It’s official: Germany will not make it to the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup. The defending World Champions failed to make it out of group play for the first time ever, as Germany was unable to capitalize on Sweden’s 3-0 victory over Mexico. Needing a victory over South Korea to advance, the Germans were unable to take advantage of a number of chances, and in stoppage time, South Korea’s Kim Young-Gwon and Son Heung-Min scored goals to give them a 2-0 victory.
With the results of Wednesday’s matches, Sweden will (surprisingly) sit atop Group F, while Mexico will advance as the runners-up. South Korea and Germany will round out the group, but as the top-2 advance to the knockout round, both will head home.
Germany entered the tournament as one of the favorites to win the entire thing, as the defending world champions brought back a number of the players from their 2014 World Cup squad and added in a handful of young, talented players to theoretically offset any complacency that might have popped up. However, after losing to Mexico and needing a moment of magic from Toni Kroos to defeat Sweden, it was obvious that this German side was not on the same level as the one that won four years ago.
Against South Korea, Germany pressed but was unable to find a goal. Thanks to Sweden’s win over Mexico, though, all Germany needed to do was score once and they’d advance. But try as they might, the Germans could not get that done. They continued to press, but South Korea’s defense would not break. In the moments they would, netminder Jo Hyeon-Woo kept Germany from scoring, as he registered six saves in the match.
The breakthrough for South Korea came off a corner in stoppage time, when Kroos tried passing to Niklas Süle in the 92nd minute, but instead, the ball fell to the feet of Kim Young-Gwon, who scored. After being initially called offside, Video Assistant Referee determined the goal stood.
Germany continued to press, with ultra-ambitious keeper Manuel Neuer joining the attack with the hopes of spurring his team to two goals. Instead, this risky strategy ended up biting the Germans, as a ball to Son Heung-Min ended up giving the Tottenham midfielder an empty net.
This is, without question, the shock of the tournament. Despite the fact that the last two defending champions missed the Knockout Round, no one would have expected Germany to face the same fate. Now, all eyes are on Sweden and Mexico, as the former will face the runners-up in Group E, while the latter will face that same group’s winners. Those teams — two of Brazil, Switzerland, and Serbia — will be determined a little later today.