KAZAN, Russia (AP) — Everyone was waiting for Germany to score another late World Cup-saving goal.
It never came.
Instead, the Germans have become the fourth defending champions in the last five tournaments to be eliminated in the group stage following a 2-0 loss to South Korea on Wednesday.
The four-time champions allowed 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.
“It’s very, very hard to put it into words,” said Germany defender Mats Hummels, a member of the team that won in Brazil four years ago. “We believed until the end today. Even when it was 0-1, I think we kept trying to turn it all around.”
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 was the first time Germany has been knocked out in the first round since 1938, though the team was not allowed to enter the 1950 tournament.
“It’s a dark day for German football,” Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said.
Even in Yekaterinburg, nearly 500 miles away, the Mexican fans expected Germany to score. They were still in position to advance despite trailing Sweden, but they were waiting — some with tears in their eyes — for Germany to do the inevitable and ruin their chances of moving on.
That’s when South Korea stepped up.
Kim Young-gwon scored the first goal in the third minute of injury time, a goal that sent the Koreans cheering in Kazan and the Mexicans delirious in Yekaterinburg. Originally called out for offside, the goal was given after video review.
Son Heung-min made it 2-0 in the sixth minute of stoppage time after 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 had 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.
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 goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo in the 68th minute and could not properly connect with a low cross from Joshua Kimmich in the 72nd as Germany’s hopes vanished.
“We did not deserve to be winning the title once again,” Loew said.
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.
Germany had made it to the quarterfinals at the past nine World Cups, and reached at least to the semifinals at every tournament since 2002.
Loew, who guided Germany to the title at the 2014 World Cup after a routing host Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals, said it was too early to talk about his future with the national team.
“We need a couple of hours to see things clearly,” Loew said. “The disappointment is deep inside me.”
Nation’s Soccer Star Tries the Nation’s Game
The US Women’s National Soccer Team captivated many on their run to a historic fourth World Cup victory. Behind the feet of Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, the squad had record setting 13-0 type of victories and nail biting 2-1 type of victories along the way and became a story of the summer in sports.
The success has created quite a buzz around the team. Leaders of the USWNT have been outspoken on social injustices, and not backed down when called out by politicians. Additionally, they have been involved in a law suit for several years now over equal compensation with their male counterparts. The popularity of the women on the team has soared, and resulted in several victory tour stops across America, both on the field and on parade routes. The most visible was in New York, which featured droves of fans crowding Manhattan streets and swarming the floats, and ultimately culminating in Megan Rapinoe’s inspirational victory speech.
But now, a USWNT player is eyeing, potentially, a new opportunity. On August 20th, the USWNT twitter profile sent out a video of forward Carli Lloyd hitting a 55-yard field goal at a Baltimore Ravens practice, on noticeably narrow goal posts (designed to make practicing harder than a game). The Philadelphia Eagles also tweeted out the video, confirming the 55-yard make and demonstrably impressed.
Lloyd has received an immense amount of positive feedback from folks around the league. She has commented that she’s “laughing about it, but the more [she] thinks about it, this has the chance to be a sort of a pioneering moment for women.”
“It could be a huge pivotal moment. There is no reason why a woman could not do this. And I actually invite the pressure. I love the pressure. When I have to nail something—shooting hoops, ax-throwing, kicking a field goal—that is the moment I live for and want. It comes down to the mind, training the mind.”
Lloyd commented that she has received some commentary from multiple NFL teams, we may see she (or another female soccer star) try it out one day.
While it may not be Lloyd, her pushing the gender line in the NFL is just the latest in a constant fight for equality out of the USWNT. As the representatives for a nation of “We the people,” no American national team has done as much to represent those people. While it sent shockwaves throughout the twitterverse, it is certainly not off brand for the USWNT to be pushing the present boundaries and speaking on equality.
MLS Star Uses Goal to Speak Out Against Gun Violence
The 48 hours of the weekend were as tough a weekend as any in recent American history. Two mass shooting, with a total toll of more than 30 lives, occurred within 13 hours of one another in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Americans faced a slew of emotions as they woke up each morning to tragic news in very different corners of our nation, none more so than the folks so directly impacted in both communities. Sadness, anger, and despair were just the tip of the iceberg for a nation that continues to see the stories of the weekend all too frequently.
Everyone mourns in their own way, and in the world of sport, most baseball stadiums, soccer stadiums, and basketball gyms took a moment of silence.
In Philadelphia, one man broke silence. Using the platform afforded to him by his talent, the Philadelphia Union captain and attackman Alejandro Bedoya swiftly scored with his right foot, off the left post and in from the front of the box, in the third minute of their match against DC United.
It was only Bedoya’s third goal of the season, and his eighth in his MLS career, but what happened afterwards will forever make it his most memorable.
Bedoya, a former member of the US Men’s National Team, celebrated by sprinting to the sideline, celebrating with family, then his teammates. Fairly standard when your family is in the front row.
But then, Bedoya broke from his teammates and methodically jogged over to a sideline microphone. As the commentators quieted down, Bedoya loudly, over the crowd noise, charged “Congress, do something, NOW! End gun violence, LET’S GO!”
Bedoya spiked the microphone, and sprinted back to the field. Philadelphia went on to win 5-1, further aided by Marco Fabian’s two goals, fueled by the energy displayed by their captain in the earliest stages of the match.
Needless to say, the moment was the most asked about thing after the match. Bedoya’s clip has gone viral, and the 32-year-old was composed and firm on his stance. “I’m a human being before anything, so I’ll never just stick to sports, and I never have…. fine me if they want. I’ve got to take a stand.”
Soccer has become an American sport of activism this summer. Megan Rapinoe led the US Women’s National Team to gold both on and off the field in the World Cup this summer, and was constantly questioned about her firm stance against the White House.
Further, the team has been a pillar in the fight for women’s rights in the work place, most notably with their ongoing law suit against US Soccer for gender discrimination in their pay.
Alejandro Bedoya, an American born to former Colombian Adriano Bedoya and raised in South Florida. South Florida saw its own version of this American tragedy just under 18 months ago, when Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was the victim of a mass shooting that saw 17 students and faculty members die.
While Bedoya said he is prepared for any fine the MLS offers him, this morning Major League Soccer has said they will not issue any punishments. The League’s official statement was “The Major League Soccer family joins everyone in grieving for the loss of lives in Texas and Ohio, and we understand that our players and staff have strong and passionate views on this issue.”
The MLS heard Bedoya and understood. The next looming question is, who else did?
James Harden Buys Stakes in Houston Dynamo
The summer of 2019, in NBA History books, will forever go down as the summer of changing teams. Nearly 40% of returning NBA players are on new rosters, and several of those players have multiple All NBA selections on their resumes. Stars shifting seems to be status quo in the modern NBA… With one bearded exception.
James Harden has recently purchased shares of the Houston Dynamo (MLS) and Dash (NWSL). In speaking on the matter, Harden spoke of Houston as his hometown, and stated several times that he is in Houston for the long haul. Buying into the ownership of local sports franchises seems to indicate a serious investment in just that.
Harden has, for those paying attention, been a soccer fan for a while. In off seasons past, he has spent vacation time with European professional soccer stars like Paul Pogba, Kaka, and Neymar. More recently, Harden took a trip to Emirates Stadium in London to go behind the scenes and watch Arsenal play. The club gave Harden a customized kit (read: uniform) and let him explore the empty facilities early on the matchday.
Harden is one of Adidas’ highest paid basketball players, and Adidas is involved in many pro soccer clubs, including both Houston teams and Arsenal. While Harden’s court vision can remind fans of the beautiful game, Houstonians can rest easy in that the Beard wants to make those passes in Rockets’ red. The lefty made one thing clear in his purchase: he’s invested in staying in Houston for the long haul.
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