sport news IAN HERBERT: Germany unrecognisable from 2014 World Cup team after losing ... trends now
The end of a great football nation, proclaimed the German newspaper Bild in the aftermath. That certainly seemed the mood as the team coach pulled away into the fog which had enveloped the Al Bayt stadium.
Everywhere you looked on Thursday night, players seemed to be saying it was over. Thomas Muller's wave to the small enclave of Germans fans seemed imbued with significance. The 33-year-old would later describe his fourth and final World Cup as 'an absolute catastrophe'.
Ilkay Gundogan said he hadn't thought about his future and Niklas Sule was equally non-committal, though you wonder how much appetite he's got for any more of this. Bastian Schweinsteiger, an emblem of times when the world feared Germany, worked himself into a rage on national TV over the performances of the Dortmund centre half. 'I don't like it. This is not good,' he fulminated.
Germany's group stage exit was heralded as the end of a great football nation by Bild
There was some conspiracy theory for the Germans to feed on, if they wanted it. The 'phantom' Japanese goal by Ao Tanaka. The suspicion Spain didn't put everything into finding an equaliser against Japan as it suited them to finish second and face Morocco next Tuesday.
But few Germans were clinging to any of this, after the country were eliminated at the first stage in a second successive World Cup. Bayern Munich midfielder Joshua Kimmich's voice trembled as he spoke of how troubled he felt by it all.
'It's the worst day of my career,' he said. 'When I came to the Germany national team, they were World Cup winners, and in Euro 2016 we made it to the semi-final. Then we messed up 2018, wrote off the Euros and failed to make it out of the group here.
Thomas Muller's wave to the small enclave of Germans fans seemed imbued with significance
'My aim, attitude and responsibility was to help the team progress. I find it hard to cope with the fact that I'll be linked with these failures. I'm a little afraid of falling into that hole.'
When the Germans won the 2014 World Cup they were held up as an emblem of a nation which had found a way to develop intelligent, thoughtful, technically proficient players. 'Das Reboot', as the writer Raphael Honigstein described it in his book charting a