Who would have thought it. The group stage of the World Cup is over, and Germany are already back home. The historic exit for the Mannschaft leaves FC Bayern München with only three players left in Russia. If you thought last week was bad…
Auf wiedersehen, Deutschland
In what was arguably the biggest story of the group phase, eighty years of history came to an end. Having lost their opening match against Mexico, Germany had clawed their way back into the reckoning with a last-gasp win against Sweden. Needing three points against winless South Korea, they huffed and puffed for ninety minutes, only to be hit with two sucker punches at the end.
There is no real need to go through the minutiae of Germany’s defeat. You can read it all here, with more to come as the postmortems come rolling in.
To say that it was a disaster would be an understatement. But at the same time, given the form of the team over the last year, it was not that much of a surprise. A shock, but not a surprise, if you can get your head around the strange logic.
This means, of course, that a massive FC Bayern contingent are on their way home.
Five Reds in Kazan
Of the seven Bayern players in the squad, four started in Kazan. Manuel Neuer had little to do, and was caught out sweeper-keeping when the Germans were chasing the game. Niklas Süle made his World Cup debut, and did little wrong. Mats Hummels was back from injury, and was the best of a bad bunch. Joshua Kimmich was bright enough, without being able to provide a killer moment. Thomas Müller, dropped to the bench after two poor matches, was thrown on in the second half as the coach looked to pull a rabbit out of the hat.
It just never happened. The team failed to pick up they had left off against Sweden, and simply continued to fire blanks. The South Korean ‘keeper was worthy of the man of the match award, but most of the problem was down to poor German finishing.
Germany had tried to pass their opponents to death, and had paid the price. They had bossed the possession in all three of their matches. They had put together more passes, and had fired off more shots. The all important goals ledger was, in contrast, sparse.
Rather than look like the German team of old, this 2018 Mannschaft had been transformed into the poor man’s Spain. Super, super Statistiken. Super, super Spiele. Danke, auf wiesersehen. Gracias, Señor Guardiola.
Colombia edge through, James injured
The news outside the German camp was not that much better for the Bavarian boys. Colombia will at least be hanging around in Russia for a while longer, but will be left fretting over the fitness of James Rodríguez. In what was a testing final match, the South Americans saw off Senegal, courtesy of a 74th minute goal from Yerry Mina.
The Cafeteros skipper had just about managed to make it past the half hour mark before he was taken off, suffering from what looked like a recurrence of the calf injury that had kept him out of the Bayern team for a month.
The news coming out of the Colombian camp has been contradictory. Some sources are saying that James will be fine for next week’s second round match against England. Other sources are suggesting that coach José Pékerman is “concerned”.
Only time will tell. Generally speaking, it is not a good sign if your star player has to leave the field after only 31 minutes. But we are hoping that the 2014 golden boot winner will be fit and raring to go with the time comes.
Poland leave with a win, but Lewy draws a blank
After defeats in their first two matches, Poland were already out of the World Cup. In their final match against Japan, it was all about proving a point. Or rather, taking three of them. This they did, with Jan Bednarek’s 59th minute strike separating the two sides.
The match will be remembered for the Nichtangriffspakt that defined the final 20 minutes, but it was enough to leave both parties content enough. Poland went home with a win. Japan, courtesy of the fair play points rule, made their way into the last sixteen.
As for Robert Lewandowski, it was another disappointing outing. Once again, opportunities were few and far between. When he did finally get a run on goal in the second half, his shot was blazed over the target.
Having missed out on the World Cup in 2014, this had been seen as Lewy’s opportunity to showcase his talents on the world stage. Instead, he drew a hat-trick of blanks. The striker who had been so prolific in qualifying, breaking records on the way, was but a shadow. Maybe it really was that fellow Emil after all.
Thiago gets some game time, no action for Tolisso
Thiago Alcântara and Spain are also into the knockout stage, though not without a few wobbles of their own. La Roja were twice behind against a Moroccan side playing for pride, but eked out a 2-2 draw courtesy of a late VAR offside overrule.
The creative midfielder did get some game time, but was largely ineffective in what was a scratchy Spanish performance. True to form, his passing stats were top-notch. But there was little more than that. The Bayern man remains a fringe figure in Fernando Hierro’s World Cup plans, but will be hoping for a start against hosts Russia.
Corentin Tolisso was on the bench for France’s final match, a tedious 0-0 draw with Denmark. The result saw both teams through to the knockout stages. France are next up in what is one of the ties of the round, against Argentina.