Another hard reset needed for Germany ahead of Euro 2024
In the 55th minute at Al Bayt Stadium, the huge screens at either end of the grand structure displayed a live table of Group E.
Germany's players looked up to see that, despite Serge Gnabry's early goal having put them ahead just 10 minutes into Thursday's must-win game, their World Cup hopes were dangling by the thinnest of threads.
Japan had scored twice in two minutes to go 2-1 up against Spain at Khalifa International Stadium, putting them top of the group and sending Germany home.
Perhaps that was when the nerves really set in for Germany. Or perhaps Niclas Fullkrug had already told his team-mates of the predicament in the other Group E match upon his introduction a matter of seconds earlier.
At that stage, Germany were heading out in third place. Three minutes later, they were at the bottom of the live standings – Yeltsin Tejeda drilling in his first international goal after Manuel Neuer had parried Kendall Watson's header.
With Spain having such a superior goal difference, Germany were suddenly tasked with scoring seven more. Yet Juan Pablo Vargas bundling in a Costa Rica second in the 70th minute - later credited as a Neuer own goal - then had La Roja heading out too, until Kai Havertz scored an equaliser with a cool finish, that is.
That was always the risk, too. Germany needed to beat Costa Rica, but they also relied on a favour from Spain. Nine times out of 10, Luis Enrique's side might have done the deed. This time, they did not.
Costa Rica's goals summed up where it has all gone wrong for Hansi Flick's team in Qatar. For their first, a centre-back was allowed to run from deep, unmarked, to meet a right-wing cross and force Neuer into a save he should have done better with. Their second came as Germany twice failed to clear a set-piece, Neuer again all at sea.
It had been a similar story in the first half. Germany, orchestrated by the marvellous Jamal Musiala in midfield, had dominated, but a lack of a focal point – Thomas Muller was again poor up front, and one has to question why Flick stuck with a player who himself acknowledged he was struggling – saw them hold only a 1-0 lead.
A mistake from Antonio Rudiger was pounced on by Keysher Fuller, who would have scored had he struck either side of Neuer.
The chaos of the second half showed what Germany can do in attack, and the frustration for Flick will be that it did not happen against Japan last week. All of this could have been avoided if it had.
Havertz scored twice from the bench, while Fullkrug grabbed his second goal of the tournament. Musiala hit the post twice and Keylor Navas made a quite outstanding save.
In the eighth minute of 10 added on, with Germany leading 4-2, the big screens once again switched to the live standings, after full-time between Japan and Spain - that one had finished 2-1. Germany's chances were all but over. Two minutes later, their exit was confirmed.
Four years on from falling out at the same stage in Russia, Germany – four-time world champions – are once again heading home early.
If there was an inquiry after 2018 and a change of coach last year, after a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign, one wonders what is next. Flick has already said he will be leading the team in their home tournament at Euro 2024.
The (re)building process will start now, and you can be sure the post-match comments from the coach and players will speak to that hard reset.
Building around Musiala, who against Costa Rica created three chances, had eight shots and a game-leading 24 touches in the opposition box (the most by any player in a World Cup game since at least 1966), seems the way forward.
On the other hand, Flick will have to make big calls on Muller, unless the 33-year-old hangs up his boots like Toni Kroos did in the wake of Germany's Euro 2020 exit, and Neuer.
Ahead of the goalkeeper, defence is a major concern. Rudiger has looked far off his best in Qatar, while Matthias Ginter, Niklas Sule and Nico Schlotterbeck do not look fit to lace Mats Hummels' boots.
Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka formed a formidable midfield at Bayern, but there are concerns over the latter's fitness, while Flick played the former at right-back on Thursday.
Euro 2024 is only 18 months away, and Germany must be ready for it.