Holders Germany sensationally crashed out of the World Cup on Wednesday in one of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s history — failing to make it past the opening round for the first time since 1938.
In a stunning reverse by the footballing superpower who have reached either the final or semi-finals of every World Cup since 2002, the Germans stumbled to a 2-0 loss to South Korea that left them rooted to the bottom of Group F.
Germany went into the game knowing that a win by two clear goals would have seen them into the last 16. But instead it was Sweden and Mexico who advanced after the Swedes romped to a 3-0 win over the Mexicans in Yekaterinburg.
Germany coach Joachim Loew, who led his side to victory in the 2014 World Cup final, will be under pressure to quit, despite having only signed a contract extension until 2022 last month.
“It’s too soon for me to answer, it will take a few hours to see things clearly, the disappointment is very deep in me,” said 58-year Loew when asked if he would resign.
“We will have to have discussions tomorrow, we’ll see how it goes.”
“It is a really, really bitter evening for us,” defender Mats Hummels told German broadcaster ZDF. “The situation is very difficult to put into words.”
“We had plenty of opportunities, we broke our necks trying out there today,” he added.
Germany qualified for Russia with a perfect record of 10 wins, but Hummels said the last time the team had played well was when they wrapped up qualification late last year.
Hummels said the warning signs had been there after Germany lost their opening game 1-0 to Mexico.
“We put ourselves in this situation after the Mexican game,” he admitted. “The last game we delivered a good performance was in the autumn of 2017.”
Sweden coach Janne Andersson spoke of his pride after his side topped the group with second-half goals from Ludwig Augustinsson, Andreas Granqvist and an own goal from Edson Alvarez.
“We’ve done a fantastic job today with this match,” he said in Yekaterinburg, ahead of a last-16 clash against either Brazil, Switzerland or Serbia.
“I’m so incredibly proud, almost moved as the thought of how we performed on the pitch, so disciplined. I think we’ve grown since our last match.”
– Neymar pressure –
Elsewhere, as the first round draws to a close, five-time winners Brazil need a point from their final Group E game against Serbia to guarantee progress.
Victory will confirm Brazil as group winners, but coach Tite is warning that under-fire superstar Neymar cannot be expected to win the World Cup on his own and is not yet at full fitness.
The world’s most expensive player, who battled back from a broken bone in his foot to be fit for Russia, took plenty of flak despite scoring in the 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday.
Both Brazil goals came in added time and Neymar wept after netting their second, but was earlier accused of diving after the video assistant referee overturned a penalty awarded to him when replays showed there was minimal contact.
“There is an excessive responsibility on him in terms of success and that is not the way to go,” said Tite.
“Maybe we need one more match and he will be in his full form physically and technically, because he is outside the normal standards.”
Should Neymar and Brazil stumble in Moscow, Switzerland are hoping a win over Costa Rica in Nizhny Novgorod could catapult them into the last 16 as Group E winners.
The Swiss are second in the table and level on four points with Brazil, but have an inferior goal difference.
“I think we should get this done, we want to top the group,” said Swiss head coach Vladimir Petkovic.
The Swiss camp is promising no more controversy after FIFA fined three players for their “double eagle” hand gestures to represent the Albanian flag in the politically charged victory over Serbia.