Boasting an impressive record of three World Cups and three World Championship titles, Germany are one of the greatest teams in the history of the game.
Despite an unsettled history and periods of instability, both their goal scoring and goal saving records are a testimony to an inspirational and unstoppable national team.
On 28 January 1900, the German Football Association was born. Named DFB (Deutscher FubBall Bund), a national squad was finally selected eight years later.
However, 1949 brought devastating setbacks for the German side when, following the end of World War II, the country was divided into four military zones and three separate national football teams: West Germany (simply known as Germany), East Germany and Saarland.
Whilst Saarland eventually joined with the West German side in 1957, the separation between East and West was reinforced with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Travelling from one part of Germany to the other became virtually impossible.
It was not until 1990 and the demolition of the Berlin Wall, that Germany was officially united as one country with a powerful footballing force.
The first game played by the newly formed German side was held on April 5, 1908. This debut match against Switzerland resulted in a 5-3 defeat but this was not to be a fair representation of Germany’s future footballing success, especially as they were without a coach.
It was not until 15 years after this early loss, that an official coach was appointed to the German team. In 1923, teacher Otto Nerz accepted this challenging role.
Despite renewed optimism following this appointment, the financial implications of the First World War ended Germany’s hopes of entering the first World Cup in 1930. The team would have to wait another four years before making their mark in Uruguay and they did so with a shock finish in third place, under the direction of Nerz.
The following two years proved less successful for the German coach and after a poor performance during the Olympic Games in Berlin, he was eventually replaced by Sepp Herberger in 1936. Within one year of Herberger’s appointment, Germany were celebrating a 8-0 victory against Denmark and qualification for the 1938 World Cup.
Despite the German team being fairly strong at this point in their history, it was decided shortly before the tournament that Austria should unite with them. A revised team of both Austrian and German players now needed to be created. This new unity was not reflected on the football pitch and an erratic performance against Switzerland resulted in the team’s departure from the World Cup after the first round.
An opportunity to redeem themselves at the next World Cup proved impossible. The end of World War II resulted in a ban on international competitions and the squad would not play again until 1950. This was also the year that the team marginally missed out on qualification for the infamous tournament which would take place.
Four years later, the Germans finally seized the opportunity to take part in the World Cup with an unexpected qualification. They were now ready to make a monumental impact on the international scene.
Making their Mark
With recent attention obviously focussed upon the war, 1954 saw the German side concentrate upon the World Cup, following a period of minimal training. However, following victories over Turkey, Yugoslavia and Austria, Germany overcame all odds and met Hungary in the final.
At 2-2 in the World Cup final, Helmut Rahn scored the winning goal in the dying minutes. It resulted in a renewed optimism for Germany both as a football team and as a nation.
The following two World Cups proved to be less successful. Germany’s best effort came in 1962 but resulted in a quarter-final exit and after 28 years in charge, Herberger left his coaching post. His managerial boots were filled by Helmut Schon.
Under Schon, Germany had a successful run in the 1966 World Cup and reached the final. They played out a tense final against England, with both teams putting on a dramatic show for football fans around the world. A goal from Germany took the match to extra time but they left the tournament as runners-up, following a number of controversial goals which gave England a 4-2 victory.
The following World Cup saw Germany’s hopes dashed in a similar fashion. This time they were defeated by Italy in the semi-final. The heroic Beckenbauer played all 90 minutes with a dislocated shoulder.
Despite brave performances throughout the tournament, including 10 magnificent goals from the unstoppable Gerd Muller, Germany finished in third place.
The following year, Franz “Der Kaiser” Beckenbauer became captain and this appointment marked an important point in the history of the national team. Under his leadership and organisation, the German side went on to celebrate becoming champions at Euro ’72 and looked forward to hosting the 1974 World Cup.
During this historic tournament in a divided nation, West Germany were drawn against East Germany in the first round. A defiant East Germany may have emerged victorious from this game but the world-beating West German side went on to celebrate their second tournament win and lift the new World Cup trophy. The winning goal against The Netherlands was scored by German Player of the Year, Gerd “Der Bomber” Muller, in front of 80,000 fans on 7th July.
After a series of defeats in the following international tournaments (including Euro ’76), assistant coach Jupp Derwall became the new manager. This promotion proved to be a success and Germany went on to win Euro ’80, before enjoying another World Cup final appearance. However, following a game which would become known across the globe as the “match of the century”, the Italian side took home the trophy once again.
Another poor spell followed and 1986 welcomed the return of Franz Beckenbauer. Shortly after this return, the Germans finished runner-up to Argentina in the World Cup whilst their Euro ’88 campaign ended at the semi-final stage.
However, two years later, the Germans celebrated their third World Cup win. Now a German legend, Beckenbaeur became the first person to win the tournament as both a player and a coach. He would become known by former coach Sepp Herberger as "The Player by the Grace of God" and in 1998, would be appointed vice president of the German Football Association.
Germany join Forces
The demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1990 created a unified Germany. In December of the same year, players from East Germany and West Germany were officially permitted to play in the same team.
A new German squad, led by newly-appointed coach Berti Vogts, reached the Euro ’92 final but Denmark emerged as shock winners. A disappointing World Cup campaign followed two years later, after Germany were beaten unexpectedly by Bulgaria in the quarter-final stages.
The new German team finally celebrated their first tournament win, at Euro ’96, thanks to a golden goal in the final from Oliver Bierhoff.
Shortly after this, a string of defeats, different coaches and general problems troubled the German side. The team were eliminated in the first round of Euro 2000, a shock occurrence which led to the departure of Vogts. They also suffered a series of unexpected defeats in the qualifying rounds of the 2002 World Cup.
However, the team eventually returned to form and came up against Brazil, who hold the current record for the most World Cup wins, in the final. Despite their eventual loss, Germany’s Oliver Kahn became the first goalkeeper to achieve the ultimate accolade of player of the tournament and received the Yashin Award for his spectacular goalkeeping.
Despite renewed optimism, Germany’s inconsistency returned and they suffered an embarrassing departure from the first round of Euro 2004. Coach Rudi Voller was replaced by novice coach, Jurgen Klinnsman, who became Germany’s third coach in just six years.
Germany host the World Cup
The former German international player prepared his new team to host the World Cup tournament in 2006. Angering some German supporters through his decision to live abroad (in America), it was to be Klinnsmann’s first major test and it started very well.
Following a series of victories, including a 4-2 win in their opening game against Costa Rica, the team did not concede any goals in the further qualifying rounds against Poland and Ecuador. Germany met Argentina in the quarter-finals and with a 1-1 scoreline at the final whistle, the host team went on to celebrate a 4-2 victory in the penalty shoot-out. Two great saves from goalkeeper Jens Lehmann helped Germany on their way to a meeting with Italy in the semi-final.
Unfortunately, this match would prove to be the end of a successful World Cup run for the German side. However, the newly respected team put on a strong performance in the play-off against Portugal and ended the competition in third place.
Despite finishing behind Italy and France in the World Cup tournament, the team did have some awards to celebrate. Miroslav Klose won the Golden Boot, Lukas Podolski won the accolade of the Best Young Player and four of the national players featured in the ‘Mastercard All Star Team’. Germany were also the only team to score 14 goals during the tournament.
Looking to the Future
With a new positive outlook following the World Cup, Joachim Low replaced the popular Klinsmann as the German side started their bid to qualify for Euro 2008. They opened their campaign well, with a win against the Republic of Ireland. Following this, the Germans celebrated their biggest win to date. Despite playing against the smallest state in the world, San Marino, they ran out 13-0 victors at the final whistle.
The side eventually qualified for the tournament following wins against Slovakia, Czech Republic and Wales, despite draws against Cyprus and Republic of Ireland. A 3-0 defeat in the final game against the Czech Republic knocked the team off the table’s top spot, leaving them disappointed.
Joachim Low and his selected German squad will now be looking to re-assert their footballing dominance in Austria next year and will hope to add to an already impressive array of world class trophies.
The tournament will also be good preparation for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, during which the team will face Russia, Finland, Wales, Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein, in order to book their ticket to South Africa.
World Cup Champions: 1954, 1974, 1990
European Championship Winners: 1972, 1980, 1996
Confederations Cup: 3rd (2005)
Olympic Gold (East Germany): 1976
World Cup Champions: 2003, 2007
European Championship Winners: 1989, 1991, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005
Club Facts and Statistics
Winners of three World Cup finals, this record has only been beaten by Brazil and Italy with five and four World Cup wins respectively.
With an international career spanning from 1980 to 2000, Lothar Matthaus is Germany’s most capped player with 150 caps. Playing in five World Cup tournaments, he also holds the world record for this achievement. Matthaus holds another record for making 25 World Cup appearances.
Gerd Muller is Germany’s leading scorer, boasting 68 goals during his 62 international appearances. 14 of these were scored during World Cup games. Only Brazil’s Ronaldo has beaten this latter record with 15 goals.
Jurgen Klinnsmann has scored the most European Championship goals with five in total. With 13 games under his belt, he also shares the record for the most European Championship match appearances with Thomas Habler.
Stopping a total of four World Cup penalties, goalkeeper Toni Schumacher holds the record for saving the most penalties at the shoot-out stages.
In 16 World Cup appearances, Germany have secured a place in 11 semi-finals – more than any other country.
Germany have not lost an international penalty shoot-out since 1976.
The German team suffered their worst defeat in 1909 with a final score of 9-0 to England.
Germany celebrated their greatest win in 1912, after thrashing Russia 16-0.
Germany were ranked number 1 in the world in 1993. In 2006, they received their lowest FIFA ranking, with position 22. They are currently ranked 5th in the world by FIFA.