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28th Jun 2018

Joachim Low jumps to Mesut Ozil’s defence after World Cup exit criticism

The Germany manager feels the criticism of Ozil is unfair

Wayne Farry

The holders are out

Germany’s early exit from the 2018 World Cup sent shockwaves around the world of football. It was Die Mannschaft’s first group stage exit in the World Cup since 1938, and leaves them returning to Berlin with just one win from two.

Their group was deemed to be an easy one prior to the tournament – sure Sweden, South Korea and Mexico are creditable sides with some genuine quality in their squads, but Germany were expected to qualify as undeniable winners, with the other three fighting for second place.

The opening day defeat to Mexico was itself a shock, but pundits and commentators expected a resurgence; a backlash to show teams why it’s never wise to doubt Joachim Low’s team.

Despite late victory over Sweden in their second game, that backlash never emerged, and Germany’s limp performance in their 2-0 defeat to South Korea on Wednesday was evidence of this.

From numbers one to 23, Germany were lacklustre throughout the entire tournament, and gave off the vibe of a side who believed that merely turning up would see them progress.

Despite their mediocrity across the board, there was one particular player in the German squad who has been singled out for his poor displays. That players is Mesut Ozil.

In the aftermath of the Mexico defeat, former Bayern Munich striker Mario Basler was scathing in his criticism of Ozil, describing his body language as that of “a dead frog”.

Ozil was subsequently dropped against Mexico, before being reinstated in what was an insipid and uninspired performance against South Korea, leading to yet more criticism of a player who has seen his public approval in Germany drop significantly since meeting controversial Turkish president Recep Erdogan alongside his compatriot Ilkay Gundogan in May.

His manager has not been one of those to criticise him however, and has even jumped to his defence, saying that criticism of him alone is harsh, considering how poorly the entire team played.

“A team only begins to gel later at the tournament, so it makes sense to bring some [players] in and let it [the gelling process] go easy on them,” said Low.

“It wasn’t only Ozil, a number of other players didn’t perform as they normally would. I take responsibility for that and stand up for that, but I thought it was a good team.

“I didn’t think Thomas Muller had been that convincing in the first two matches and I wanted to make a point there [by dropping him].”