Sabotage suspected as Germany’s Qatar World Cup dream is shattered by minnows Costa Rica

Sabotage suspected as Germany’s Qatar World Cup dream is shattered by minnows Costa Rica


Germany stars suffered humiliation again failing to make it out of the group stages at a second successive World Cup.

Hansi Flick’s side were highly-fancied to progress from a group that included Spain, Costa Rica and Japan – but found themselves packing their bags on a night of controversy in Qatar. Their win over Costa Rica was immaterial due to Japan’s surprise – an opinion-splitting – win against Spain.

It was the Japanese who first set alarm bells tolling for the Germans, scoring twice late on to cause a massive shock in the opening days of the tournament. Germany battled back to claim a point against Spain, but their win on Thursday night also needed other results to go for them, which they didn’t.

It now means that a team who reached, at least, the semi-finals in every tournament from 2006-2016 are left to mull over what needs to change. In situations like this it is often the man in the dugout who pays the price, but Flick has only been in the role for 18 months and wasn’t given the greatest of handovers by predecessor Joachim Low.

The former Bayern Munich boss, whose stock went through the roof at the Allianz Arena, had won his first eight on the spin after taking on the international job. Since then though they’ve suffered a dip in form as they failed to peak in time for the World Cup.

Flick, who admitted a quick decision need to be made on his future, said: “I’m not speechless. I was already disappointed and angry with the team in the first half. We brought the opponent into the game through mistakes and carelessness. Nevertheless, we won the game. Our downfall didn’t happen today, but in 20 minutes against Japan. We could have won against Spain with a bit more efficiency. Nevertheless, the disappointment is huge.

“I don’t think the team weren’t fired up. We missed a lot of chances in the first half and tried to do better in the second half. Yet, we have made a big contribution to the fact that we’re now going home. My disappointment is huge, and my coaching staff feel the same way.”

Joshua Kimmich, now aged 27, is a mainstay in the German set-up and has, largely, experienced the highs of football domestically, but seen the other side of it with his country. The versatile star was visibly upset at full-time as he held back the tears. He’s now been involved in several disappointing international campaigns.

Kimmich played in the 2018 World Cup, where Germany failed to get out of a group containing South Korea, Mexico and Sweden. England ended their Euro 2020 hopes, but this setback ranked highest.

“This was the worst day of my career. We blew the World Cup in 2018 and the Euros last year too,” he said. “I’m afraid I’ll fall into a hole. It makes you think that these failures are connected to my person.”

Germany’s line-up, whilst being packed with talent, certainly doesn’t possess the fear factor of teams gone by. The metronomic way in which they used to win games, often scoring a high number of goals, has gone. Kai Havertz is another vital member of the squad.

Some may argue he hasn’t pushed on to hit the levels many expected when he was bursting onto the scene with Bayer Leverkusen. Nevertheless, the Chelsea star pulled no punches post-match. “We have to look at ourselves,” he said.

“We had enough chances to win against Japan, enough chances to win against Spain. We had the game in our hands today and still conceded two goals against Costa, which shouldn’t really be possible with the quality we have. We then turned the game around, which was good. But then you see the other result. With quality like that, we can’t afford to lose to Japan. The game against Japan made the difference.”

He’s arguably the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the game and remains one of the few connections to success gone by. Manuel Neuer though will turn 37 this year and talk has turned to when he will opt to close the chapter on his international career.

The Bayern legend was the man between the sticks for much of their recent success, including the 2014 World Cup. Now though, like the nation he represents, perhaps that aura is fading. Despite that Neuer has no plans to turn his back on his country.

“If I’m asked and continue to be called up, I’ll come,” he told Sport1 in the aftermath of their World Cup exit. Neuer’s presence has left other German goalkeepers looking enviously at the No 1 jersey that has, appeared, unattainable. Marc-Andre ter Stegen in particular has been outspoken about his lack of opportunities.

For the Germans, having figures like Neuer, even past his peak, give the younger generation something to aspire to. The likes of Jamal Musiala have caught the world’s attention recently, but the teenage sensation’s talent must be a means to an end, not simply an end in of itself.

The end goal has to be winning, progression, success. Sami Khedira, one of the 2014 linchpins, confessed after the World Cup exit: “I’m disappointed. I was optimistic, I admit that. But I’m shocked. Football is not just about playing, but also about mentality and attitude.”

He and Bastian Schweinsteiger were integral to their country for the best part of a decade and the latter echoed his sentiment, insisting that their dominant performances must be seized upon.

“I’m disappointed and shocked with how this went today. The national team did too little,” he said on ARD. “It’s not good enough. Statistics don’t matter in the end. You have to take your opponent out of the game.”

Germany’s next step will be crucial. They tore up the script after a disastrous Euro 2000, in which they lost all three games, and their rebuild set them on a path to winning the World Cup 14 years later. The steps needed now are by no means as drastic with Flick having some of the pieces already in place.

The nation though expects and they have the luxury – or the burden depending on how you see it – of a major tournament in their own back yard. Germany will host the Euros in 18 months and they daren’t replicate their Qatar showing in front of their own people.

  • A Mirror report
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