Belfast Telegraph

Steven Davis: Sad Germany had lost their spark

By Steven Davis

The 2018 World Cup tournament has had a lot of drama already, but the holders Germany going out in the group stages is the biggest story yet.

I was as shocked as everyone else to see them exit yesterday, losing 2-0 to South Korea.

Having played against them for Northern Ireland in the World Cup qualifiers and seeing first hand how good they were I really thought they would progress to the business end of the competition.

So to see them go out so early stunned me - and everyone else with an interest in football.

I know some big nations have found it tough going in this year's group stages, but I still thought Germany, despite not playing anywhere near their best in the opening two games, would make it into the knockout phase.

Approaching yesterday's match, coach Joachim Low and his players will have felt the same way. They will be as shell-shocked as the rest of us because this was not supposed to happen.

You can bet there will be endless questions asked back in Germany about what went wrong.

It really is difficult to know why they have gone from the side that dominated in qualifying to one that didn't deliver in Russia.

Football has that ability to surprise and this is definitely one of those occasions.

Germany are the sort of nation that throughout World Cup history have been efficient in getting through the group stages. Then they tend to raise their game in the knockout matches. That's what they did four years ago to win the competition.

When they hammered the hosts Brazil in the semi-finals it was considered one of the great international performances. Compare that to how they lost to South Korea and were eliminated in Russia.

One of the big questions will surround the selection of the team.

When we played them over the last couple of years there was a real consistency about their selection, yet out in Russia several changes were made for each game.

In the match against Sweden, which they only won thanks to a brilliant late strike from Toni Kroos, Arsenal's Mesut Ozil was left out. He has been a massive player for Germany in recent years so that was a big call, and then for the South Korea game there were more changes. Clearly they didn't work.

Having played against Germany, I feel a big part of their game is to go ahead early on and then take control of the match. They didn't do that once in this World Cup which caused them real problems.

There was pressure on them to win their final match and, once they heard that Sweden had gone ahead against Mexico in the other group game - I'm sure that message was relayed to the players - that increased the pressure even more.

You would have thought they could have dealt with it, but in trying to throw everything at getting that late goal against South Korea they ended up conceding two late goals themselves and that was that.

With bigger nations, when they go to a tournament and don't perform, they look at everything to see where they can improve.

Germany will look at why players who have shone in previous World Cups didn't do the business this time - Thomas Muller, for instance, has excelled in the past and won the Golden Boot but didn't score in this tournament. Others were in the same boat.

This will be the last World Cup for some of the squad.

They obviously have a lot of exciting young players ready to step up. I'm thinking of the likes of Leroy Sane who missed out this time on the back of a great season with Manchester City.

Quality players like him will play a big part in Germany's future and one thing is certain, after this World Cup they will be looking to bounce back in Euro 2020.

Belfast Telegraph

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