Germany didn't control its own destiny heading into the final round of games in Group E play at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Thursday, and it cost the four-time champions.
While the Germans upheld their end of the bargain, beating Costa Rica 4-2, Japan's stunning 2-1 victory over Spain in the group's other game meant the Samurai Blue clinched the top spot in the group with six points and the Spaniards moved on because of superior goal differential over Germany.
Coming to Qatar, nobody would have predicted Germany failing to make the group stage for a second straight tournament, let alone Japan beating both them and Spain, another perennial power, to top the group.
That unpredictability is what makes the World Cup so special. The polarity between the elation and agony is what makes it such a compelling watch, and football Twitter was stunned that the Germans once again found themselves on the anguish end of the spectrum:
herculez gomez @herculezg
Japan!! 🇯🇵 <br><br>First place in their group. Germany eliminated. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JPN?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JPN</a> <br><br>Madness. This <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FIFAWorldCup?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FIFAWorldCup</a> is insane. . . And I’m here for it.
Tancredi Palmeri @tancredipalmeri
Italy and Germany not at World Cup knock-out stages for 2 editions in a row.<br><br>Football times, those are changing <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FIFAWorldCup?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FIFAWorldCup</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Qatar2022?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Qatar2022</a>
Germany will need to take a long, hard look in the proverbial mirror after going from a 2014 World Cup title to consecutive group-stage failures. This wasn't any easy group, but it's still one a traditional powerhouse like the Germans would be expected to navigate.
Granted, they aren't alone in their failure to advance. Earlier Thursday, it was Belgium that didn't escape Group F, a huge surprise given the talent on that roster. And it was a surprise group winner, Morocco, that earned the hearts of neutral observers around the world, at least until Japan shook things up later in the day.
Nothing is guaranteed at the World Cup. For the second straight tournament, Germany learned that lesson the hard way.