Matthew Monk is a school teacher
from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
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The welcome return of the Kaisers
It has been a long 12 years for Germany. The last
time this most complete and competitive European team
reached the World Cup Final 'Germany' did not even
exist. Italia 90 was the swansong of the most
successful football team in the history of this great
tournament - West Germany - and who then thought that
the new, unified German team would not go on to
dominate just as the old team had since 1954?
The superstars that made up all those old West German
teams still roll of the tongue as if they had only
played yesterday: Walter, Rahn, Seeler, Maier,
Overath, Vogts, Beckenbauer, Netzer, Müller, Kaltz,
Breitner, Rummenigge, Schuster, Littbarski, Matthäus,
Brehme, Kohler, Möller, Klinsmann. Few countries have
ever produced five players of this quality in their
entire histories - West Germany did all this and so
much more in little more than a generation.
Individually perhaps only Beckenbauer and Müller would
find their way into an All Time World XI, but when
these men strode out onto the field in West German
shirts they took on a different nature, they became
invincible, unstoppable, and the envy of the whole
Many people look to the period of Pelé between 1958
and 1970 as football's golden age, when Brasil won
three tournaments and played some amazing football.
They won three world titles and created a legend that
still dogs every subsequent Brazilian team. They were
the ultimate manifestation for many. Europe had
nothing to compare - or did it?
Four years after Carlos Alberto scored his wonder goal
in the Azteca Europe came back. Many at the time
thought that it was Cruijff and Dutch Total Football
that was going to dominate the next period of football
history, but instead it was the enhanced Total
Football of Beckenbauer that took over. This team had
been growing for eight years, and allowing for a small
blip in 1978, it ruled world football for a full 16
The record of West Germany in the World Cup from 1966
to 1990 is frightening: 1966 - Runner's Up; 1970 -
third; 1974 - Champions; 1978 - fifth; 1982 - Runner's
Up; 1986 - Runner's Up; 1990 - Champions. And if we
go back another three tournaments, we find a record
that is just as good, and reads: 1962 - quarter
finalists; 1958 - third; 1954 - Champions. No nation
- not even Brasil - has been this good, this
competitive, this consistent and this dominant. No
nation even comes close. Forget the way that the team
played from time to time - results count not
Need more proof? Well, West Germany dominated the
European Championship as well: 1972 - Champions; 1976
- Runner's Up; 1980 - Champions; 1988 - semi
finalists. Only in 1984 did they fail, when Spain
beat them to the semi finals in France. It was an
awesome, second-to-none record that will probably
remain unsurpassed for as long as football is played.
And do not think for a minute that West Germany
dominated in an era when they were the only good team
around - they saw off Puskas and the Magical Magyars,
Bobby Moore's England, Cruijff's Holland and
Maradona's Argentina. In fact the only team they not
defeat was Brasil, and that was only because they have
so far been kept apart at the World Cup.
So how on earth did the Unified Germany fail so badly
after 1990? Well first, lets put this in some
perspective. Since 1990, Germany have finished
Runner's Up and Champions in the European
Championship, and have twice reached the World Cup
quarter finals. Only from a German standpoint could
that be considered failure! In fact, it is only since
1998 that German football has appeared in the
doldrums. For the first time ever German football did
not appear to have a new generation to take over from
the previous team. Matthaüs was still needed, as were
Häßler, Kohler, Möller and Klinsmann. It was this
team that seemed to have killed off the German style
of football - especially the way it was pushed so
close by Mexico before finally capitulating to
Croatia. But even this ancient side had made the
No, the aura of invincibility that surrounded German
football 'died' at the hands of the English - first at
Euro 2000, and then last September in Munich. If
England - the team that more than any other could not
cope with Germany - could now beat them, then anyone
could. Worse still, these were big games, televised
around the globe, and hyped to extremes by a needy
English media. It seemed that Germany could not fall
any further. That was it surely, game over. Not by
England's 5:1 victory was a fluke result, plain and
simple. England won deservedly, but no team has ever
been four goals better than Germany, least alone their
biggest rivals. And what everyone forgets about that
game is that it came at a point where Germany were
dominating the qualification group.
Germany had come to Wembley to play in the famous old
stadium's final match, and won at a canter. England
had no ideas how to break them down, and though it was
only a deflected Didi Hamann goal that won the game,
no one could deny that Germany deserved to win. In
fact, by the time of the game in Munich, England were
desperate for a win. Germany could have happily
settled for a draw, given that they seemed in such
control of the group at that point. And, even with
their confidence shattered by England, they could
still have won the group with a win over Finland in
Gelsenkirchen in the final match. Of course, everyone
knows what happened next - England grabbed a late
point following a Beckham free kick, while Germany hit
every part of the Finnish goal except the important
part - the net.
So did Germany panic? Of course not. Rudi Völler
simply got on with the job, and very quietly and with
the minimum of fuss won the play-off against the
Ukraine. The input of Völler cannot be
underestimated. Under both Erich Ribbeck and
Christoph Daum, Germany may have still been capable of
good wins - as evidenced by the Wembley victory - but
for every Deisler, there was still a Bierhoff hanging
around. Germany still looked old, and possibly even
there for the taking. Under Völler, Germany have
reached another - a record seventh - final. How has
he done it?
Völler has had some terrible luck. His best defender,
Markus Babbel, 'retired' then developed a life
threatening illness before he could be tempted back.
Deisler, Scholl, then Nowotny became injured in the
final few weeks before the tournament. He was left
with an untested, young squad. Even including the
truly world-class Oliver Kahn, the most experience
Völler could call upon was Christian Ziege and Oliver
Bierhoff - both with over 60 caps, but both
experiencing hard times with Tottenham and Monaco.
But as seems so usual for Germany, all this has turned
out to be almost the best possible situation. Völler
had to throw in the likes of Torsten Frings, Bernd
Schneider, Christoph Metzelder and Miroslav Klose much
earlier than he would normally have done. Not only
does he now have the basis of team to take to Euro
2004 and Germany's very own World Cup in four years
time, Völler now has a real shot at winning the World
Cup, and can become only the third man - and second
German - to win the fabled trophy as player and coach.
I do not care if Germany have 'only beaten' Paraguay,
the USA and Korea - Italy, Spain and Portugal could
not manage that, and in the end you can only beat the
teams put in front of you. This German team deserves
much, much more credit for what it has accomplished.
So far it has scored 14 goals - only Brasil have
scored more. Sure, eight of those goals were against
Saudi Arabia, but when you think of the heat many of
these games have been played in, and the organised,
combative defences they have faced, it is still an
excellent total. Much more impressive has been
Germany's own defence. So far, only Robbie Keane has
managed to breach this wall, and apart from the second
half against Ireland and a few scary moments against
the Americans, nothing else has looked likely. Khan
has become universally recognised as the best
goalkeeper in the world, and even this much-fabled
Brazilian attack will wonder just how they can beat
But to listen to many commentators it would seem that
only Khan has played well. What rubbish! Michael
Ballack has been the best midfielder in the
competition so far, and no one has scored more vital
goals. In attack, Klose has been as lethal as anyone,
and I challenge you to find a more fearsome header of
the ball in world football today. Add the confidence
of Metzelder, the smooth touch of Schneider and the
strength of Didi Hamann, and you have six players that
would grace any side at this championship. Germany
are in the final on merit, and by virtue of their fine
football. They are not Holland of 1974, or Brasil of
1982, but unlike those teams they are born winners,
and I for one would be delighted to see Germany pick
up their fourth Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft on Sunday.
As I write this, the BBC are showing the famous 1982
semi final against France on their fabulous
interactive service. We all know the sickening Toni
Schumacher foul on Patrick Battiston, but this game
deserves to be remembered for the dogged way a
similarly underrated German side came through to
defeat the attacking favourites just as much. German
footballers never give up, they fight to the end, and
they win. Sorry Brasil - or Turkey - this World Cup
is going back to Germany. And there is at least one
Englishman who will be very happy.
Gekommen auf Deutschland.
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