Four-times winners Germany have crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage for a second tournament in succession, failing to banish the demons of their ignominious exit in 2018.
Germany secured the win they needed over Costa Rica but Spain's shock loss to Japan, who were aided by a controversial second goal, saw Die Mansschaft exit the tournament – with both Spain and Japan progressing.
And the autopsy into Germany's early return home is well and truly under way, with the German press quick to vent their frustration at the national side.
Bild's headline declared: "How embarrassing! We're out!"
"For the second time in a row, Germany missed the knockout round of a World Cup," its coverage of Germany's exit began.
"The bitter record: an embarrassing defeat against Japan, a strong draw against Spain and a resounding victory against Costa Rica. It is a disgrace!"
Germany's World Cup campaign started with a lacklustre performance against Japan, which saw them lose 2-1 after taking the lead, before they ground out a draw against Spain to keep their hopes alive.
A shock win by Costa Rica over Japan meant the group's hierarchy, and who progressed to the next round, came down to the final match – but it was not to be for Hansi Flick's side.
Bild summed up the deflated mood after the final whistle, stating that, somehow, it "gets worse" for Germany after the debacle in Russia four years ago.
"The football world used to tremble in front of us," they went on to say. "We were praised as a 'tournament team.' Now, Germany is just a football dwarf."
The Dresden and Hamburg Morning Posts summed up the feeling across the nation on Friday, with both newspapers running the headline ‘Katarstrophe’, playing on the humiliating early exit coming in Qatar, adding: "Germany out again."
Rather than place blame at the doors of the decision taken by Var officials, the German press praised Japan despite their role in knocking out the national team, with Der Spiegel lauding "Japan's jokers" who "turned the game around".
Thomas Muller, who has competed in four World Cups with the national team, called Germany's loss an "absolute catastrophe", adding that due to Japan's role in Germany's elimination, he was struck by "a feeling of powerlessness".
Muller also hinted that his long international career might now have come to an end. “If that was my last game for Germany, it has been a tremendous pleasure, thank you very much,” he said.
Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich cut a disconsolate figure inside the Al Bayt Stadium after their elimination, which confirmed a third consecutive failure at a major tournament following the group-stage exit at the 2018 World Cup and round-of-16 loss at the hands of England at Euro 2020.
"For me personally, this is the worst day of my career," Kimmich told German reporters. "I'm afraid I'll fall into a hole. It makes you think, these failures are connected to me personally."
Despite Germany’s shortcomings on the pitch being clear for the entire world to see at the World Cup, the nation’s humiliating elimination from the competition led most pundits to point the finger at the men on the sidelines and questioned whether the decision-makers needed to be replaced.
Former Bayern Munich and Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger was perhaps the most forthright in this regard, when he took aim at German manager Flick. "He has to take the blame himself for being eliminated from this group with such quality in the offensive area," said Schweinsteiger on German TV station ARD.
"The defence again today, the way the opponent stood free at times, where is the fire? Where is the fire and this greed to go there, so that it rattles now and then and you stand up to it?"
Schweinsteiger has been an out-spoken critic of Germany’s performances and the man picking the side throughout much of the tournament, so much so that Flick took some exception to his remarks when the two men found themselves standing beside one another live on German TV after the game. "No," said Flick when he was asked if he agreed with Schweinsteiger’s concern that the team lacked "fire". "Because it's absolute nonsense."
'Excuses, excuses, excuses – it's time for a cut'
However, Schweinsteiger wasn’t alone in questioning whether Flick may have to fall on his sword for this embarrassing elimination. "I think it's impossible that we can continue with the coach," noted former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann on Sky.
"After this debacle, we only have 18 months until the European Championships at home, that was pathetic," he added. "Excuses, excuses, excuses. It's time for a cut."
Flick wasn’t the sole receiver of criticism on the night. Oliver Bierhoff, the technical director of the German national team and the consistent face of the German FA for the best part of 20 years, also found himself in the firing line when Michael Ballack suggested on Magenta TV that a conciliatory tone and well-crafted press release won’t cut it after this debacle.
"We can’t make the same mistake as in 2018 by the president standing up and saying that Jogi [Low] and his coaching team will now analyse it and then he'll move on," Ballack said.
In a press conference after the game, Bierhoff admitted that he would face up to the music and accept any decisions that had to be made but failed to go as far as to suggest that he would offer up his resignation.
"I've been here for 18 years, I know that the mechanism is now going to start, that the discussion will start," said the technical director. "You have to face it, I will also bear my responsibility, then it will be others who decide whether it goes on. I can analyse and discuss things very well, it's not up to me whether it goes on."
When asked to shine some light on the murmurs of Flick over his own resignation in the coming days, Bierhoff was quick to deny any suggestions that the national team manager may end up being the nation’s scapegoat: "Hansi Flick has a contract until 2024, and I assume that he will fulfil it."
After the Costa Rica game, Flick suggested serious changes were needed for Germany to compete with their leading rivals.
"I believe that for the future of German football we need to do things differently with training," he said.
"For years we have been talking about new goalkeepers, new wing-backs. What was always good in German football was that we were able to defend well. We need the basics."
Pundits furious over controversial Japan goal
ITV’s studio pundits, Gary Neville and Graeme Souness, were incensed by the lack of video evidence to show whether the ball had gone out or not, with replays that appeared to confirm the ball was still on the line only coming after the match had finished.
"I don't believe in conspiracies, I just think that at this tournament they've not demonstrated it [well]," Neville said.
"From that first offside goal disallowed – Ecuador vs Qatar, game one – I've struggled with it and found it uncomfortable that we're not being given the correct angles. It doesn't feel right.
"We've got hundreds of cameras in these stadiums where we can't miss anything and yet we've gone backwards in terms of demonstrating decisions. Someone in that Var has seen something that is absolutely categoric that they should overturn it."
Souness added: "There's 80 million Germans going mad right now, waiting for a picture that shows that the ball didn't go out of play.
"Every TV studio, every pundit, everybody who's got an interest will want to see the picture. Why are Fifa not showing us something which is so controversial and has cost Germany so dearly? Why are they not showing it to us?'
"We're close to an hour since the incident. The longer they don't produce a picture that shows conclusively that it went out of play, you're left thinking that there's something untoward going on."