KAZAN ARENA-Germany crashed out of the World Cup on Wednesday after a stoppage-time VAR-assisted goal from Younggwon Kim and a late second by Son Heungmin earned South Korea a famous 2-0 win.

The Germans needed to beat Korea by two clear goals in their final group F match at Kazan stadium to advance to the last 16. But Joachim Loew's men wasted a series of chances in a tense match that saw a pale version of the world champions become the fourth holders of the title this century to be sent packing at the first hurdle.  Germany's team of superstars could only look on in shock in the final minutes of the match as US referee Mark Geiger called for the video assistant referee to intervene after the unmarked Kim had bundled his shot past Germany 'keeper Manuel Neuer from a corner early in stoppage time.

The goal was awarded because Toni Kroos' touch had played him onside, and minutes later Germany were 2-0 down after Neuer ran up the pitch in a desperate attempt to get a goal. A long punt upfield saw Tottenham forward Son chase a clearance to fire into an empty net.  It means Germany, the four-time champions who had competed in the past 16 editions of the World Cup, fail to make it past the first hurdle of the tournament since 1938. Germany coach Joachim Loew caused a surprise by leaving midfield attacking stalwart Thomas Mueller on the bench for the first time since 2012 after his underwhelming displays against Mexico and Sweden.

But by the end of a frustrating opening half, Loew was left desperately studying his options. Germany suffered the first of several scares after South Korea won a free kick on the quarter hour when Sami Khedira's boot connected with the head of Jung Wooyoung.

From 30 yards out, it should have been fodder for World Cup-winning goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, but after fumbling Jung's dipping drive Neuer scrambled desperately to clear as Son raced to pounce.

Germany spurned a series of chances soon afterwards. Marco Reus, who hit a crucial leveller in the 2-1 win over Sweden, saw his drive deflected and Mesut Ozil saw his effort deflected off a Korean boot and out for a corner, after which goalkeeper Hyeonwoo Jo smothered desperately when Goretzka's header found Hummels trying to pounce on the loose ball.

Germany resumed with more urgency after the interval, but despite edging closer when Loew introduced Mario Gomez just before the hour the big Stuttgart striker headed straight at Jo from Kimmich's cross. Striker Timo Werner then met another Kimmich ball from the left byeline with a right-foot volley that skewed agonisingly wide of Jo's upright. Germany urgency was not matched by their normal efficiency and soon legs started to tire.

Loew played his final card when he introduced Mueller for Leon Goretzka. But the late changes failed to spark Germany into life as Korea hung on for a famous win that, unfortunately for the impressive Asians, saw them bow out after Sweden beat Mexico 3-0.

Mats Hummels said defending champions Germany's group stage exit from the World Cup finals for the first time since 1938 was a "bitter" shock for the team. "It is a really, really bitter evening for us," admitted Hummels, who squandered a late chance when he headed over. "The situation is very difficult to put into words," he told ZDF.

"We did not put the ball in the net, even though we had plenty of opportunities, including myself in the 86th minute -- I have to score from chances like that. It is a very bitter evening for us and for all German football fans. We believed in it until the very end, we tried to shoot, but we just couldn't get the ball in. We had plenty of opportunities, we broke our necks trying out there today." Germany qualified for Russia with a perfect record of ten wins, but Hummels said the last time the team played well was when they wrapped up qualification late last year. "We put ourselves in this situation after the Mexican game," he admitted after the Germans lost their opener 1-0 to Mexico. "The last game we delivered a good performance was in the autumn of 2017."

 

 

 

Curse of being defending champions

 

Germany have been eliminated from a World Cup in the first round for the first time since the Second World War, as the holders are knocked out in the group stage for the fourth time this century. Leaving aside Uruguay -- who won the inaugural World Cup in 1930 before not travelling to Italy for the 1934 edition -- it is the sixth time in the history of the competition that the reigning champions have failed to make it past the first hurdle. AFP Sport looks back at the previous sides to fall victim to the champions curse:

ITALY 1950

Italy had won back-to-back World Cups before the Second World War got in the way, and much had changed by the time the 1950 tournament came around in Brazil. Their team also opted to travel across the Atlantic by boat after several Italian internationals were killed in the Superga air disaster of May 1949 that decimated the great Torino side of the time. Out of shape after the long journey by sea, the Italians played just two matches, losing 3-2 to Sweden before beating Paraguay 2-0. Sweden topped the group, and Italy went home.

BRAZIL 1966

Pele's great Brazil side rocked up in England having won the previous two World Cups. They would win the 1970 trophy too, but 1966 was a disaster. Pele and Garrincha scored to secure a 2-0 win over Bulgaria at Everton's Goodison Park home in their opening game. However, Bulgaria's rough treatment of Pele forced him to miss their next match, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Hungary. 'O Rei' returned for their decisive last group outing against Eusebio's Portugal, but was the victim of another meaty tackle and was forced to limp his way through the remainder of the match as Brazil lost 3-1 again to go out.

FRANCE 2002

France came to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea with a wonderful side that had won the trophy on home soil in 1998 and then won the European Championship in 2000. However, nothing went right for Les Bleus as they went home with their tails between their legs having failed to score a goal never mind win a game. Zinedine Zidane was missing due to injury as France were stunned 1-0 by Senegal in their first game, and they followed that with a 0-0 draw against Uruguay, as Thierry Henry was sent off. Zidane was back in time for their last group outing, but could not prevent a 2-0 loss at the hands of Denmark that had them heading home after the worst trophy defence in tournament history.

ITALY 2010

After the miracle of 2006, when the Azzurri won the trophy in Germany despite the chaos being caused in their domestic game by the Calciopoli scandal, 2010 in South Africa was a spectacular disaster for the Italians. The presence of veterans like Gianluigi Buffon and Fabio Cannavaro and that of Marcello Lippi on the bench could not prevent Italy from being humbled in the group stage as they failed to win any of their matches. After having to come from behind to draw with Paraguay and New Zealand, Italy's fate was sealed as they suffered a humiliating 3-2 loss at the hands of Slovakia, who advanced at their expense.

SPAIN 2014

The curse of the champions struck again four years ago in Brazil, as Spain's all-conquering side were stopped in their tracks. Vicente del Bosque's team arrived in South America having won three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012, but this proved a step too far for a side lacking the hunger of old. They knew they were going home after just two matches of a disastrous trophy defence, as a 5-1 humbling at the hands of the Netherlands was followed by a 2-0 defeat against Chile at the Maracana. It was the end of an era for the likes of Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso. A 3-0 win over Australia in their last game was scant consolation. –AFP