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World Cup: former stars lay into ‘helpless’ Germany after shock defeat

Joachim Löw is facing the biggest crisis of his 12-year reign as Germany coach after the holders slipped to a shock defeat against Mexico in their World Cup opener in Russia.

World Cup: former stars lay into ‘helpless’ Germany after shock defeat
Mesut Özil. Photo: DPA

Germany are licking their wounds after slumping 1-0 to a Hirving Lozano strike in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium – their first defeat in their opening game of a World Cup since 1982.

“We won't fall apart,” insisted Löw, but that is exactly what his defence did in the first-half.

Löw is under contract with the German Football Association (DFB) until 2022, but Sunday's result tarnishes the glittering reputation of the 2014 World Cup-winning coach.

“I have not seen the German team so weak at a big tournament for a long time,” said West Germany's 1990 World Cup-winning captain Lothar Matthaeus.

“Almost everything was missing. There were concentration errors, unnecessary bad passes and also the attitude was not there.”

Löw has been heavily criticised in Germany for his tactics and keeping faith in under-performing players, especially Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil.

The decision to leave Manchester City starlet Leroy Sane out of the squad after a dazzling season for the Premier League champions has led to searching questions.

Löw's faith in Ozil, who came to Russia after a series of frustrating performances for Arsenal, and Khedira, who is no longer the midfield dynamo he was, leaves Löw open to accusations of misplaced loyalty.

He got his tactics wrong in Moscow, telling his players they would be pressed high up, only for Mexico to counter-attack from deep at speed.

When their gameplan was shredded, none of Löw's senior players could stem the Mexico attacks or fix the disarray in defence.

'Helpless'

Now the Germans must beat Sweden in Sochi on Saturday to get their Russia 2018 campaign back on track.

The fear in Germany is that the national team will not qualify for the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time since the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal.

The last time they failed to progress beyond the first round of the World Cup was in 1938.

Worryingly for the remaining group matches, the Germans lacked leadership when they needed it most — despite the return of captain Manuel Neuer in goal.

“What bothered me most is that no player is capable of solving a problem when it gets difficult,” Paul Breitner, a 1974 World Cup winner with West Germany, told Munich-based paper TZ.

“It was depressing to see how helpless our team was.”

Löw is under pressure to make changes and only his former captain Philipp Lahm, who lifted the World Cup trophy in 2014, offered hope amid the deluge of criticism.

“They have the experience to turn things around. Sometimes a small setback doesn't hurt to pull the team together,” Lahm said at an event in Moscow.

However, the performance suggests there are deeper problems and the first-half disarray was glaring.

Matthaeus said Marco Reus, Germany's most dangerous player, who only played the last 30 minutes, must start against Sweden.

Warning

German daily Bild demanded Ozil, Khedira, Julian Draxler and Thomas Mueller step up in training this week or be dropped.

“For me, Mesut Ozil was missing speed and body language,” said Matthaeus.

“He has so much freedom from Löw, but nothing comes back from him. Thomas Mueller was also disappointing.”

Centre-backs Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels complained about being isolated at the back.

However, the fleet-footed Mexicans exposed Boateng's lack of pace, while Hummels was on the halfway line when the attack started that led to Lozano's winning goal.

“Against Mexico, the motto was 'it will be OK. At some point, the ball will go in the net',” former international Manfred Schwabl told the Muenchner Merkur newspaper

“Of course, that doesn't work in football, not in the third division and especially not at a World Cup.”

Matthaeus offered a chilling warning.

“Just because Germany are world champions, doesn't mean they will automatically reach the last 16.

“Just a reminder: three of the last four champions all went out in the group stages,” he added after France, Italy and Spain all bowed out early, four years after lifting the World Cup.

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FOOTBALL

Sweden into World Cup semis after ending German hoodoo

Stina Blackstenius scored the winner as Sweden came from behind to stun old rivals Germany on Saturday and set up a women's World Cup semi-final against the Netherlands.

Sweden into World Cup semis after ending German hoodoo
Photo: AP Photo/David Vincent/TT

Sweden had not beaten Germany at a major women's tournament since the 1995 World Cup, failing to win any of their subsequent meetings at World Cups, European Championships and Olympics in almost quarter of a century.

That run included defeats in the 2003 World Cup final and the gold medal match at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but they gained revenge in Rennes, coming from behind to win their quarter-final 2-1.

Lina Magull had given Germany a 16th-minute lead with a fine finish from a Sara Däbritz assist, but the excellent Sofia Jakobsson equalised soon after on a hot evening in Brittany.

The winner arrived three minutes after half-time, with Blackstenius prodding home the rebound after Almuth Schult had saved a Fridolina Rolfö header.

Despite bringing on star player Dszenifer Marozsan, who had missed the
previous three games with a broken toe, Germany remained blunt as the clock
ticked down.

Blackstenius had scored Sweden's winner against Canada in the last round and also netted against the Germans in that Olympic final defeat in 2016.

“We have talked about the possibilities here for us to go far and win every game,” said a bullish Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson.

“There's not a single mitochondria in us that's content. We're going to go for it.”

The Germans will now be deprived of the chance to defend their Olympic title, with defeat here meaning they fail to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games. Sweden will join the Netherlands and Great Britain — who have qualified thanks to England's World Cup run — at the Games instead.

“We are now qualified for the Olympics. That is one thing that has been hanging over our heads for a while,” said Gerhardsson.

Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg told ARD: “The defeat hurts, but we are in a process. We will grow from this experience.”

Sweden go on to a semi-final encounter with the Dutch in Lyon on Wednesday, and they will have a score to settle there too, having lost to the Netherlands at Euro 2017.

The 'Oranje' went on to win that tournament and have coped well in France with their status as reigning European champions.

The tournament now switches for the closing stages to Lyon — home to Europe's top women's club side — with holders the United States and England facing off in the first semi-final on Tuesday.

Megan Rapinoe's double strike gave the USA a 2-1 win over France on Friday, ending the hosts' dream of winning the trophy on home soil.

England reached their second successive World Cup semi-final with a straightforward 3-0 win over Norway on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Italy lose out to Dutch in bid to reach World Cup semi-finals

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