What is it you can say about the Germans that hasn’t been said a million times already? Since the dawn of time, organisation, solidity and resiliency are the components that piece together their most obvious characteristics.
The German football team represents little difference. Where personality, plus a touch of flamboyancy is found lacking, a stubborn mentality supplements any loss to the point where triumph in adversity has prevailed more than any other nation. Their psyche has somehow instilled a machine-like attitude, void of nerves and programmed to believe that failure is not an option. In Germany there are no enigmas whom only produce their talented best when the mood suits. There, they are just thrown off the production line to be replaced by the next cog that oils the machine more efficiently.
- Germany expects success
And if efficiency is your game, sifting through Germany’s World Cup history tells a story of repeated victory and pedigree. Three-time champions, seven-time finalists and 11-time semi-finalists are feats that can only be bettered by Brazil and Italy.
But it’s not just the sheer consistency and victories that make Germany so unique. Even in defeat they tend to force rivals beyond the limits of their capabilities to claim what is always the most hard fought of scalps.
Who could ever forget the Argentina team of 1986, where a late German double so nearly snatched the title away from a tournament obsessed with Maradona? Or the controversy England’s Geoff Hurst required to finally extinguish their 1966 bid. And how an under talented and uninspired German team managed to kick, claw and scratch their way to the 2002 Final, only to succumb to a Brazil team with Ronaldo at his peak.
- Geoff Hurst’s phantom goal
Vulnerability rarely appears to enter the German state of mind. Their composure and an inability to panic backs up those who argue football is more a battle of the mind. Four times Germany have decided the outcome of matches by penalty shoot-out at the World Cup. And each time they have emerged intact, most notably progressing to the Final of 1982 and 1990, accounting for both France and England respectively. While in 1986 the heroically backed hosts, Mexico, were dismissed at the quarter-final stage.
Can this uncommon and insane trait to prevent defeat be traced back to its foundation? Some would argue it’s embedded in the national culture. However, a starting point may be the 1954 World Cup Final, famously nicknamed, “The Miracle of Bern”.
Facing the classy Ferenc Puskás inspired Hungarians, and playing with an all amateur team, West Germany began the final as massive underdogs. Hungary entered on an unbeaten streak of 32 consecutive matches, including an 8-3 victory over their opponents in the group phase. It looked as though a sequel was in store as they raced into a quick two goal lead. However, the German amateurs rallied to pull level by half-time, and then lead six minutes from time as Helmut Rahn forced home a corner. A disputed Puskás offside goal caused carnage late on, but luck smiled on West Germany to complete their inaugural World Cup success.
- 1954: Title no. 1
Title number two came on home soil in 1974. With Franz Beckenbauer leading and Gerd Muller making his international swansong, West Germany cruised to the final with five wins out of six, the only blemish losing to their Eastern neighbours 1-0 on a politically fuelled tidal wave.
The final paired them against Johan Cruyff’s, “total football” enforcers, Holland. Again West Germany fell behind, conceding from the first ever penalty awarded in a World Cup final. The second penalty only had to wait 24 more minutes as Paul Breitner fired level, and then Muller further enhanced his legendary status by netting the winner with a customary finish before half-time.
- 1990: The last German side to win the World Cup
1982 was Italy’s time as the Paolo Rossi World Cup accounted for the Germans 3-1 at the final stage. Though it was on Italian soil where they next reached the summit in 1990 and served up some revenge on their conquerors from four years previous, Argentina. Ploughing their way passed Holland, Czechoslovakia and England; the Germans won the Cup 1-0 thanks to a late penalty from Andrea Brehme, in a woeful match that saw two Argentine red cards.
Since then the country has seen reunification, a final appearance and a semi-final loss as hosts in 2006 to eventual winners, Italy. Historically, Germany represents the team who exploit those whom suffer from overconfidence and complacency. 2010 sees them being written off again. It all sounds a little familiar.
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