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SPORTS | 27-06-2018 13:12

Holders Germany crash out of the World Cup at group stage

Germany, holders and favourites to retain the World Cup title, eliminated in first round after shock loss to South Korea.

Holders Germany crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage on Wednesday as Sweden and Mexico qualified on a day of incredible drama in Russia.

The Germans, four-time winners of the World Cup, finished bottom of Group F after a 2-0 defeat against South Korea. Sweden topped the group after a 3-0 win against Mexico. It was the first time Germany have been eliminated in the first round of the tournament since 1938.

The result means Die Mannschaft have become the fourth defending champions in the last five tournaments to be eliminated at the group stage. Besides Germany this year, France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014 followed the same path.

The 2-0 defeat to South Korea Wednesday featured a pair of injury-time goals, conceded while the defending champions knew a 1-0 victory would have been enough to advance because of the result in the other group match.

Kim Young-gwon scored the first goal in the third minute of injury time. Originally called out for offside, the goal was then given after video review.

Son Heung-min made it 2-0 in the sixth minute of injury time after Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer came up the field to help his teammates outside the South Korea box. Son tapped the ball into an empty net after a long pass from Ju Se-jong.

South Korea, however, were also eliminated, despite the victory.

Match report

The Germans needed to win by two clear goals in their final group F match at Kazan stadium to advance to the last 16. But Joachim Löw's men wasted a series of chances in a tense match. 

Germany's team of superstars could only look on in shock in the final minutes of the match as US referee Mark Geiger called for the video assistant referee to intervene after the unmarked Kim had bundled his shot past Germany 'keeper Manuel Neuer from a corner early in stoppage time.

The goal was awarded because Toni Kroos' touch had played him onside, and minutes later Germany were 2-0 down after Neuer ran up the pitch in a desperate attempt to get a goal. A long punt upfield saw Tottenham forward Son chase a clearance to fire into an empty net. 

It means Germany, the four-time champions who have competed in the past 16 editions of the World Cup, fail to make it past the first hurdle of the tournament for the first time since 1938.

Löw caused a surprise by leaving midfield attacking stalwart Thomas Mueller on the bench for the first time since 2012 after his underwhelming displays against Mexico and Sweden. But by the end of a frustrating opening half, Löw was left desperately studying his options.

Germany later spurned a series of chances soon afterwards.

Marco Reus, who hit a crucial leveller in the 2-1 win over Sweden, saw his drive deflected and Mesut Özil saw his effort deflected off a Korean boot and out for a corner, after which goalkeeper Hyeonwoo Jo smothered desperately when Goretzka's header found Hummels trying to pounce on the loose ball. 

Germany resumed with more urgency after the interval, but despite edging closer when Löw introduced Mario Gomez just before the hour the big Stuttgart striker headed straight at Jo from Kimmich's cross. Striker Timo Werner then met another Kimmich ball from the left byeline with a right-foot volley that skewed agonisingly wide of Jo's upright.

Löw played his final card when he introduced Mueller for Leon Goretzka. But the late changes failed to spark Germany into life as Korea hung on for a famous win that, unfortunately for the impressive Asians, saw them bow out after Sweden beat Mexico 3-0.

'Bitter' shock

Centre backMats Hummels said defending champions Germany's group stage exit from the World Cup finals for the first time since 1938 was a "bitter" shock for the team.

"It is a really, really bitter evening for us," admitted Hummels, who squandered a late chance when he headed over.

"The situation is very difficult to put into words," he told ZDF. "We did not put the ball in the net, even though we had plenty of opportunities, including myself in the 86th minute – I have to score from chances like that.

"It is a very bitter evening for us and for all German football fans. We believed in it until the very end, we tried to shoot, but we just couldn't get the ball in. We had plenty of opportunities, we broke our necks trying out there today."

Germany qualified for Russia with a perfect record of ten wins, but Hummels said the last time the team played well was when they wrapped up qualification late last year.

"We put ourselves in this situation after the Mexican game," he admitted after the Germans lost their opener 1-0 to Mexico. "The last game we delivered a good performance was in the autumn of 2017."

As it stands

Teams that have qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup after Wednesday's final Group F matches, and those who have been eliminated:

Group A

Qualified: Uruguay (winners), Russia (runners-up). Eliminated: Saudi Arabia, Egypt.

Group B

Qualified: Spain (winners), Portugal (runners-up). Eliminated: Iran, Morocco.

Group C

Qualified: France (winners), Denmark (runners-up). Eliminated: Peru, Australia.

Group D

Qualified: Croatia (winners), Argentina (runners-up). Eliminated: Nigeria, Iceland

Group E

Eliminated: Costa Rica. Still in contention: Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia.

Group F

Qualified: Sweden (winners), Mexico (runners-up). Eliminated: South Korea, Germany.

Group G

Qualified: England, Belgium. Eliminated: Tunisia, Panama.

Group H

Eliminated: Poland. Still in contention: Japan, Senegal, Colombia.

- AFP

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