Hattrick of World Cup curse sends Germany back home

Germany became the latest defending champion to crash out of the World Cup at the first hurdle, part of a trend but definitely not part of the plan when Germany arrived here loaded with stars and swagger.

A smooth-running scoring machine when it won the Cup in 2014, Germany now appears in need of an overhaul after losing, 2-0, to South Korea here on Wednesday and bidding adieu to Russia about three weeks earlier than many expected.

It was the earliest exit for a German team at the World Cup since 1938, which seems even more distant when you consider Hitler was then the country’s leader and only 15 teams participated.

After Wednesday’s defeat, Kroos, unlike some of his teammates, did not drop to the grass. But he looked stunned, nonetheless: standing all but motionless just outside the center circle and staring into space with a hand on each hip as South Korean players celebrated one of the bigger upsets in this tournament’s 88-year history.

With stars like Kroos, Mesut Özil and Mats Hummels, Germany won every match in qualifying for this World Cup, the first German team to do so. But it could not even make it out of the group phase in Russia.

It failed to score in both its opening 1-0 upset loss to Mexico and its defeat to South Korea, which was its first in a World Cup against an Asian team.

It appeared the Germans would need just one goal in the closing minutes on Wednesday to win and secure their place in the round of 16. Instead, they surrendered two goals in added time, to Kim Young-gwon and Son Heung-min.

And so it was Sweden and Mexico that qualified for the knockout phase from Group F. With Sweden defeating Mexico, 3-0, in Yekaterinburg, each finished with six points to South Korea and Germany’s three, with the Germans finishing last in the group on goal differential.

There seems to be a World Cup curse at work. Since the 1998 edition, the defending champion has been eliminated in the group phase on four occasions: France in 2002, Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014 and now Germany.

“The disappointment of being eliminated is just huge,” said Löw, who added that the team deserved to go out early. “It turned sour. I must take responsibility for this.”

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