Monday, May 24, 2010

10 Best German Performances at the World Cup

Germany is one of the most successful nations to play in the World Cup. They are third in most World Cup wins (three), and have the most top three finishes of any nation (10).

In Germany’s past are much political tension, turmoil, and unrest, which also spilled over into the soccer world. They were banned by FIFA after the Second World War until the 1954 World Cup and from then through 1990 was a split nation, with Germany’s statistics being carried over by West Germany.

Still, the nation persevered on the field. There are a number of legends and FIFA 100 players that represented the nation at the World Cup and the teams consistently compete for the sport’s biggest prize.

Even in years where the team isn’t considered as strong in the past, they still manage to be in a position to finish in the top four.

As the 2010 World Cup nears, the Germans will be participating in their 15th straight World Cup, the most of any European team.

Take a look at Germany’s soccer past with the ten best performances, either by a collective team or an individual.

List is in chronological order.

1954: World Cup Champions

The first World Cup won by the nation was arguably the most important. Not only was it the team’s first World Cup championship, always a special feat, but it also meant even more in the social and political aspect of the world.

The final, which saw Germany beat previously unbeaten Hungary, is called “The Miracle of Bern” because of how heavily favored Hungary was to win it all. Hungary had previously beaten West Germany in the group stage 8-3 but the Germans responded with a 3-2 victory to win their first World Cup title.

Also adding to the upset was that the German team was made up entirely of amateurs. They are the only team to be made of non-professionals and win the trophy.

After the Second World War, Germany was banned from international competition. Not until after the 1950 World Cup did FIFA reinstate West Germany (which kept the statistics of the German National Team).

The win established a new Germany, a nation that could succeed even despite its horrific recent events.

1954: Fritz Walter

Walter, a 19-year-old prodigy before the World War II, was named captain of the rebuilt squad that qualified for the 1954 tournament.

In the semi-finals, Walter scored two penalty kicks to push the West Germans into the final against Hungary, a team undefeated in its 32 previous matches.

Walter finished the tournament with three goals, but even more important, much like the symbolism of the team Walter was the embodiment of the grit, toughness, exceptional work rate, and ambition of the German spirit in rebuilding not only the national team, but the country as a whole.

Walter was the first German captain to ever hold the World Cup trophy and is widely considered one of the best players in the history of the game. He was voted the third best individual in the tournament and awarded the Bronze Ball.

He was also named to the All-Star team.

1974: World Cup Champions

Germany’s second World Cup title came on its own soil. The team obviously escaped the first round, but suffered an embarrassing defeat to East Germany during group play. The match up had a lot of political tension surrounding it. East Germany would win the battle, but West Germany would win the war, dominating their second grouping and reaching the finals.

In the championship game, the Germans squared off against the Netherlands who had dominated play with a “total football” approach, practically eliminating designated positions and having all field players step up at any position when the situation called for it.

The Germans gave up a penalty kick goal in the first minute, but they came from behind with goals in the 25th and 43rd minutes to capture their second championship.

1974: Franz Beckenbauer

One of Germany’s most legendary players, Beckenbauer captained the 1974 squad in West Germany and lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy, the newest version of the trophy.

Beckenbauer’s leadership and defense helped propel the team in its efforts of winning the championship, especially in the final against the Netherlands and star Johan Cruyff.

Beckenbauer became the first German to win the Silver Ball, the highest individual honor a German had received at that point in history, and was also selected to the All-Star team.

1982: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

The captain of the 1982 team competing in Spain shone throughout the entire tournament.

Rummenigge scored the first goal for the Germans in the tournament, a hat-trick against Chile in the second game of first round play, and a goal in extra-time and converted his penalty in a shootout against France in the semi-finals.

He earned the Silver Boot award and the Bronze Ball for his outstanding play and leadership.

1990: World Cup Champions

1990 was a year of revenge for Germany.

Argentina beat Germany in the finals 3-2 in 1986, forcing the Germans to settle for second place. Four years later, the two teams squared off again in the finals and Germany would get vengeance with a 1-0 victory.

The game saw two Argentines sent off with red cards, a first in the World Cup final.

Despite the 1990 World Cup featuring the lowest goals-per-game average, Germany scored the most in the group stage (10). The team had four players—Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme, Jurgen Klinsmann, and Rudi Voller—score multiple goals in the tournament, the most from any one nation to do so in 1990.

1990: Lothar Matthaus

Matthaus captained the 1990 West German squad to victory and had many moments of brilliance himself.

Matthaus scored four goals, including two against Yugoslavia in the group stage matchup and the only goal off a penalty kick in the 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Czechoslovakia. He also converted in the penalty kick round against England to help put West Germany back in the finals.

The 1990 West German squad played aggressively offensively and Matthaus was the leader of that charge. He received the Bronze Boot award for his four goals, and was also awarded the Silver Ball. Matthaus was also named to the All-Star team.

2002: Oliver Kahn

Despite low expectations for Germany in South Korea/Japan, Kahn put the nation on his back and lifted the team into the tournament finals and a second-place finish.

Named the captain of the team, Kahn allowed only three goals the entire competition, two of which came in the final against Brazil, playing with torn ligaments in his right ring finger. He was the first German keeper to record five clean sheets in a single World Cup.

Kahn’s performance in net was so brilliant that he was awarded the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player. He is the only goalkeeper in the history of the World Cup to win the Golden Ball.

Kahn was also awarded the Lev Yashin Award for the best goalkeeper and was named to the All-Star team.

2006: Hosts, Third-Place

The stage once again was set on home soil. The Germans would not win it all, but they would give their fans a product to be extremely proud of.

The Germans stormed through group play going undefeated. They stumbled in the semi-finals, losing 2-0 to eventual champion Italy, but there isn’t much shame in losing to the best. They would bounce back and trounce Portugal 3-1, behind two goals from Bastian Schweinsteiger, for third place.

Goal scoring was at an all-time low pace for the tournament as a whole but the Germans played attractive and aggressive soccer for the fans. They scored the most goals in the tournament (14) and excited the nation when defender Philipp Lahm scored the opening goal of the World Cup in the first five minutes against Costa Rica.

The Germans were represented at every position on the all-star team by goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, Lahm, midfielder Michael Ballack, and forward Miroslav Klose. Klose was awarded the Golden Boot and Lukas Podolski was named the Best Young Player.

The 2006 World Cup saw strong patriotism and support from its German fans, some say the most flag-waving since World War II.

2006: Miroslav Klose

Klose followed up his 2002 Silver Shoe award (second-leading goal scorer in the 2002 World Cup) by winning the Golden Shoe in Germany in 2006. His five goals also landed him a second consecutive spot on the All-Star team.

Although his five goals were tied for the second-smallest total by a Golden Boot winner and lowest since 1962 when six players tied for the lead with four goals, Klose was still the best finisher. He helped Germany score the most goals in the tournament.

Klose is the first German since the reunification of the country to win the award and is the only player to score five or more goals in consecutive World Cups. His performance in 2006 also pushed him only six goals away from passing Ronaldo as the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer.

In the team’s opening game, which also happened to be Klose’s 28th birthday, he scored two goals in Germany’s 4-2 win over Costa Rica.

Photo Credits.
Lothar Matthaus: AP Photo/Carlo Fumagal
Franz Beckenbauer: AP Photo/Heribert Proepper
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: AP Photo/Daniel Maurer
Oliver Kahn: AP Photo/Christof Stache
Miroslav Klose: AP Photo/Axel Heimken

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