World Cup 2018: The great German debacle
Anybody who tells you that they saw this coming is either a time traveller, or you know, a liar. Most probably a liar.
If you had told anybody before the start of the World Cup that Germany would lose to BOTH Mexico and South Korea, you'd have been pegged to have a concussion from a Ramos tackle. If you had told anyone that Germany would lead a total time of 1 minute (ONE MINUTE) during the entire tournament, they'd think you didn't know how to count.
Unfortunately for the many of us who actually fancied Germany to win, this loss is still hard to digest. Hell, it is hard to even process. It is a logical fallacy that shouldn't be happening. What do you mean Germany cannot get out of the groups?
Not to mention that they finished dead last in the group, scoring just two goals and conceding 4 across 3 games. It can't be right, right? RIGHT?
Where did it all start then? As someone who is also a Chelsea supporter, the parallels between Chelsea's last two seasons in the PL and Germany's last two WCs are a little too eerie to the point of hilarity.
Same coach in both the seasons with pretty much the same team but entirely different set of results; the replacement of a striker who led the team to glory by a newer, younger striker who then proceeds to have the worst time of his career; a rock-solid defense in the first season that suddenly defends like headless chickens - I can go on.
Is it simply some sort of a World Cup winner's curse? Spain fell to it. Italy fell to it. The French fell to it. Why not the Germans too? Or is it because winning the world cup renders the next a little too complacent?
Football is a game of momentum, and do the players not having the fire inside them to win another one make them a little too casual in their approach? Or was it because after 12 years, Löw's tactics have been figured out?
There must be a little truth in all of those assumptions. Germany were unusually sloppy in all the three games so far, and even more so against the Koreans. In the previous versions, there was an air of ruthlessness about them that suddenly went missing in this.
It certainly cannot be that the players are that much worse than the previous edition. A lot of them are world-class players who are playing for some of the best clubs in the world, who have delivered season after season after season domestically.
Most of them have been part of the team for a long time now, and I still maintain that the team is as good - even marginally better than the trophy-winning side.
One reason that immediately pops up is the absence of a leader figure - and that does not mean the captain. Manuel Neuer is an excellent captain as he has shown with Bayern Munich, but on the field, you need a warrior.
The last German teams had Lahm, and you had to get past him to put Germany behind. The previous sides had Ballack, who could tear you to pieces if you messed with his side. They had Schweinsteiger who stepped up to the plate and delivered every time it was asked of him.
Before that, they had Oliver Kahn - and that should be enough. Now, this does not mean that Neuer is not a great captain, but as a keeper there is only so much you can do ON the field. Your best performance will be to ensure that your team doesn't lose.
Every champion side has had a minimum of one of those players who can run on to the field and fill you with hope. Liverpool had Gerrard. Chelsea had John Terry. Barcelona had Carlos Puyol. Real Madrid has Ramos, who is ready to commit everything except murder for his side.
That seemed to be the biggest chink in Germany's armour. Kroos does not exhibit the same swagger at Madrid, and the rest of the team is filled with players - players, but not leaders. When they needed a goal, they still tried to find it by passing around in the usual manner.
There was nobody to turn to. There was nobody to take the ball and say, "Leave this to me." But this is too late. The dream is over. No gesichte will be written zussamen now. It is time to bid goodbye to Russia and take the long, long flight back home.
In a way, it is still hard to think that Germany has been knocked out. There wasn't even a wake-up call. It looked like it wouldn't happen, and then it just did. Sometimes, that is life is. Why should football be any different? "Bloody hell", remember?
Before I forget, congratulations to Mexico and Sweden. As much as I grudge their wins, they deserve to be in the next round. They just wanted it more than the Germans, and 9 times out of 10, that's how you win.
Auf wiedersehen, ohne Liebe.