You could always rely on – and fear – Germany going far in a World Cup. Not anymore.
Just like four years ago, they’re out in the group stage.
Back-to-back humiliations after never previously leaving the tournament so early. And only eight years after winning a fourth world title.
A night of drama and agony involved simultaneous group games as the focus switched between Al-Bayt and Khalifa stadiums in Qatar.
Germany had needed a favour from Spain but the 2010 world champions lost to Japan – and still went through.
At one point Spain were heading out as well when Germany were losing to Costa Rica.
Spain manager Luis Enrique said: “If I had found out, I would have had a heart attack.”
But a German recovery to win 4-2 wasn’t enough to reach the last-16.
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Even more agonising for Germany was later watching inconclusive replays about whether the ball went out before Japan scored their winner.
But it was losing to Japan themselves and drawing with Spain that ultimately toppled Germany.
Veteran forward Thomas Müller said: “We haven’t been able to live up to expectations at the tournaments in recent years, because as a team, I would say we don’t really have specialists running around everywhere.”
Changing managers hasn’t changed outcomes.
Joachim Loew, the 2014 World Cup winner, oversaw the group-stage exit at Russia 2018 and then a last-16 defeat to England at Euro 2020 before making way for Hansi Flick.
Now his suitability for the job will come under scrutiny with Germany hosting Euro 2024.
Flick said: “It is difficult to talk about that right after an elimination. Now we need to assess our work here at the World Cup, head into a different direction, and this is the next step that we are going to undertake and we will do that very soon.”
At least Germany could share the spotlight of pain for heavyweights – with Belgium also eliminated on Thursday.
Belgium have been ranked as the world’s best team for four years in a row by FIFA.
But they showed in Qatar why a trophy has never been won.
The parting shot was a 0-0 draw with Croatia but the damage was caused by losing to Morocco after opening with a win over Canada.
Manager Roberto Martinez said: “We played thinking if we lose a game we could be out and that’s what cost us.”
Belgium’s Golden Generation – who finished third in 2018 – is now ageing. Just like Germany an overhaul will be needed.
Those are questions for the future.
The recriminations will linger, long after the wild night of football in the Gulf.