Defending world champions Germany have for the first time in their history failed to advance beyond the group stage of a World Cup in which they have participated.
At the first such tournament in 1930, they like many European national teams refused to take part in Uruguay. In 1950 in Brazil, they were not allowed to participate, given that the crimes of the Nazi regime during (and before) the Second World War were still all too fresh in people’s minds.
Four years later, West Germany not only participated in the tournament in Switzerland, they indeed won it. The Germans triumphed with a mainly amateur squad against full-professionals (like the seemingly unbeatable Hungarians), whom they defeated in the final.
That victory became known as the “Miracle of Berne”, named after the city that title game took place in. Since then, a German national team had not failed to reach at least the quarterfinals of the World Cup. They won the title again in 1974,1990 and 2014. Since 2002, they never even failed to reach the semis.
That all changed dramatically on Wednesday evening. The big question is, why? The simplest answer is that they finished behind Sweden, Mexico and South Korea in their group. But with all due respect to these opponents, they are not the big names that should strike fear into a defending world champion.
Coach Joachim Löw made a number of mistakes. He had no core of players that were undisputed leaders, instead managed to use 19 players in just three matches. He also only brought two true strikers into the squad, namely Timo Werner and Mario Gomez.
There is no doubt that soccer has changed much over the last years. But saying that idea of the true number nine is dead is not true. There are plenty of teams at this World Cup, that use a formation with one or more strikers well.
The problem is that the 4-2-3-1 formation, at least in the form that Germany plays it, is too easy to counteract for other teams. Now everything in German soccer must be reevaluated.