KAZAN, Russia (AP) — Coach Joachim Loew failed in his bid to combine the experience of past World Cup winners and the youth of talented newcomers, but the future holds much promise for Germany.
The powerful Mannschaft, the dominant force of world soccer in recent years, crashed out miserably in the first round of the World Cup, and few saw it coming. Especially after the now-deposed champions won the Confederations Cup last year with a rejuvenated team full of talent and qualified for Russia with a perfect record of ten wins.
But nothing went according to Loew’s plans this month, and Germany, which had reached the semifinal of every major tournament since 2006, exited on the back of a humiliating 2-0 loss to South Korea, failing to make it past the opening round for the first time since 1938.
The performance was summed up in a contrite tweet from the team’s official account.
“We’re sorry for not playing like world champions, and as painful as it is, we deserve to be out,” the team wrote.
There had been some worrying signs, though, in the buildup to the tournament. Germany failed to keep clean sheets in its last five friendly games before the tournament, even losing to Austria 2-1 in early June.
Dear fans, we feel just as disappointed as you. The World Cup only comes around every four years and we expected so much more from us. We’re sorry for not playing like world champions, and as painful as it is, we deserve to be out…
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) June 28, 2018
In Russia, the Germans got off to a terrible start with a 1-0 loss to Mexico, and their campaign ended on an even more bitter note after a stoppage-time winner from Toni Kroos against Sweden gave the false impression they had finally kick-started their tournament.
Whatever the reasons, the truth is that Germany never played as a team in Russia and the loss to South Korea marked the end of a glorious era. Aside from Kroos’ flash of brilliance, Loew’s players lacked team spirit and intensity. They looked sluggish and most of the time deprived of ideas. Even worse, they were incapable of a strong reaction when on Wednesday they were told Sweden had taken the lead against Mexico in the group other match, meaning they needed to score a goal to qualify.
“You have to say we do not deserve (to progress),” goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said. “In the second round everybody would have liked to play against us. How are we going to be dangerous to an opponent if we do not get our performance right? We gave a bad picture in the three games. I cannot answer why that happened. We have to take responsibility. We screwed up, we screwed up together.”
After winning so much, either with the national team or their clubs, the 2014 world champions lacked the hunger for victory that characterized their side in Brazil, where they routed the home nation 7-1 on their way to the title. There were also rumors of a rift within the team between the Confederations Cup winners and the World Cup winners, while the mini-scandal involving Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan and their decision to pose for a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also did not help the team’s preparations.
“They have to analyze the tournament, and not only the tournament but the last half-year, 12 months and we will see what happens in the future,” said former player Lothar Matthaeus, who captained the then-West Germany to the World Cup title in 1990. “Jogi Loew made a great job but this tournament we will forget. Maybe we invited the wrong players. They were not playing with passion. They were not playing with body language. They did not have speed in the game. Many things that gave us the World Cup four years ago we were missing in this World Cup.”
Loew, who has the support of the German federation and is under contract until the next World Cup, has not ruled out leaving his position following the debacle. In any case, with a new generation of talented players at his disposal, he has what he needs to start rebuilding.
It’s still too early to know whether the old guard incarnated by Ozil, Thomas Mueller, Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng — who were all far from their best in Russia — will decide to call it quits in the coming months. Whatever they chose, Loew or the next German coach needs to focus on youth and keep giving chances to the likes of Nikas Suele, Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka and Julian Brandt, who will all gain some valuable experience from the Russian failure.
The technically gifted Brandt did not get much time at the World Cup, but he made convincing appearances as a substitute, showing the enthusiasm that his older teammates lacked. Brandt was picked the World Cup ahead of Leroy Sane, the forward who had 10 goals and 15 assists in 27 Premier League appearances with Manchester City this season.
Sane will be part of Germany’s plans in the future, and there are more bright prospects in the building from the German squad that won the European U-21 championship last year. After a “dark day” for German football, as Neuer put it, the future looks bright.
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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