden. It looked to this observer very much like Javier Hernandez handled the ball in the box. Let off for Mexico.

28' - Lovely build up from Germany. Kroos splits the Korean midfield with a lovely ball in to Özil. The Arsenal man works it wide to Kimmich but his pullback is behind his onrushing teammates. That's been the story so far for Germany, decent build up, not much in the way of penetration.

25' - Big chance for Son. Lee gets away down Korea's right and whips in a lovely ball. It's cleared only as far as Son but the Tottenham Hotspur man skews his volley wide. Not a simple chance but it fell to the right man from a South Korean perspective.

22' - Kimmich, who must now be one of the best crossers of the ball in the world, gets some space down the right. But this one is a little too close to Jo, who collects easily enough. Germany just starting to turn the screw. 

19' - Jung hammers a central free kick from miles out. It's struck well and swerves late but should be comfortable for Neuer. But the Germany number 1 makes a right hash of it, spilling it back in to the box. Fortunately for the reigning champions he recovers to scoop out for a corner, which comes to nothing.

17' - It's still 0-0 in the other Group F match, but we do have a new World Cup record.

14' - Goretzka does excellently to rob an opponent and find Reus but when he gets the ball back, his low cross is easily dealt with. Goretzka's pressing made that 3 v 2 but Reus and Werner were rightly frustrated by the delivery - that was a situation they'd have expected more from.

11' - Kroos stands over a free kick. It's a decent delivery but a Korean defender rises well to clear.

9' - An early booking for South Korean midfielder Yung, who jumped in to a tackle on Hector and was late.

6' - Süle picks out Reus with a smart ball but the Dortmund man's first-time volley is ill-adivsed and flies out of play.

5' - Germany, in their changed green strip, have a spell of possession but don't do a huge amount with it.

2' - Löw is out on the touchline early, hands on hips as South Korea almost get away down the right through Lee. But it's hacked clear.

1 - And we're off!

15:57 - The anthems have been belted out, the flags are being dragged from the field and we're nearly ready to go.

15:55 - There'll be a lot of attention on Hummels and Süle today, with the former returning after his struggles in the first match and his Bayern Munich teammate making his World Cup debut - as is Leon Goretzka further forward. 

15:50 - The atmosphere at the Kazan Arena is heating up and the teams are in the tunnel. This is not a situation familiar to German fans.

15:40 - Hello, and welcome to Germany's third - and potentially final - game of Russia 2018. Joachim Löw rings the changes once again after that unconvincing 2-1 win over Sweden last time out. The situation in this group is about as complicated as it gets, but we've got all the ins and outs for you right here.

Below are the line ups for this match and the Mexico vs. Sweden game, which will kick off at the same time.

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