Germany’s national team have already left their FIFA World Cup™ base
in Vatutinki and returned home, leaving hotel staff to commence the big
clean-up as members of the media begin packing their bags too.
|Moscow – June 17, 2018 6:00 pm|
|Nizhny Novgorod – June 18, 2018 3:00 pm|
|Rostov-On-Don – June 23, 2018 6:00 pm|
|Sochi – June 23, 2018 9:00 pm|
|Kazan – June 27, 2018 5:00 pm|
|Ekaterinburg – June 27, 2018 7:00 pm|
The overriding emotion is one of tremendous disillusionment – after
all, nobody expected this. While there were some portents of doom in the
run-up to the tournament, neither the team nor the media seemed able or
willing to take notice of them. As a result, Germany became the third
successive world champions whose title defence ended after the group
stage. FIFA set out to search for the reasons behind Die Nationalelf’s failure.
For many years this has been Cologne’s optimistic motto, and the
national team appear to have adopted it as their guiding principle at
this World Cup. After underperforming in a 2-1 defeat by Austria and
narrow 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in the run-up to the tournament,
everyone assumed that the team stepping onto the pitch at the start of
Russia 2018 would be transformed, as if at the flick of a switch.Yet this was not to be. The problems encountered in the warm-up games
continued unabated against Mexico and were also evident against Sweden
and Korea Republic. “Before the Mexico match I felt as though we had a
sense of self-importance,” Joachim Low said immediately after Germany’s
exit. Clearly this was something he was unable to overcome.
Incidentally, Cologne were relegated this season.Stat – Germany only led matches for one minute at this World Cup
Key players with issues
While many of Germany’s players have shown undeniable quality for their
clubs this season, too many of the individuals expected to play a key
role in Russia significantly underperformed. Ahead of the tournament,
the main topic of discussion was whether Manuel Neuer would be able to
get back to his best after a lengthy injury break. While these fears
proved to be unfounded, Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler and Thomas Muller
continued the poor form they had already shown for their clubs, Jerome
Boateng was still on his way back from injury, Toni Kroos remained
largely anonymous and Sami Khedira failed to provide Die Nationalelf with some much-needed stability.
Stat – Germany scored two goals at Russia 2018 – less than at any previous World Cup. Only Panama have scored fewer (one goal).
Sticking with world champions
This is a common theme for all former world champions when they exit
their next tournament, and for good reason. After all, it is
understandable that coaches choose to place their faith in players who
have already won a major trophy in the hope that they can continue to
build on this success. While this does not necessarily mean that every
remaining member of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™-winning squad has passed
the peak of their powers, it would have made sense to give exciting
young players such as Julian Brandt more playing time, given the
aforementioned drop in form among many of the old guard.
Stat – Germany spent 43 per cent of their playing time in their
opponents’ half, more than any other team. Spain and Argentina are next
on the list with 36 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.
While many within the Germany camp spoke of being surprised by Mexico’s
tactics after the first World Cup game, the reverse was certainly not
true. All three of Die Nationalelf’s opponents had a fairly
accurate idea of how they would play and prepared themselves impeccably.
Korea Republic even anticipated and neutralised Germany’s tendency to
switch between wings in the last match. Despite their high lines and
possession-focused play, Joachim Low’s side lacked cutting edge and an
element of surprise in the final third. Although this is something that
Leroy Sane could have offered his country, the Premier League’s best
young player of the 2017/18 season was left at home to the surprise of
many. Even set pieces – one of their greatest strengths in 2014 –
provided little threat this time around.
Stat – Germany only converted around four per cent of their chances –
the worst ratio of any team at the tournament. The next lowest figure
was seven per cent, with Russia leading the way on 38 per cent.
Failure to convert chances
It is certainly not the case that Germany failed to create any
goalscoring opportunities at all, even if the number of clear-cut
chances was extremely limited. Die Nationalelf missed several
glaring opportunities in the Sweden match alone, and could have scored a
couple of goals at 0-0 against Korea Republic. The defending champions
lacked the kind of reliable finisher evident in many other teams at this
tournament. Thomas Muller was unable to fulfil this role as many hoped
he world, as were Timo Werner and Mario Gomez.
Stat – Germany had 67 attempts on goal. In comparison Brazil had 56 and Spain 45.
So what now? There is no doubt that the rebuilding process will last
much longer than Germany’s World Cup adventures in Russia. On arriving
in Frankfurt on Thursday afternoon, DFB president Reinhard Grindel
explained that an agreement had been reached “for the management to
submit their initial sporting analysis to the DFB (German Football
Association) board over the coming week, after which point I also expect
that the coach will make a statement on his future”. According to
Grindel, the DFB’s task now is to “pave the way for the radical changes
we now need to make”. The exact nature and extent of these changes will
become clear over the coming weeks and months.