For many of those among us who grew up with Germany routinely winning international tournaments – often swatting aside England on the way – seeing them crash out so early once again is a surreal spectacle.
The experience is still a relative novelty for German players and coaches too, and an inquest has clearly already begun following their latest disappointment.
“There are 25 experts standing together here. You can all advise each other and then agree on a few details,” Thomas Müller said after a 4-2 win over Costa Rica that was not enough to secure qualification.
Germany’s fate was effectively decided when it lost its first game 2-1 to Japan, followed up with a 1-1 draw with Spain.
It left them the bottom of Group E and dependent on a favour from Spain – which never came as Japan defeated Spain in its final game to top the group.
“I never look at another team, it’s up to us,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said of relying on Spain.
“I think ultimately the sum of everything contributed to us being eliminated. We had enough chances, whether in the first half or the first 60 minutes of the game against Japan, or even at the end against Spain, when we had another huge opportunity. You really have to take those chances.”
What Flick did not mention is that Spain also missed a host of chances to put its game against Germany out of reach before Niclas Fullkrug’s late equalizer.
“We haven’t been able to live up to expectations at the tournaments in recent years, because as a team, I would say we don’t really have specialists running around everywhere. We have a lot of players who are very talented. Yes,” Müller said before trailing off… and leaving those at the post-match news conference to finish his thoughts.
Germany, the 2014 World Cup champion, also crashed out during the group phase at the 2018 tournament in Russia. At last year’s coronavirus-postponed European Championship, Germany were knocked out in the second round (that time by England).
“I think really, we can’t say where we are,” Germany captain Manuel Neuer said of the team’s place in world soccer.
Perhaps the player doing the most soul-searching this morning, though, was Joshua Kimmich – who had this to say: “I joined the team in 2016. Germany was always in the semifinal before that.
“Then I come in and we’re out (of the World Cup) in the first stage and last year in the second round (of the European Championship), it’s hard to take.”