Having been mainstays at the business end of the World Cup for so long, it’s almost unbelievable that Germany have now failed to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for two successive editions of the tournament.
Yes, Hansi Flick’s team were drawn in a difficult group that contained fellow European heavyweights Spain, but that is no excuse for another abject failure on the world stage. Germany must now watch on as other nations enjoy the excitement of the final throes of Qatar 2022, with their capitulation causing a major stir in the World Cup betting.
So, what went wrong? Let’s take a look at how Germany just couldn’t get the job done in the Middle East.
Shock defeat to Japan
When Ilkay Gundogan gave Germany a first-half lead against Japan in the opening game of Group E, it felt the 2014 champions were on course for a fairly comfortable passage. That was until Japan turned the game on its head in the final 15 minutes at the Khalifa International Stadium, with goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano leaving German faces distinctly red.
It’s difficult to say whether complacency creeped into the mindset of Flick’s side in that match, but what is certain is that Germany were left to rue some missed chances. They weren’t clinical when it mattered, and that meant Japan retained hope that they could come back.
Germany’s defensive deficiencies had been exposed with some poor turnouts in the Nations League campaign earlier in the year, and clearly those same foibles played a part in Japan getting back into the game. It was a result that would ultimately cost them a place in the last 16.
Pride restored against Spain
There was a lot of pressure on Germany ahead of their second group game against Spain, as defeat would have left their hopes of progression hanging by a thread. Their opponents, meanwhile, were riding the crest of a wave having put seven past Costa Rica in their opening match.
It was a close, cagey contest for the most part. Spain were unwilling to push the boat out too much given that they had secured such a commanding result already in the tournament, whilst Germany were wary of the threat Spain posed on the counter if they went for the jugular too soon.
It was Spain who struck first, as Alvaro Morata prodded past Manuel Neuer just after the hour mark. Germany’s World Cup hopes were hanging by a thread, but they managed to salvage something from the match after Niclas Fullkrug smashed the ball past Unai Simon to earn a point.
Too little, too late
Germany’s final match against Costa Rica yielded a 4-2 win on a topsy-turvy night at the Al Bayt Stadium, but they needed a win for Spain against Japan in the other game to ensure their progression to the next round.
Japan had other ideas, twisting the knife further into Germany as they came from behind to beat Spain 2-1 and emerge as group winners. It was auf Wiedersehen to Flick and co. for the second successive World Cup, and there will need to be a lot of soul-searching between now and Euro 2024.