After each matchday of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Sportsnet.ca’s World Cup Daily blog will recap the day’s events, and look ahead to the next day’s slate of games.
Here’s what happened on Wednesday, in case you missed it…
MAIN TALKING POINTS
Germany bows out in disgrace
The curse of the reigning World Cup champions continues! Germany suffered a humiliating loss to modest South Korea on Wednesday, a result that sent the defending holders crashing out of the tournament. Germany becomes the third consecutive reigning World Cup champion to fail to advance out of the group stage, joining Italy (in 2010) and Spain (in 2014). France also bowed out in the group stage in 2002.
Perhaps this result shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. A warning shot was fired earlier in the tournament when Germany was over-awed by Mexico in a 1-0 loss in its opening match. Then against Sweden, the Germans had to come from behind and needed a late goal to pull out a win that allowed them to bolster their hopes of reaching the knockout round.
So, what happened? Why is Germany, touted by most pundits as one of the pre-tournament favourites, going home early? It has to be said, it laboured through all three of its matches, and often had to chase the game, as opposed to bossing it, as is Germany’s trademark. There were long stretches where the Germans looked controlled, but there were just as many when they looked nervous and edgy, and lacked composure in possession.
There’s no doubt this is a glittering German team, full of international stars. But too many of its top players looked uncomfortable. Toni Kroos, one of the best midfielders in the world, was rather pedestrian (save for his late goal against Sweden), while youngster Timo Werner, hailed as the next “Golden Boy” of German soccer, didn’t come close to living up to the hype surrounding him.
Questions will also have to be asked of manager Joachim Löw, and his decision to omit Leroy Sane from his roster. The 22-year-old is coming off a fantastic campaign with Manchester City in which he was named the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year. Germany laboured to break teams down in Russia, continually frustrated by sides who did their best at times to sit deep and bunker.
Surely, the Germans would have benefited from a player of Sane’s class, not to mention his experience playing for a Manchester City side that routinely faces teams committed to parking the bus against it. They missed Sane’s dynamic play and speed in attack. Without him, Germany relied on delivering cross after cross into the box, and lacked genuine creativity in the final third of the pitch. Would Sane have made the difference? It’s debatable. But there’s no question Germany could have used him.
Coutinho continues to shine for Brazil
After scuffling through its opening two contests of the group stage, Brazil finally came good and put in the type of dominant performance we’ve all been waiting on. Serbia provided a stiff resistance and had some scoring chances, but Brazil’s class won out in the end putting its European counterparts to the sword and finishing first place in Group E.
For all the talk about Neymar and his importance to Brazil – and make no mistake, he’s a key figure in their setup – praise must be heaped upon Philippe Coutinho. The FC Barcelona star has been marvellous for the Selecao, proving to be one of the main reference points in the South Americans’ attack. Coutinho has been playing in a deeper position at this World Cup than he’s normally used to at club level, but he’s beautifully managed to adjust to his new role
He scored a goal-of-the tournament candidate against Switzerland in Brazil’s first game, and then played a fantastic, pinpoint ball to Paulinho who opened the scoring against Serbia. In total, Coutinho has been directly involved in four of his country’s five goals at this World Cup, underlining his importance to the Brazilian cause in Russia.
South Korea’s win over Germany was a shocker, one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. Few gave the modest Asian team much of chance to beat the European powerhouse. While the Germans dominated the balance of play, South Korea held its nerve and bagged two late goals to send the reigning World Cup champions crashing out of the competition.
In the 16th minute, Paulinho latched onto a long-range through ball from Philippe Coutinho, and toe-poked it over the Serbian goalkeeper into the back of the net to give Brazil the lead.
In the 48th minute, Joshua Kimmich played a ball across the goalmouth that Leon Goretzka nodded towards goal. South Korean goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo leapt to his right to make a diving save to deny the German.
Vancouver Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston scoring on a header off a corner kick against Switzerland in his World Cup debut for Costa Rica.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 27, 2018
THE GAME WITHIN THE GAME
Statistical domination by the Germans, but they didn’t put away their chances, and that’s why they’re headed home.
SIX PACK OF STATS
• Jesus Gallardo’s yellow card for Mexico against Sweden after 15 seconds is the fastest shown in World Cup history. Uruguay’s Jose Alberto Batista held the previous record of 54 seconds set in 1986 versus Scotland.
• This is only the second time that Germany has been eliminated in the first round of the World Cup. The other time was in 1938.
• Switzerland’s Yann Sommer is the third goalkeeper to score an own goal at a World Cup, after Noel Valladares in 2014 and Andoni Zubizarreta in 1998.
• At 33 years and 278 days, Thiago Silva is the second-oldest Brazil player to score at the World Cup. Bebeto was 34 years when he scored at the 1998 World Cup in France.
• Costa Rica’s goal means that all 32 teams have scored at this World Cup.
• Brazil has managed only two wins in its last eight World Cup games against European opponents (with two draws and four losses). It also beat Croatia in 2014.
Stats courtesy of Opta
1) Jo Hyeon-woo, South Korea: The South Korean goalkeeper put in another marvellous performance, making a number of big saves to earn a clean sheet and help his country knock Germany out of the competition.
2) Philippe Coutinho, Brazil: The FC Barcelona man set up Paulinho’s opening goal, and pulled the creative strings for the Brazilians.
3) Ludwig Augustinsson, Sweden: Scored the opening goal that sent his country on its way to a 3-0 win, and provided Sweden with some attacking width from his left fullback position.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THURSDAY
Group H: Japan versus Poland in Volgograd (10 a.m. ET) – Japan sits in a tie with Senegal for first place in the group, and only needs a point to move on to the knockout round. Poland has already been eliminated after two losses, but you just know it’d love to get a win and play the role of spoiler.
Group H: Senegal versus Colombia in Samara (10 a.m. ET) – Japan and Senegal lead Group H with four points apiece. Colombia has three points and could advance if it beats Senegal. Both could go through with a draw if Japan loses.
Group G: Panama versus Tunisia in Saransk (2 p.m. ET) – Nothing to play for but pride as both teams have already been eliminated after losing their opening two games.
Group G: England versus Belgium in Kaliningrad (2 p.m. ET) – First place is at stake with the English and Belgians tied on six points apiece. Both teams are already through to the knockout round, so it’ll be interesting to see if they go all out for this, or if they rest key players ahead of the Round of 16.
ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB
Phil McNulty of the BBC looks ahead to England-Belgium match and wonders whether English manager Gareth Southgate should rotate his squad or put out his strongest starting 11:
There is an unquestionable temptation to rotate an England team that has played two games in searing heat in Volgograd and Nizhny and has also picked up knocks along the way. England, however, are picking up momentum and confidence from those two opening victories so Southgate might risk disturbing those key elements should he shuffle his pack. And momentum is a key factor in tournament football. History is littered with teams who have picked up momentum continuously throughout World Cups and Euros and charted a path to glory. England also have a rhythm about their play that should only increase with selection consistency. These players are at home with each other and important details like England’s set-pieces, such a rich source so far here in Russia, are superbly grooved.