After their opening-match defeat to Mexico, Germany are on the verge of making unwanted history.
Saturday’s 2-1 win over Sweden means they will likely avoid failing to qualify from the World Cup group stages for the first time ever – assuming they beat South Korea this afternoon – but they are set to snap a streak of topping their group at every World Cup since and including 1990.
That’s a run of seven straight first-place finishes – only Brazil have a longer sequence – and you have to go back to Mexico 1986 for the last time Germany (or West Germany as they were known then) didn’t top their group. In fact of the 16 World Cup group stages they have been involved in, Germany have been first 12 times, and second only four times.
“Germany expected to finish second in World Cup group.
That hasn’t happened since 1986.”
To extend their run to eight in a row, Joachim Low’s side must beat South Korea today and hope Mexico lose to Sweden in Group F’s other game by a smaller margin. Things will get very complicated if Germany and Sweden win by the same margin, but Mexico can end the argument by avoiding defeat against the Swedes.
Were Germany’s run of seven first-place finishes come to an end, they would be expected to face the daunting prospect of Brazil in the round of 16. Keep the run going and they would likely face Switzerland. Plus of course it’s still possible they could exit the tournament completely.
There’s far more than just historical pride at stake.
1: Brazil have won just one of their last seven World Cup games against European opposition (D2 L4) – a 3-1 win against Croatia in 2014.
15: Germany have won 15 of their last 17 competitive matches (D1 L1) since losing 2-0 to France at Euro 2016.
5: Xherdan Shaqiri has been directly involved in five of Switzerland’s last six World Cup goals (four goals, one assist).