The 27. June 2018 is the low point in germany’s world cup history. The 0:2 loss to sud korea in kasan seals the first first-round exit for a german national soccer team after a totally screwed-up world cup mission for the defending champions in russia.
Exactly one year later, after a number of teething problems and hotly debated personnel decisions, national coach joachim low has solved the major problems and initiated a change of mood. A rejuvenated DFB team takes the first hurdles toward the 2020 european championship. Captain manuel neuer even talks of new title hopes: "we want to attack next summer!"
A tour of a difficult year for the country:
THE DEBACLE: the unimaginable becomes reality. Defending champion germany fails in world cup group stage. 0:2 against sud korea in kasan. Trance and stunnedness – and a lot of emptiness for joachim low. After a preparation with many obstacles, the false start against mexico (0:1) and the last-minute hope maker against sweden (2:1), it is the sad german end of a failed world cup.
"I’m also shocked that we didn’t manage to beat sud korea," says low. "The pain still holds me captive," said the national coach a day later after landing in frankfurt. He announces "profound mabreakdowns".
Four days later, it’s already clear that he himself will continue his work. "I want to put all my efforts into the rebuilding process," low was quoted as saying in an association press release. The DFB has no alternative.
THE DEBATES: low promises an intensive workup during the summer break – and says goodbye to the vacations. He is spotted once again in a freiburg cafe. Otherwise he leaves fubball germany alone with all the debates. Emotional discussions about the consequences of the world cup.
Sporting failure quickly takes on a political dimension. Mesut ozil becomes a scapegoat. Silence about his photos with the turkish head of state recep tayyip erdogan, whom he admires, causes incomprehension and provokes vilification from the right-wing fringe. DFB president reinhard grindel and team manager oliver bierhoff fuel the debate with misleading statements.
Nevertheless, the DFB is counting on ozil to relent and continue his national team career. But things turn out quite differently. In a social media tirade, the ailing star settles scores with the federation and especially with grindel a good three weeks after the world cup exit. The accusation of racism weighs heavily. Sporting issues and other personal matters fade into the background.
THE NEW BEGINNING: fans will have to be patient anyway. Low presents his plan for a new start at the end of august, just nine weeks after the team is eliminated from the world cup. He admits personal mistakes, but the consequences are modest. Apart from ozil and the voluntarily resigned mario gomez, only sami khedira has no future in the dfb jersey anymore.
On his staff, co-coach thomas schneider is moved to the scouting department. In the team behind the team, the bloated coaching staff, there is also no zasur. Low apparently lacks the courage to make a radical new start. "We need an axis to guide the others," he says.
THE jolt: after a respectable start to the season with a 0-0 draw against world champions france and a 2-1 loss to peru in september, the next blow comes in october. In a 3-0 defeat in holland, germany is led by its arch-rival in the final stages of the game. Now low also realizes that he must act. Three days later, he unleashes the turbo storm for the first time against france with serge gnabry, timo werner and leroy sane.
Thomas muller is now only a two-minute joker. The injured jerôme boateng is not missed. Despite an unfortunate 2-1 defeat, the upheaval is beginning to take shape.
THE DEFEAT: germany is only second-class now. In the new nations league, the team’s relegation to the B division was already clear before the 2-2 draw against holland in gelsenkirchen in november. It is the 100. Muller’s international match and – as for mats hummels – the last for the original bayer. But that will only become clear four months later.
THE ZASUR: still in december, low repeats his motto in the ZDF sports studio that a new beginning also requires preserved strengths. Goalkeeper neuer gets a number 1 guarantee until the 2020 european championship. But one statement sounds like a threat in retrospect: "in the end, it’s always the performance that pays off. I am not a clairvoyant and I know what will be in three or four months. Therefore, all possibilities are left open. I plan with all the possibilities, I plan with all the good ones, hummels, boateng, muller, who can play for germany if they have the form they haven’t had lately."
94 days later, the 2014 world champion trio is sorted out by low for good. In personal languages he delivers the message to the players in munich. More than for the sporting decision, he is criticized for his treatment of the deserving players. The wave of advancement is huge. "The game is not over yet," replies the deposed muller in a video message.
THE MUTMAKERS: low goes "all in" with the zasur. One week after the three players from munich were sent off, the DFB team, now rejuvenated to a mabbish degree, wins 3:2 against holland in amsterdam to kick off the european championship qualifiers. A humiliating defeat like five months earlier at the same place could have cost the national coach his job after all. Even without low, who is ill, two victories follow in june, one in russia (2:0) and one in estonia (8:0). The next generation around sane, gnabry and the confed cup winners joshua kimmich, niklas sule and leon goretzka, who are now in charge, is on track for the european championships in 2020.