For quite a while, the answer to the question, “Who is the second best soccer team in the world,” has been Germany’s B squad because it seemed no national soccer power was as deep as the defending World Cup champions. Four years ago, in Brazil, their depth rode what looked to be a wave that was only going to continue to grow for years to come and carry the nation to a couple more world titles. Instead, they have become the fourth defending World Cup champion of the last five to fail to qualify for the knock out round. What happened?
When other nations play a team like Germany and get taught a lesson on how to play soccer, one of two things happen; they put their tails between their legs and quit dreaming of becoming a soccer power, or they learn exactly what they have to do to up their game and set about doing so.
Losing to South Korea in their closing first round match 2-0 sent shock waves around the soccer world. However, if you are South Korea and you watched tape of Germany losing to Mexico and just eeking out a win against Sweden, you had to believe anything was possible because while they may not see themselves on a par with Germany, they certainly believed there was not much that separated their talent from the likes of Germany’s first two opponents.
Then you have to add in while Germany prepares for a World Cup thinking about fielding a squad that will make a deep run and beat the likes of other soccer powers like Spain, Brazil, and Portugal, South Korea spent their entire preparation with the idea of fielding a squad that could play a type of game that would allow them to tie or beat Germany and possibly advance to the knockout phase. South Korea has already won its World Cup so to speak just by defeating and eliminating Germany.
Germany will regroup if they do not implode first and most likely be one of the favorites in Qatar in 2020. But for now, the World Cup is a wide open affair in which pretty much any team, with the exception of the host Russians, can win it all. Suddenly, the idea of an upstart nation taking the crown is no longer all that hard to imagine.
Spain may have the clearest path to the finals given that Uruguay, Portugal, France, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil will have to face one brutal match after another just for a shot at the Cup title. You can also add either Belgium or England to that group of death as well as possibly Colombia. Spain will not have an excuse if they are not at their best for the final while whoever survives the other bracket will be banged up and worn out to say the least.
However, Spain would be wise to learn from Germany’s exit and not start thinking too far down the road. They will still have a tough out in the loser of Belgium vs England and could still end up with a talented Colombian squad. However, their biggest test might just come should they eliminate the host Russians where they are liable to face a very deep and disciplined Croatia.
It’s that kind of a World Cup, one where the final could turn the soccer world upside down with the likes of a final pitting Uruguay against Croatia, and yet, if you look more closely, it’s not that far-fetched.
Photos are YouTube screenshots
Top photo: Kim Young-Gwon celebrates after scoring go ahead goal
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.