Curse of the World Cup Champions: Germany 2018

Curse of the World Cup Champions

Germany’s passing was slow, and their movement lethargic. It’s as if they had given up hope even before kick-off. This match was the decider of the Group F in the 2018 World Cup between Germany and South Korea. And it was the night which proved to be the Curse of the World Cup Champions: Germany. 

South Korea was playing as if this was the final of the World Cup, while their opponents ran around meaninglessly. And the result was 2-0. The Asians won in style, and the champions were out of the biggest tournament in the World.

Curse of the World Cup Champions

For the life of me, I cannot understand why Timo Werner was picked for the 2nd match against Sweden, let alone against South Korea. He has failed to get a single goal in all matches he featured in, and clearly wasn’t ready for this World Cup.  And for some reason, he has drifted in to the left wing, when Mario Gomez was brought on as a substitute. 

The return of Mesut Ozil to the Starting XI wasn’t inspiring either. His passes were wayward, and his positioning was awful. There was a noticeable lack of understanding between him and the players. Some of his lobs in to the box seemed to beat the Korean defenders, but his team mates were nowhere near to take advantage. Ozil should have held up the ball better, or tried some shots himself. 

Khedira was lacklustre, and perhaps he is past his prime. He wasn’t in position to win back possession, a job which he was picked for. Kroos failed to impress, and that maybe because he has been carrying the weight of his team. That has especially been the case, ever since the previous match where he managed to score a spectacular goal in the dying seconds against Sweden. 

Hector the left wingback played many roles in the match including attacking in to the box. At times this was questionable and allowed the Asian side to counter-attack swiftly. He was replaced in the 78th minute after failing to make an impact. Hummels had several chances to score but failed every time. Sule had a decent game, and was one of the reasons why the scoreline wasn’t bigger. 

Neuer reminded me of Jens Lehmann, but I think even he never played so badly. From his sweeper-keeper position which looked fragile at times, Neuer dashed forward to the opponent’s half, and was deservedly punished when a long ball was played to Son Heung-min, who raced to score in to an empty net. Joshua Kimmich and Marco Reus failed to create chances but the former was probably the best defender/attacker on the pitch for the Germans. 

Joachim Low’s reign could come to an end, and he has only himself to blame. His selection policies, once considered as his greatest tactics, were the thorn in his side this time. Omitting Leroy Sane from the 23 man squad was the first of many poor decisions he made. But even the starting lineup was not without controversy.  

The experienced Mario Gomez and the keen to prove Julian Brandt were on the bench, along with Thomas Muller who was dropped for some reason. Not selecting Julian Draxler was a good move however, and benching Anonio Rudiger was perhaps a sensible decision as well. Selecting Goretzka was a questionable move. 

Picking Neuer over Ter Stegen was the biggest mistake. Neuer had been injured since September 2017 and hadn’t featured in a competitive game before the World Cup. His only prior appearance was in a friendly against Austria in June, which ended in a 2-1 loss for the Germans. 

Gündogan was a controversial omission as well, probably due to his antics off the pitch. He had posed with the Turkish president along with Ozil and had declared him “My President”, for which he was jeered by the German fans. 

Some of the squad are into their late 20’s and early 30’s and probably won’t feature in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. I wouldn’t be shocked if some of the German players never play for their Country again. And I cannot help but wonder how Mario Götze, the goal scorer in the final match of the 2014 World Cup must have felt, when Die Mannschaft were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup. 

This is not the first instance where the defending champions have been eliminated in the first round of the World Cup. 

Curse of the World Cup Champions 

  • 1946 World Cup Winner Italy was knocked out in 1950. 
  • 1962 Champions Brazil faced the same fate in 1966. 
  • 1998 Trophy winners France suffered similarly in 2002. 
  • 2006 Winner Italy relived their own history in 2010. 
  • 2010 runaway champions Spain went home early in 2014. 

And the 2014 champions Germany have fallen victim in the same way. This was the 3rd consecutive time that a defending champion was knocked out in the group stage. 

The Curse of the World Cup Champions seems to be real? It does seem so doesn’t it? Does that mean this year’s champions will be knocked out of the 2022 WC in Qatar?

But wait, Curse of the World Cup Champions reminds me of something. Is this the football karma which has come back to haunt Germany from the 1982 World Cup match, called the Disgrace of Gijón?

Image Credits: DFB_Team_EN

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About the Author: Ashwin Karthik