Germany’s World Cup failure: ‘It’s not just bad luck, it’s inability’

You can slice and dice this nightmare a thousand ways, smother it in narrative, toss in a few dollops of socio-political allegories and hunt for a couple of details that really spoilt the taste — it was the remote base camp at the northern tip of Qatar peninsula that lost it, or the unworn One Love armband or the unnecessary pre-tournament friendly in Oman — but listening to the Germany players after the event, they all brought it back to the most basic of basics.

“We missed too many chances,” said Joshua Kimmich.

“We were susceptible in defence,” said Manuel Neuer.

Case closed. Board the plane. Let’s all go home.

Tournament football is all about giving as little away as possible. Ask Joachim Low’s world champions from 2014, a Germany side that fielded four centre-backs in their first four games in Brazil. This Germany team, like the versions that faltered at the Euros last year and at the 2018 World Cup, were set up to attack but were sadly recklessly profligate at both ends — an extravagant folly, like much of the architecture around them in Doha.

Being wasteful in front of goal isn’t quite as bad as conceding chances when you create openings on an industrial scale the way this team did.

Against Costa Rica on Thursday, their xG was a frankly ridiculous 6.06, enough to score the eight goals that might just have put them through to the knockouts, irrespective of Spain’s well-timed — certainly when it comes to those who might challenge them for the trophy — off-day against Japan.

But nothing happens in isolation. The more you miss, the more you’re forced to keep going, creating problems at the other end, and the more you concede, the more you’re forced to push for goals again, creating further instability in the process.

Since exiting Euro 2016 at the semi-final stage, Germany have conceded at least one goal in every single tournament game and found themselves behind at least once in every one of those matches as well. When you’re constantly chasing your own tail, it’s hard to get anywhere, even if it’s just the first knockout round of a World Cup.