Déjà vu as South Korea salvage pride while eliminating Germany from World Cup

South Korea salvaged some pride from their FIFA Women's World Cup campaign on Thursday with a 1-1 draw against heavyweights Germany -- a result which also saw the latter eliminated from the group stage for the first time ever. AP Photo/Tertius Pickard

As South Korea restored some pride in their final outing at the FIFA Women's World Cup with a battling 1-1 draw against Germany on Thursday, there would have been a sense of déjà vu for many.

Certainly in the German camp -- as the second-ranked team in the world could only stare blankly into space in shock and disbelief come the final whistle, as their WWC quest ended in the group stage for the first time ever.

Five years ago, at the men's edition of the sport's biggest tournament, Germany -- then defending champions -- were similarly expected to claim a routine victory over their less-illustrious South Korean opponents who were all but mathematically eliminated after losing their opening two games.

In dramatic fashion, South Korea would score twice in injury-time to stun the Germans and end their World Cup defence, although it would ultimately prove futile in their own quest to reach the round of 16.

At Brisbane's Lang Park on Thursday, there was considerably less at stake for the South Koreans given they needed a highly unlikely five-goal win at the very least to stand any chance of progressing -- given the massive goal difference they needed to overturn.

They would have been dreaming for a while when -- aided by Germany's sloppy start to the contest -- they took the lead after only six minutes when Cho So-hyun was left completely unmarked in behind the German defence to open the scoring, just moments after 16-year-old Casey Phair had come agonisingly close as she was denied by the woodwork.

Germany would eventually equalise shortly before the break and then had a second-half disallowed for offside but, try as they might, they were just unable to find a way past a resilient South Korean outfit that were determined to avoid the ignominy of heading home with three consecutive defeats.

And with Morocco mustering an equally-surprising 1-0 win over Colombia, it left Germany wondering where it all went wrong just as their male counterparts did in 2018.

But for South Korea, there was neither anguish or despair as was the case for the men back then when they found out that their stunning triumph had not been enough to get them over the line.

This time, the South Koreans knew there was never any real chance of them reaching the knockout round. Heading into their final Group H tie, they merely wanted to restore some pride against global powerhouses -- and they certainly did so.

While it will ultimately be a disappointing campaign overall for them, there will be many positives for the Taegeuk ladies to take away.

Primarily, in what proved to be a highly-competitive group, they were never truly outplayed and humbled in any of their outings.

The fact that they conceded just four goals against some quality opposition suggests that they are fundamentally a well-organised unit that are difficult to break down -- and plenty of credit for that has to go to coach Colin Bell.

But it is also evident that they need more in attack and they can no longer afford to be overly reliant on both Cho So-hyun and Ji So-yun, who -- in their thirties now -- might even have featured at their final World Cup.

Thankfully for them, another positive from the tournament has been the emergence of Phair.

Having already made history the youngest-ever player to feature at a World Cup when she came off the bench in their opening game against Colombia, the American-born forward became the second-youngest starter at the tournament against Germany -- at the age of just 16 years and 35 days.

Despite her youth, the precocious teenager hardly looked overawed by the occasion and gave an excellent account of herself.

Having showed clever movement to come close to breaking the deadlock after just two minutes, Phair then went on to put in a tireless shift up forward as she pressed the German defence, tried her best to hold up play and never shirked away from a challenge.

Without wanting to put too much unnecessary pressure on her young shoulders, she certainly looks one for the future.

And as South Korea head home from the Women's World Cup with perhaps a sense of déjà vu, they will also do so with plenty of pride restored.