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Bavarian blowout

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Defending champions eliminated in the first round for the first time since 1938

KOREA HIGHLIGHT: Korean players react with excitement during their Fifa World Cup 2018 Group F match against Germany in Kazan, Russia yesterday. Picture: EPA-EFE

Defending champions Germany were sent crashing out of the World Cup after suffering a stunning 2-0 defeat by a tenacious South Korea yesterday that saw them eliminated in the first round for the first time in 80 years.

Germany would have progressed with a win at the Kazan Arena, but barely looked capable of scoring against the Koreans, let alone going on to successfully defend the title they won in Brazil four years ago.

Stoppage-time goals from Kim Young-gwon and Son Heung-min finished off Joachim Loew’s sorry Germany side, who finished bottom of the group on three points. They have won four World Cup titles and also finished runners-up four times and entered this year’s tournament heavily backed to retain their title.

Instead they will head home after a stunning failure, having been unable to break down the South Koreans and after a shock 1-0 loss to Mexico in their opening group match.

Germany’s Toni Kroos, the free kick hero in the 2-1 win over Sweden, tried desperately to spark his side into action in the second half but was denied by South Korea’s heroic Cho Hyun-woo in the 88th minute, one of a number of fine saves by the keeper.

But it was Kim Young-gwon who broke the deadlock in added time when he found himself alone in front of goal after a corner and he poked the ball home from close range.

Moments later Son sprinted to retrieve a long ball, with Germany keeper Neuer having left his goal to try to help his side get a goal, and the Korean striker fired a low shot into the net to wrap up the win and leave the Germans distraught.

Meanwhile, in other Group F action yesterday, Sweden thumped Mexico 3-0, overpowering their opponents after a scoreless first half in a result that means both teams advance to the World Cup last 16 at the expense of Germany.

Sweden finished top of the group on goal difference, with both teams on six points ahead of Germany and South Korea on three apiece.

After pressing hard for most of the first half and wasting numerous chances, Sweden finally found the net when left-back Ludwig Augustinsson charged up the field in the 50th minute and angled home a left-footed volley.

Twelve minutes later, captain Andreas Granqvist kept his concentration in the face of deafening boos and whistles from the Mexican fans to blast a penalty into the top left corner after Hector Moreno had brought down Marcus Berg.

Mexico’s misery was complete when the ball trickled in off the leg of Edson Alvarez for a tame own goal on 74 minutes. The Mexicans were a shadow of the team that had beaten Germany and South Korea and had pundits speaking of them as potential world champions.

Needing only a draw to be sure of advancing, they somehow managed to reach the break on level terms after surviving a Swedish aerial bombardment and a VAR review.

The Swedes were guilty of wasteful finishing in the opening 45 minutes, with Emil Forsberg in particular blazing several shots over the bar.

Mexico had an anxious moment when Javier Hernandez appeared to use his arm to control the ball in his penalty area, but after a VAR review the referee awarded a corner, they then pressed hard after falling behind, with Javier Hernandez heading over from a corner and later firing a cross that flew perilously across the face of the Swedish goal.

Hector Herrera had a long range shot fumbled, then saved by Robin Olsen, and Lozano struck a low shot into the keeper’s arms in the final frenetic minutes.

Mexico’s desperation proved unnecessary, however, as South Korea gave them a helping hand to the last 16 with that stunning 2-0 win over the holders Germany.

But without an improvement on this performance they risk falling once again at the stage where they have been knocked out in the last six World Cups.