AOn Thursday evening, three new names made German football history: Ao Tanaka, Yeltsin Tejeda and Juan Pablo Vargas. One is from Japan, the other two from Costa Rica. It was they, the no-names, who let the German national soccer team, in which Champions League winners and world champions also played that evening, look into the abyss.
At the Khalifa International Stadium, Japan’s Ao Tanaka scored to make it 2-1 against Spain in the 51st minute.
Costa Rican Yeltsin Tejeda scored the 1-1 draw against Germany in the 58th minute at al-Bayt Stadium.
At the al-Bayt stadium, Costa Rican Juan Pablo Vargas scored the 2-1 win against Germany (which FIFA later saw as Neuer’s own goal) in the 70th minute.
Müller hints at DFB farewell
In these moments it was clear: the next German World Cup preliminary round, the next German World Cup debacle is not only possible, but even very, very likely. And when the games were over, the German national team actually fell into the abyss, despite their remarkable willpower, which scored late to make it 2-2, 3-2 and even 4-2.
At the end of this dramatic third matchday in Group E, the results have to be sorted quickly at this point: The footballing nation of Spain lost 1:2 against Japan – and, like Japan, who won the group, made it into the round of 16. The soccer nation of Germany won 4:2 against Costa Rica – and, like Costa Rica, was eliminated.
From a German point of view, a World Cup ended that evening in which, from the start, you never had the feeling that it was going to be a German World Cup. And that despite the fact that the team had started promisingly at least this Thursday.
Only nine minutes had been played on that evening, when Germany had to win, when Joshua Kimmich, who started at right-back, crossed so precisely from his side that Thomas Müller, the centre-forward, was able to head freely in the penalty area. He didn’t do so well, but the ball and the message had arrived before that: the Germans knew what they wanted. They had a plan. Attack with passing and speed play. And just a minute later it opened for the first time. Not the right side, but the left.
There, David Raum, who was also allowed to start in the third preliminary round, crossed into the penalty area as precisely as Kimmich before him – and Serge Gnabry, one of seven FC Bayern players in the starting line-up, headed more precisely than Müller. Costa Rica goalkeeper, the powerful jumper Keylor Navas stretched but couldn’t do anything. 1-0 for Germany. The players, coaches and supervisors hugged each other on the sidelines.
In this moment of joy at the latest, however, one had to remember that as long as the Germans didn’t score seven more goals themselves and didn’t concede a goal, they couldn’t rely solely on themselves for a place in the round of 16. They depended on the Spaniards, who needed at least a point in the parallel game against Japan. There was a lot to be said for that, even if some Spanish reporters in the stadium recalled the advantage of having a second place in the group because of the possible opponent in the quarter-finals (not Brazil!). And then there was this somewhat strange message in which the associations from Spain and Japan announced before the game that they wanted to work together in the future.
On the other hand, nothing indicated a collaboration on the pitch. In the 13th minute, Spanish striker Álvaro Morata, who had already scored against Germany, made it 1-0. At that moment Germany was ahead.
And at al-Bayt Stadium, the players continued. They kept combining in the penalty area in the first half, but the second goal didn’t want to come. Neither with a header from Leon Goretzka (14th). Even with a shot by Jamal Musiala (36th), who wound his way into the penalty area almost attack after attack. And not with a shot by Serge Gnabry (40th).