It happened in 2010 in South Africa, it repeated again in 2014 in Brazil and the curse struck again in 2018 in Russia. For the third World Cup in a row, the defending champions made a humiliating exit from the tournament at the group stage.
Germany, needing a mere win against the Korea Republic in their Group ‘F’ match at Kazan Arena conceded two stoppage-time goals to finish at the bottom of the group as Sweden and Mexico advanced to the Round of 16, while Korea, with two goals, finished third.
Young-Gwon Kim opened the scoring in the third minute of the stoppage time after Kim was adjudged not off-side via VAR, while Heung-Min Son hammered the final nail in the coffin of ‘Die Mannschaft’ in the sixth minute of the additional time to break the hearts of German fans and send Mexican fans into frenzy.
Germany, needing a victory by any margin made five changes in the starting line-up and put pressure on Korea’s back-line consistently. At the end of the match, they had 70 per cent of the ball but lacked the precision that made them World champions four years ago.
They had 26 attempts on goal, off which 6 were on target, 11 were off target and 9 were blocked as none of the German players could really trouble the Korean custodian Hyun-Woo Cho.
Korea then rubbed the salt in Germany’s wound of not making most of the chances they had when the fourth official showed that there would be six minutes of the additional time.
Germany failed to clear Son’s corner kick and the ball fell for Kim Young-Gwon, who slotted home from a close range past Manuel Neuer.
The assistant referee raised an off-side flag but the Korean players appealed that the last touch was of a German player Niklas Sule. The referee took a VAR review and it clearly showed that Sule had touched the ball before Kim slotted home, and the referee pointed to the centre circle.
As the game stretched beyond additional time, Neuer in a bid to find the goal from somewhere roamed forward with the ball, but gave away possession to See-Jong Joo, who put a pass into the German half for Son to run onto and slot the ball into an empty net from a close range despite the narrow-angle.
Germany’s humiliation was complete, eliminated from the World Cup in the Group stage for the first time since 1938 as they finished at rock bottom.
The curse of the defending champion had claimed its third victim.