Germany's Alexandra Popp. Alamy Stock Photo

Pride and infamy as former Ireland boss masterminds historic World Cup collapse

Colin Bell’s Korea Republic secure famous draw as Germany fail to emerge from group stages for first time.


Infamy for Germany.

For the first time in their illustrious history, the two-time world champions have failed to emerge from the group stages.

Colin Bell, the man who preceded Vera Pauw as Ireland boss and entrusted the then 21-year-old Katie McCabe with the captain’s armband, was the mastermind of a result that will never be forgotten.

Even if his side still finish bottom with their only point.

That only tells part of the story.

This 1-1 draw, coupled with Morocco’s victory over Colombia, has sent shockwaves throughout the World Cup.

A tournament that began for Germany with a 6-0 win over the north Africans ended with them utterly delirious, the kind of powerful release of emotion that only comes on occasions like this.

But this was not a case of fate conspiring against Germany.

This was simply heartache of a different kind – and their superstar Alexandra Popp. Beaten by England in the final of the European Championships, when the forward suffered an injury in the warm-up, they have laboured to a historic collapse.

Germany started where they left off against Colombia.

That wasn’t a good thing for their hopes of avoiding group-stage embarrassment.

Inside three minutes Korea Republic could have easily taken the lead. Only the anticipation and flexibility of goalkeeper Merle Frohms denied 16-year-old Casey Phair, who made a clever run between the static pair of Kathrin Hendrich and Chantal Hagel.

Phair, who became the youngest player – man or woman – to play on this stage earlier in the tournament, took a perfect first touch but saw her attempt at sliding a shot down the left of Frohms denied by her outstretched arm.

It was a let off for Germany, who were punished only moments later when Korea Republic took a sixth-minute lead.

It came in somewhat controversial circumstances given Chun Ga-ram clearly handled the ball to keep it under control at the start of the move near the centre circle.

brisbane-australia-03rd-aug-2023-brisbane-australia-august-3rd-2023-head-coach-of-germany-martina-voss-tecklenburg-and-head-coach-of-korea-republic-colin-bell-interact-ahead-of-the-fifa-womens Germany head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg (left) with Korea Republic's Colin Bell. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Just over 20 seconds later the ball was in the net, Cho So-hyun beating Frohms by firing across her body after she was picked out with a precise through ball from Lee Young-ju. It was a stunning piece of creative play, Young-ju receiving the ball under pressure from two opponents before delivering the killer pass in an instant while the German defence was still in disarray.

The two-time world champions, who last lifted the trophy in 2007 just a couple of months after Korea starlet Phair was born, then looked as if they had finally switched on.

A sharp, incisive one-touch move down the left side led to Lea Schüller dropping a deft header into the box to take two defenders out of the game. Klara Bühl had time to compose herself but when it came to connecting with her shot she skewed it badly wide.

She almost redeemed herself with a header at the back post after quarter of an hour but it looped just over.

It was left to Popp to get her side back on track three minutes before half time.

A move so simple – yet clinical in its execution – will only add to the sense of regret for the Germans.

Popp dropped into the centre circle to receive a pass and lay it off for Lena Oberdorf. The midfielder punched a sharp pass into the Korea half where Jule Brand was able to turn in an instant and feed another pass wide to Svenja Huth advancing down the right.

Her floated cross to the far post was primed for Popp whose powerful header nestled in the bottom corner.

But, just like in the defeat to Colombia last time out, it wasn’t enough to stir a proper reaction.

They had much more time to find the all-important second goal and while Popp struck the crossbar with another header on the hour mark and had a goal disallowed for offside, they toiled as Korea Republic set up to frustrate.

They had no answer, and now they must wait four years to come up with any sort of response.

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