Germany’s soul-searching begins after another World Cup flop

Dec 1, 2022, 2:14 AM | Updated: Dec 2, 2022, 7:33 am
Germany's Leroy Sane reacts at the end of the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and...

Germany's Leroy Sane reacts at the end of the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

(AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

              Germany's Thomas Mueller, center, embraces teammate Antonio Ruediger at the end of the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
            
              Germany's Kai Havertz, left, and Germany's Thomas Mueller react aftere the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
            
              Germany's Antonio Ruediger reacts at the end of the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
            
              Germany's Niclas Fuellkrug, left, and Germany's Kai Havertz react after the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
            
              Germany's players leave the pitch at the end of the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
            
              Germany's Kai Havertz, left, and Germany's Mario Goetze react after the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
            
              German soccer supporters reacts after the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
            
              German subs on the bench react after the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
            
              Germany's Leroy Sane reacts at the end of the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
            
              Germany's Thomas Mueller reacts during the World Cup group E soccer match between Costa Rica and Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — Another World Cup, another World Cup flop.

Germany is facing another round of soul-searching after being eliminated from the sport’s most important tournament at the first stage for the second time in a row.

The German players spoke afterward of good performances and missed chances — as they’ve done before. But no one had any real answers to the team’s problems.

“There are 25 experts standing together here. You can all advise each other and then agree on a few details,” Germany forward Thomas Müller said after the team was knocked out of the tournament in Qatar despite the 4-2 win over Costa Rica on Thursday.

Germany’s fate was effectively decided when it lost its first game to Japan 2-1, then followed up with a 1-1 draw against Spain.

It left Germany at the bottom of Group E and dependent on a favor from Spain. It never came as Japan defeated the Spanish to win the group. Spain progressed ahead of Germany on goal difference.

“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 failed to mention is that Spain also missed a slew of chances to put its game against Germany out of reach before Niclas Füllkrug’s late equalizer.

That goal proved to be the highlight for Germany, but it also proved to be of little worth in yet another underwhelming performance on the big stage.

“A bitter disappointment for us,” German soccer federation president Bernd Neuendorf said before boarding the flight home from Hamad International Airport on Friday.

Neuendorf said he will meet next week with Flick, sporting director Oliver Bierhoff and German soccer league vice president Hans-Joachim Watzke to discuss the fallout from the latest early World Cup exit.

Germany’s management is under pressure for a marked improvement in the team’s performance before it hosts the 2024 European Championship.

“My expectation of the sporting management is that they will make an initial analysis at this meeting, a sporting analysis of this tournament, but that they will also develop perspectives for the time after the tournament with a view to the European Championship,” Neuendorf said. “This analysis must also include the development of the national team, of our football, since 2018, since the last World Cup.”

Müller was at a loss to explain the team’s decline since reaching the Euro 2016 semifinals.

“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,” said the 33-year-old Müller, who appeared to retire from the national team but later backtracked. “We have a lot of players who are very talented, yes.”

Germany, the 2014 World Cup champion, also was eliminated from the group phase at the 2018 tournament in Russia. At last year’s coronavirus-delayed European Championship, Germany was knocked out in the second round.

“I think really, we can’t say where we are,” Germany captain Manuel Neuer said of the team’s place in world soccer.

Prior to the 2018 World Cup, Germany had reached at least the semifinals of every major competition it entered since the 2006 World Cup, which it hosted.

“I joined the team in 2016. Germany was always in the semifinals before that,” midfielder Joshua Kimmich said. “Then I come in and we’re out (of the World Cup) twice in the first stage and last year in the second round (of the European Championship). It’s hard to take.”

___

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