An ugly scene erupted at the conclusion of Germany stunning World Cup exit at the hands of South Korea. As midfielder Mesut Özil was walking toward the tunnel, several Germany fans directed abuse toward him. Özil and Germany’s goalkeeping coach Andreas Köpke responded angrily, and a bodyguard held Özil back as he shot back at the irate German fans.
Özil’s subdued body language has long made him a favorite target of fans’ ire. Even an outstanding performance never completely convinces his dedicated critics. Özil was arguably Germany’s best player in their doomed lineup, with Leon Goretzka floundering on the right wing. From his position in the attacking midfield, Özil made an astonishing 7 key passes — all of which his teammates wasted.
After the final whistle, Özil left the pitch angry and distraught. He threw his wristband to the pitch and stripped off his jersey before following his teammates down the tunnel.
- Özil begins to take off his jersey as he heads to the tunnel just behind Thomas Müller. Andreas Köpke can be seen directly behind him. Photo by Michael Regan - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
- The moment before Özil’s confrontation with the Germany fans. Photo by Michael Regan - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
- Özil and Neuer in the tunnel immediately after the altercation. Photo by Michael Regan - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
For Özil, Germany’s disgraceful exit is especially bitter. He arrived at the tournament under fire for his controversial meeting with Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, and then had to endure renewed calls for his benching after a weak performance against Mexico. He was indeed benched against Sweden only to be called back into action for the finale against South Korea, where despite an exceptional effort, none of Germany’s 28 shots found the back of the net.
At 29 years old, Özil’s future with Die Mannschaft is not in question, but his status as a guaranteed starter has been shaken.