KAZAN, Russia (AP) — Germany is out of the World Cup, the fourth defending champion in the last five tournaments to be eliminated in the group stage.
The four-time champions lost to South Korea 2-0 Wednesday, allowing a pair of injury-time goals while knowing a 1-0 victory would have been enough to advance because of the result in the other group match.
Germany ended up last in Group F while Sweden and Mexico advanced to the round of 16. South Korea was also eliminated despite the victory.
“It’s very, very hard to put it into words,” Germany defender Mats Hummels said. “We believed until the end today, even when it was 0-1, I think we kept trying to turn it all around.”
It was the first time Germany has been eliminated in the first round since 1938.
Kim Young-gwon scored the first goal in the third minute of injury time. Originally called out for offside, the goal was then given after video review.
Son Heung-min made it 2-0 in the sixth minute of stoppage time after Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer came up the field to help his teammates outside the South Korea box. Son tapped the ball into an empty net after a long pass from Ju Se-jong.
Besides Germany this year, France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014 were the previous defending champions to get eliminated in the group stage.
“We deserved to be eliminated,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “For us, this is a huge disappointment. But we have young players who are talented and have the potential to go forward. It happened to other nations before. We need to draw the right conclusions.”
All four teams in the group had a chance to advance in games that were being played simultaneously, but Sweden’s 3-0 lead over Mexico put Germany in prime position to move on as well — if the Germans could score against the South Koreans.
That was the problem, for Germany.
Loew changed his line-up to mix youth with experience, calling back Hummels, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil while also fielding Niklas Suele and new Bayern signing Leon Goretzka. Suele made his first World Cup appearance as a replacement for Jerome Boateng.
Germany made a nervous start, playing slower than it usually does to avoid being vulnerable on the break. But the strategy did not bring much success in the first half.
The Germans kept peppering the South Korea box with harmless crosses and it was their opponents that came close to scoring from a set piece in the 19th minute after Neuer failed to control a 25-meter free kick from Jung Woo-young. The Germany keeper bobbled the ball and needed to swipe the rebound away from the attackers after a spectacular dive.
Soon after, Son connected with a cross from Lee Yong, but his powerful strike from inside the box went wide.
Germany had its first clear chance just after the interval when right back Joshua Kimmich was set-up on the edge of the box and crossed the ball for the unmarked Goretzka, whose header aimed at the far corner was denied by goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo with a one-handed diving save.
The Germans continued at the same pedestrian pace after halftime and Ozil had another poor display, with many of his passes uncompleted.
Loew brought on substitutes Mario Gomez and Thomas Mueller on either side of the 60-minute mark but his players kept giving the ball away, with most of their attacking combinations lacking precision and speed.
Gomez had a decent header stopped by Jo in the 68th minute and could not properly connect with a low cross from Kimmich in the 72nd as Germany’s hopes vanished.
Germany ended up last in a group it expected to win. But the team never really seemed to recover from its opening 1-0 loss to Mexico.
South Korea lost its opening two matches but still entered the game with a chance to advance. It did its part by beating Germany, but Sweden’s 3-0 victory over Mexico allowed the Swedes to win the group ahead of the second-place Mexicans.