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Day 15: All's Phair in love and war
The group stages finish with a shock exit for Germany
South Korea 1 - Germany 1
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and South Korea said to Germany, if we’re going out, you’re heading home with us. For the first time in their history, the Germans have been knocked out of a World Cup at the group stage, as Morocco’s win over Colombia saw them nab second place in the group.
Germany’s loss to Colombia came as a surprise to many but you would have been hard pressed to find people who seriously thought they would not be able to get a win over South Korea. Korea had looked pretty woeful the whole tournament, capitulating to Colombia and barely looking threatening against Morocco. They did not concede a lot of goals but they lost both matches.
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When they kicked off their final game in Brisbane against Germany, however, they looked like a different prospect. Maybe the fact they no longer had anything more to play for lifted some of the pressure off their shoulders. Colin Bell’s decision to start 16 year old Casey Phair also had a genuine impact - Phair’s pressing early on clearly unsettled Germany’s defence and she would have opened the scoring were it not for an impressive Merle Frohms save that tipped her shot onto the post.
However, Phair’s opportunity was a sign of things to come and South Korea found the space in behind Svenja Huth at fullback to create another good chance. This time Cho So-Hyun finished it and suddenly South Korea had something to hold onto.
Germany did not initially look flustered but over time, their frustrations clearly grew. Martina Voss-Tecklenberg had made one attacking change since the Colombia match with Lea Schüller starting up front with Alexandra Popp replacing Lina Magull as the 10. But once again Jule Brand was tucking inside, leaving Huth the whole right flank. At points Brand was practically playing on the left. Meanwhile, Sara Däbritz kept pushing up almost as if she was in a 10 role. This had gone beyond interesting rotations and into headless chickens.
Popp scored the most predictable equaliser at half-time after a Korean attack broke down and Germany could counter. She headed in Huth’s cross and it looked early on in the second half like she might score a couple more goals in a similar vein but in the end, Popp’s threat petered out and with it Germany’s.
Now the inquest will begin. Germany blew Morocco away in their opener but were poor against both Colombia and South Korea. Whilst the decision to play Huth at right-back is the obvious one to point to, this whole Germany side looked disorganised. The run to the Euros final might have papered over the cracks but this team are over-reliant on Alex Popp and Lena Oberdorf. They have struggled to use their wingers effectively (although that seems to be becoming a theme for a lot of teams at the World Cup) and lots of their units are disconnected despite individual rotation on the pitch. Manager Martina Voss-Tecklenberg should be where the questions begin, but Germany had plenty of senior players on the field against South Korea. Not many of them looked like leaders.