It turns out the disaster was just delayed rather than avoided. Instead, things were about to get worse than they could ever have imagined.
Toni Kroos’ 95th-minute winner against Sweden on Saturday looked to have given Germany a World Cup lifeline, but their pathetic performance in the 2-0 loss to South Korea on Wednesday ensured that they were eliminated from the World Cup at the group stage for the first time in 80 years.
And in truth, they got exactly what they deserved.
Had they simply seen off a South Korea side who had already been beaten by Sweden and Mexico they would have got away with it. They would have progressed to the knockout stage.
But what they turned in at the Kazan Arena instead was a performance short of direction, of belief, of desire and of heart. It was everything we have come to expect of Germany but in reverse.
Joachim Low, who had never led the national team to anything less than a semi-final spot in his 12-year reign, made four changes to the side which saw off Sweden and found that he couldn’t get them to replicate those efforts which saw them escape from Sochi with all three points.
Far from turning in a more energetic, dynamic display, they started off every bit as sluggish as they had been in the opening halves of their first two fixtures.
They were slow on the ball in midfield, to the point that Korea were looking dangerous from broken play in the central third, and when they did get the ball forward there was no pace in their play to pull the well-drilled Korean defence out of shape.
Joshua Kimmich’s deliveries from the right were not up to the standard of his Bayern Munich form, but then the movement in the middle was far too laboured to give him much of a target to aim for as Timo Werner and Marco Reus ended up swapping and changing positions in a bid to make something happen.
Even after the break when the need for a result got more and more real there seemed little real conviction in their play.
Mario Gomez’s introduction for the final 30 minutes finally gave them a front man who had Korea turning towards their own goal but in truth the opponents looked every bit as likely to snatch a goal on the break as Germany did in finally making their domination of possession count.
That was in large part down to a clear disconnect between the Mannschaft’s players. They were just never on the same wavelength. Neat little passes from Mesut Ozil fell behind Reus or Gomez rather than finding their intended target as Germany finally looked to pick their way through.
The Arsenal man’s inability to find a team-mate with a killer pass was symptomatic of the breakdown in communication that felt completely alien for a German national team. Even in their own half they almost provided a winner on a plate for Son Heung-Min when Niklas Sule and Mats Hummels converged on one another and the latter headed the ball across his own back line.
The longer the game went on, the more the unthinkable became possible, with Korea regularly spawning chances on the counter as Germany continued to stroke passes around in vain with little sign of urgency or belief.
Hummels’ late miss when he connected with his shoulder as he attempted to head for goal said it all. This was a humiliation, and embarrassment. But it was only about to get worse.
Kim Young-Gwon was left in acres of space to take a touch and finish high into the net during the six minutes of injury time. Having initially had it ruled out by the referee’s assistant, the VAR asked the referee to check the replay and the goal was given.
Korea deserved the win, but much more than that the competely rudderless Germany deserved the shame.
The sight of Manuel Neuer ambling around in the opposition half after being tackled by Ju Se-Jong as Son Heung-Min tapped in the late second will stay with many Germans forever. It said everything about just how awful Germany have been over the course of the last three games.
A horrendous World Cup campaign is over, and for the third straight tournament the reigning champions are home before the football gets real.Germany – of all teams – are leaving with their heads hung low.