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Monday, April 22, 2024

Soul-searching Germany’s fall

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AL KHOR, Qatar—Another World Cup, another flop.

Former soccer power Germany is facing another round of soul-searching after going out of the sport’s most important tournament at the first stage for the second time in a row.

Germany’s players spoke afterward of good performances and missed chances—as they’ve done before.

But no one had any real answers to the team’s problems.

“There are 25 experts standing together here. You can all advise each other and then agree on a few details,” Thomas Müller said after Germany’s 4-2 win over Costa Rica on Thursday.

Germany’s fate was effectively decided when it lost its first game, 2-1, to Japan, then followed up with a 1-1 draw with Spain.

It left Germany at the bottom of Group E and dependent on a favor from Spain. It never came as Japan defeated Spain in its final game to top the group. Spain progressed ahead of Germany on goal difference.

“I never look at another team, it’s up to us,” Germany coach Hansi Flick said of relying on Spain. “I think ultimately the sum of everything contributed to us being eliminated. We had enough chances, whether in the first half or the first 60 minutes of the game against Japan, or even at the end against Spain, when we had another huge opportunity. You really have to take those chances.”

What Flick failed to mention is that Spain also missed a host of chances to put its game against Germany out of reach before Niclas Füllkrug’s late equalizer. That goal proved to be the highlight for Germany though it proved to be of little worth in yet another disappointing big-stage performance.

“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. We have a lot of players who are very talented. Yes,” Müller said before trailing off and leaving those at the emedia conference to finish his thoughts.

Germany, the 2014 World Cup champion, also crashed out during the group phase at the 2018 tournament in Russia. At last year’s coronavirus-postponed European Championship, Germany was knocked out in the second round.

“I think really, we can’t say where we are,” Germany captain Manuel Neuer said of the team’s place in world soccer.

Prior to the 2018 World Cup, Germany had reached at least the semifinal stage of every major competition it entered since the 2006 World Cup, which it hosted.

“I joined the team in 2016. Germany was always in the semifinal before that,” midfielder Joshua Kimmich said. “Then I come in and we’re out (of the World Cup) in the first stage and last year in the second round (of the European Championship), it’s hard to take.”


IRAN’S national team received a subdued welcome home after its World Cup defeat against the United States, a match played against the backdrop of ongoing anti-government protests in Iran.

One Iranian man was shot dead celebrating the American victory.

The players returned from Qatar late Wednesday, a day after their 1-0 loss. Anti-government protesters, considering the team a symbol of Iran’s clerical rulers, had celebrated the loss in some Iranian cities with fireworks and cheers.

One man was shot dead by Iranian security forces in northwest Iran for honking his car horn in support of the US victory, the Oslo-based rights monitor Iran Human Rights reported on Thursday.

Iran’s treatment of the players will likely be scrutinized because they refrained from singing the Islamic Republic’s national anthem during their opening World Cup match. Many considered the move a show of solidarity with the protests. The team did sing the anthem in subsequent matches.

A few dozen fans greeted the national team’s return at Tehran’s international airport late Wednesday, with people cheering and waving the Iranian flag.

Yet the players have faced biting criticism from anti-government protesters who have blamed the team for not being more vocal about the security force’s violent put down of the demonstrations. Human rights groups say over 400 protesters have been killed in the crackdown, with thousands more arrested.

An image of players bowing in the presence of President Ebrahim Raisi before setting off to the tournament was widely criticized by activists on social media. A hardline cleric, Raisi has likened protesters to “flies” and dismissed the movement as a foreign plot, without offering any proof.

Mehran Samak, 27, was shot dead after honking his car in support of the US win after Tuesday’s match in the city of Bandar Anzali in northwest Iran. Oslo-based Iran Human Rights reported he was “shot in the head by state forces when he went out to celebrate the Islamic Republic’s loss.”

Samak is also a childhood friend of Iranian midfielder Saeed Ezatollahi, who mourned his death on his social media. But again he received criticism from activists for not explicitly stating Samak was killed by government forces.

Many Iranian celebrities have however been targeted by the government with arrest or other measures for speaking out on behalf of the protesters.

Iranian officials acknowledged but downplayed compatriots celebrating the US win. Gen. Hossein Salami, chief of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, said those who had celebrated were doing so on “behalf of the enemies,” adding “it is not important to us.” His comments appeared in the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

A former culture minister and editor-in-chief of the Ettelaat newspaper, Abbas Salehi, who has close ties with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tweeted: “Iran’s defeat in the game against America was bitter, but even more bitter was the happiness of some people.”

Iran was eliminated from the tournament in Qatar following the loss to the U.S. on Tuesday that saw the players scrambling to score a goal in the last remaining minutes of the game. Striker Sardar Azmoun told reporters he was not satisfied with his performance in the last match.

It was the sixth time Iran has participated in the World Cup. AP

Image credits: AP

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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