Germany’s World Cup exit has left the ousted champions with a number of questions to answer.
Press Association Sport looks at where it went wrong for Joachim Low’s side.
Low appeared to bring unnecessary scrutiny on himself even before the tournament began by leaving out Manchester City winger Leroy Sane, the Professional Footballers’ Association young player of the year. The thinking was that Julian Brandt fitted better into the national team system – but he played just 19 minutes over the three games. Low opted not to freshen up his side too much with an injection of youth and pace, and he instead kept faith with many of the players who had done the job four years previously. He picked 11 players aged 28 or older in his squad, having had just seven in the same bracket for 2014, pushing the average age up from 25.7 to 26.6.
Nine members of the 2014 squad went to Russia and the majority of them were first choice for at least two of Germany’s matches. However, few seemed to justify their inclusion on form in the preceding months. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had not played a club match since September, centre-back Jerome Boateng had not been convincing for Bayern Munich and midfielder Mesut Ozil had a poor campaign for Arsenal. When the World Cup started it quickly became apparent Sami Khedira looked every one of his 31 years in midfield while Thomas Muller, with 16 goals for Bundesliga champions Bayern, had not scored since April.
The coach signed a new contract until 2022 in May which would take his reign to 16 years should he see it out. But the methods which had seen him reach the semi-finals of every major tournament appeared to have run their course in Russia. That was highlighted by the inconsistent team selections, which saw only three outfield players keep their place for each match, and confused thinking with Leon Goretzka, a central midfielder or number 10, played as a right winger against South Korea.
Results had not been encouraging leading into the tournament with the 2-1 friendly victory over Saudi Arabia their only prior win of 2018. Low has subsequently admitted he felt there was a sense of superiority leading up to the 1-0 defeat to Mexico in their opening World Cup game. He said: “I had the feeling that there was perhaps a certain arrogance before the Mexico game (within the camp) – like we would be able to react at the touch of a button when it all starts.” German magazine Sport Bild also reported a rift had developed in the side between players who were big on social media, such as Ozil, and the Bayern contingent. Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan also brought focus on the team when they were pictured in May with controversial Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of his country’s elections, leading to Germany’s political leaders asking for explanations.