At some point, I was going to have to write a premature obituary of a favorite. At no point in the past few weeks did I ever presume it would be Die Mannschaft's.
To say the reigning World Champion (not for long) looked anything more than lackluster would be fake news. From the very first game, Germany's hopes to be the first team to repeat as World Cup Champions since Brazil 1958-1962 were always in doubt.
Against Mexico the team looked uninspiring, apathetic even. Movements forward were more like walks in the park and less like the blitzkriegs we've become accustomed to over the last few tournaments. Whatever Germany had done to prevent the sorts of failures we saw in the late 90s and early naughts, the thought goes, had presumably inoculated the team from collapse. Unfortunately, Germany lost 1-0.
Even that loss against America's southern neighbor wasn't enough to spark a rejuvenated side. Jogi Löw was seen jogging near the team's resort hideaway and had time to pose for a posh photo. It was almost as if they saw nothing wrong with losing game one. After all the Spanish lost to Switzerland in 2010 and managed to lift the World Cup trophy.
When they marched out against Sweden, the Germans still seemed lost in the Englischer Garten. Several counter attacks later and they were down 1-0 to a much less skillful side. Only a second have renaissance saved the four time champion. Even then, they had to wait until the last minute to reach salvation. They won 2-1
It was short lived, however, as somehow Die Mannschaft found their safe space in going through the motions even when their place in the Round of 16 was on the line. There was no point during the final match against South Korea where the casual viewer could walk away from watching thinking Germany actually wanted to be there. Maybe, just maybe, in the dying moments of second half stoppage after already being down 2-0 to South Korea, the German side could have been accused of caring. But, by then, it was too little, too late.
The Germans end the 2018 World Cup exactly where four of the last five World Cup Champions have--heading home early. To call their performance lackluster would be too kind. Regardless of what happens next, it's gut check time for the DFB (German Football's governing body). Maybe Jogi Löw has to go, maybe it's time for the veterans to retire (after all it was the younger crew who swept through last summer Confederations Cup).
Die Mannschaft will be back and very likely they'll be on a mission to avenge the disaster in Russia. I, for one, am hoping they do.