Germany crash out in greatest shock so far

Auf wiedersehen: German winger Marco Reus after his side’s exit from the World Cup. © Getty

Is it wrong to take pleasure in other people’s misfortune? As Germans despaired at their early World Cup exit, the world rejoiced. The World Cup has been blown wide open.

This World Cup has already featured stunning goals, controversy, breakout stars and shocks, defying the pessimists who predicted it would be dull on the pitch and sinister off it.

But nothing in the first two weeks compared to Germany’s stunning exit yesterday afternoon. The World Cup holders, the four-time champions, have been knocked out in the group stage after losing 2-0 to South Korea.

This was one of the greatest World Cup shocks of all time. South Korea were 18/1 to win the match. Die Mannschaft have reached the semi-finals of the last six tournaments they have competed in. They have not gone out in the group stages since 1938 and were expected to walk this group. This never, ever happens to them.

Joachim Löw’s side knew that a win against the unfancied Koreans would almost certainly see them qualify. But in their first two matches, against Mexico and Sweden, there were plenty of signs that this was not the efficient machine of old.

At half-time it was 0-0. In the second half, Germany surged forward. Chances came and went, but Germany’s winner was almost painfully inevitable. “Never write off the Germans,” as the saying goes.

But it never came. Instead, as the clock ticked over to 90, South Korea won a corner. The ball squirmed through to Kim Young-gwon, who smashed it in. The linesman flagged for offside, but VAR struck the hammer blow.

And unbelievably, a few minutes later, with German keeper Manuel Neuer way out of his goal, South Korea doubled their lead.

The German players slumped on the turf. Some were in tears. And the whole world absolutely loved it.

It is appropriate that the Germans invented the word for taking pleasure in the misfortune of others — schadenfreude. This is a huge motivator for football fans, who often despise their rivals nearly as much as they love their own team.

Research has shown that schadenfreude is felt the most by people with low self-esteem. That just about sums up the mentality of England fans, who were more joyous than most.

But many people feel uneasy about wallowing in other people’s misery. Are they right?

All-time Löw

Yes they are, say some. This is why so many people have a problem with professional sport. These German players have families. They will be heartbroken. Schadenfreude is an expression of envy and insecurity. Our society should thrive on compassion and empathy. And so should how we follow sport.

Get real, reply others. Schadenfreude is completely natural, and anyone who pretends not to feel it is being dishonest. Besides, most people are happy when criminals are punished, for example. It is also about fairness. Germany almost never suffers in football. And now they know how it feels.

You Decide

  1. Is schadenfreude a good thing?
  2. Should you support the underdog?


  1. In one minute, think of all the times you have experienced schadenfreude in the last year. How many instances do you recall?
  2. Is this the World Cup’s biggest shock of all time? Research another shock in the history of the competition and make a case for why it is greater than this one.

Some People Say...

“Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win.”

Gary Lineker

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Germany are out of the World Cup after losing 2-0 to South Korea in their last group stage match. The goals were scored by Kim Young-gwon and Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min. While almost every major nation has experienced embarrassing early exits in the past, Germany have been the least prone. This result now means England are the fourth favourites to win the World Cup.
What do we not know?
Whether this is just a blip for German football or if it represents an overall decline. For years, ever since the 2010 World Cup, German football has been almost peerless in how it prepares players for the national team and for how it is run off the pitch. Perhaps it is just the end of the road for this generation.

Word Watch

Germany’s exit follows a recent trend of World Cup holders going out early. France went out early in 2002 having won it in 1998; Italy went out early in 2010 having won it in 2006; and Spain went out early in 2014 having won it in 2010.
The four-time champions
As well as winning it in 2014, Germany also won it in 1954, 1974 (when they hosted it) and 1990. Although, those three were all as West Germany.
South Korea
South Korea have also been eliminated due to Sweden’s victory over Mexico. South Korea lost to both Sweden and Mexico.
Die Mannschaft
The German national team’s nickname simply means “the team”.
Against Mexico and Sweden
Germany lost 1-0 to Mexico before beating Sweden 2-1 thanks to a last minute winner.
Video assistant referee.
More joyous than most
Germany knocked England out of the World Cup in 2010, 1990 and 1970.


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