Korea goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-Woo (23) exalts after defeating Germany. (Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports)
SOME WORLD CUP MUSINGS (DAY 14): A wild and crazy 2 hours in Group F
By Michael Lewis
The World Cup team of the day is Korea.
Yep, the Republic of Korea, or South Korea, as many of us call the Asian side
What’s that, you say?
The Koreans didn’t even qualify for the Round of 16?
That is true, but they showed more determination and spirit than many teams have displayed on the world stage and in World Cup qualifying.
They fought, they battled, they held off Germany and managed to score twice in stoppage time to pull off another surprising result, a 2-0 victory over the defending champions. It made for some compelling, must-see TV Wednesday morning.
Will Korea crack? Can Germany find the range? Will World Cup history be made?
Combined with yet another upset, Mexico’s 2-1 triumph in the Group F opener, the Germans were shown the door in the opening round for the first time since 1938.
Incredible, simply incredible.
It was the fourth time in the past five World Cups that the defending champs were eliminated in the group stage. The Germans joined France (2002), Italy (2010) and Spain (2014) in the World Cup doghouse.
The only survivor? Brazil in 2006.
Amazing, simply amazing.
“This is the World Cup. It’s not for the faint of heart,” Brazil co-captain Thiago Silva said after his team’s 2-0 Group E win over Serbia Wednesday.
A few thoughts about the two 10 a.m. ET matches:
No doubt Joachim (Yogi) Low is on the hot seat for so many reasons.
To quote another famous Yogi (Berra, former New York Yankees catcher): “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
Well, it is over for the German Yogi and his team in one of the lowest moments in German soccer and World Cup history. While we make a big deal of Brazil playing in all 21 World Cups, it should be noted that Germany had a reputation of not just reaching the knockout round but going deep in the competition. Very deep.
Low will be second-guessed from here to Berlin and Munich and back for leaving off Manchester City’s 22-year-old standout Leroy Sane off the team.
The last time I looked, Low had not resigned. After a tumultuous result such as this, he should (this is his third World Cup cycle, which is unheard of these days) and I would not be surprised if some heads will fall or there is a shake-up in the German federation as well.
“Will I leave? It is too early to answer that question. My disappointment is still very fresh,” Low told reporters. “I could not have imagined this. I was optimistic, I need some time now to think. Tomorrow we will talk.”
Can’t say enough about this team. Having been eliminated, the Koreans had nothing to play for, except for their pride. That is something every athlete and team in the world should learn from this game.
Memo to the U.S. national team: this is how you play the game, giving it your all from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. Sorry, I keep bringing up the 2-1 loss at Trinidad Oct. 10, 2017, but like I said, it is still stuck in my craw.
ICYMI, Kim Young-gwon scored the first goal in the third minute of added time. Originally ruled a non-goal for being offside, the goal was awarded after the Video Assistant Referee said otherwise.
After German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer came up the field to help his teammates equalize, Son Heung-min made it 2-0 in the sixth minute of injury time. Son tapped the ball into an empty net after a long pass from Ju Se-jong to seal it.
Speaking of former Yankee greats, head coach Juan Carlos Osorio should quote Luke Gehrig on his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939: “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”
I’ll put a 21st century spin on it:
“Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth and in the World Cup.”
I mean, how many teams get an opportunity to play another day in the greatest show on earth and in the knockout round, for that matter, after getting embarrassed in a 3-0 loss to Sweden.
Whatever winning mentality Osoiro imbued into this El Tri side vanished after it surrendered the second goal. It wasn’t quite the same Mexican team that we have seen in qualifying and earlier in the tournament.
He’s got five days to heal his side’s injured pride and get pumped up for its next game, which will be against Group E winner Brazil in Samara Monday. Osorio and El Tri know something about tough defeats, having been ousted from the 2016 Copa America Centenario via a 7-0 trouncing by eventual champion Chile.
Osorio’s road survival and road to recovery from that embarrassment was a remarkable journey, so he and the Mexicans will have to do a fast-food version of it to prepare for the South American side.
Let’s face fact. The Swedes are underrated. They might not have the flashiest team around and always fill the net with spectacular scores and creative sequences. They play within themselves and play pragmatic soccer. They do what they need to do to win.
That means shutting down the opposition on defense. It might not be the type of soccer you need to sell the game in the states, but it certainly works at a competition such as the World Cup.
Defender Ludwig Augustinsson put it into perspective on, ahem, how Swede it was: “3-0 win, one of the best days of our lives.
And remember, they left one of the game’s ultimate showmen, LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (62 goals in 116 international appearances), off the squad. But he’s 36-years-old. That’s considered ancient for a forward at this level and Ibra, as talented as he might be, can be considered a luxury by some teams.
Competing in their first World Cup since 2006, the Swedes will take on Group E runners-up Switzerland in Saint Petersburg July 3. Don’t count them out because they have a history of going deep in the tournament. The 1958 team lost to Brazil and 17-year-old Pele in the final, 5-2, and the 1994 squad dropped a 1-0 decision to the South American side, 1-0.
What’s that? Sweden vs. Switzerland isn’t sexy enough for you?
Given what has transpired the past two weeks, don’t sell any match short at Russia 2018.