Three things we learned from the World Cup today

Germany midfielder Toni Kroos cuts a lonely figure after defeat to South Korea
AFP

Saint Petersburg (AFP) – Germany’s defence of their World Cup crown ended in the group stage after they suffered a stunning defeat to South Korea on Wednesday.

The four-time champions’ exit amounts to one of the greatest shocks in the tournament’s history, allowing Sweden and Mexico to go through while in Group E, Brazil and Switzerland advanced.

Here, AFP Sport looks at three things we learned today

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Germany should have heeded the warnings

When Toni Kroos’ 95th-minute winner against Sweden hit the net, most assumed a corner had been turned and that Germany would move into the last 16 with little more fuss. 

Instead, they were beaten by South Korea and crashed out in the group stage of a World Cup for the first time in 80 years. 

Their poor performances coming into the tournament proved to be indicators, not outliers. Germany had won only once in six matches and that became seven when they lost to Mexico in Moscow. In the end, it was the victory over Sweden that was the one-off. 

Germany’s misery is a triumph for the Swedes, who top the group, for Mexico, who beat them so convincingly, and even Korea, who go out on a high after their storming finale. But for the reigning world champions, this was a disaster, as unexpected as it was dramatic. 

Joachim Low has already said he will consider his future as coach. The inquest is just beginning.

Brazil make quiet progress

Brazil have qualified from a World Cup group for the 13th consecutive time and while there has been little in their three games so far to set the pulse racing, they have improved with every match. 

A 2-0 win over Serbia was hardly spectacular but there is a solidity to Tite’s side that means Brazil head into the last 16, having conceded only one goal and with momentum their rivals lack. 

The opening draw with Switzerland set alarm bells ringing and the anxiety was real in the final minutes against Costa Rica when the score was still goalless. But two late strikes in Saint Petersburg put them in control of Group E and against Serbia, they finished the job. 

Neymar played 90 minutes again as he continues to regain sharpness and the striker’s grin at the full-time whistle said it all. Their rivals may be stuttering but Brazil are quietly hitting their stride.

Bottom half full of surprises  

Sweden’s progress as group winners adds to a surprising bottom half of the draw, which now includes Spain, Russia, Croatia, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. In the top half, meanwhile, sit France, Argentina, Uruguay, Portugal, Brazil and Mexico. 

Japan and Belgium are currently on track to complete the bottom section, Senegal and England the top, but that could change on Thursday. 

What is clear is the top half boasts more of the established favourites even if the likes of France, Argentina and Portugal are yet to really convince. In contrast, the likes of Croatia and Sweden have less pedigree but are showing better form and cannot be underestimated. 

Belgium and England play for first place in Group G on Thursday. It will be intriguing to see how eager each side is to win.

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