A nation with the most top three finishes in the Finals history, Germany has an illustrious resume when it comes to the World Cup.
Reaching the late stages of the World Cup and getting individual player awards such as best young player, golden boot winner and tournament MVP is something the Germans can hang their lederhosen on, but it has been awhile now since they’ve lifted the Jules Rimet.
The last World Cup the Germans took was Italy 1990. They met Maradona’s Argentina in the final for the second World Cup in a row, losing to them at the 1986 Mexico World Cup. West Germany was a well oiled football machine in 1990, with strong players like Andreas Brehme in the back and agile strikers like Jurgen Klinnsmann up front.
After a couple sub par German performances in ’94 and ’98 going out in the quarters, they successfully regained their stride at the 2002 Japan and Korea World Cup. Since reaching the final in ’02 the Germans have stayed in the top three in the past World Cup’s.
Although the recent success there has been one missing link in each World Cup keeping the Germans from lifting the Jules Rimet again.
In 2002, the crazy ape, Oliver Kahn carried the squad through to the finals, only allowing one goal on the way to the final. With players like Torsten Frings leading the tournament in tackles and experienced Champions League finalists Thomas Linke and Carsten Ramelow manning the backline for the white and blacks, the Germans were a tough team to crack defensively.
It was the first ever final between two of the worlds football giants, Brazil and Germany. An epic match up. There was only one thing missing from the game, Germany’s best player. The 25 year old Michael Ballack had to watch the final from the side lines because of his suspension from one too many yellows.
In the semi final against co-hosts Korea, Ballack sacrificed his place in the final to get his country a spot in the game. A streaking Korean midfielder Lee Jung Soo was fouled by Ballack, keeping the Koreans from scoring but then being given that dreaded yellow card suspension. Brazil dominated the middle of the park in the final and won the match 2-0, getting goals from Rivaldo and Ronaldo.
In 2006, Germany hosted the big show. With an insurgency of young players and a new keeper wearing the Deutscher Adler, the Germans had created a new mentality of how they play their football. Under new manager Jurgen Klinnsmann, the Germans reached the semi finals playing a high scoring, highly skilled, confident style of football.
The team had rising young stars at all ends of the field but everything was held together by the two anchors of the squad. In the middle of the pitch Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings ran the show. Ballack quarterbacked the attack and Frings captained the defence.
There had been no changes of the starting line up all the way to the quarter finals against Argentina. That would unfortunately change for the Germans. After knocking out Argentina in penalties, Frings found himself in a mess. Argentine players had started a bit of a fight after Germany won in shootout.
Julio Cruz was knicked in the face by Frings and that would prove to be his last action in the tourney. Italian TV station, Rai TV, asked FIFA to review footage they gathered of the Frings Cruz tussle. The ruling of the incident wasn’t released until twenty four hours before Germany and Italy met in Dortmund for the semi final.
This was a major blow for Germany, not only did they lose Frings, Klinnsmann had to make a couple other line up adjustments to balance his players styles. The blooming Bastain Schweinsteiger was replaced by Sebastien Kehl to add more defence after an offensive Tim Borowski had to replace Frings in the middle.
Schweinsteiger was left on the bench until late in the match where he came on and proceeded to make a tournament changing error leaving his man Fabio Grosso alone in the box on a failed corner kick clearance.
South Africa 2010, again a similar story unfolded. The 20 year old midfielder, Thomas Mueller had risen above names like Messi and Ronaldo.
Scoring five goals and getting three assists earned the young star the Golden Boot award, even though he didn’t suit up against the eventual champs Spain in the Durban semi final.
Thomas Mueller had been questionably punished in the 4-0 Germany victory. Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov called a hand ball on Mueller in the 35th minute.
The hand ball call could have very easily been called as just a foul, but the golden boot winner was ruled out of the semi’s leaving Germany once again without a key player in a massive match against the eventual World Cup champions.
Mueller’s replacement Toni Kroos had the best chance of the match for Germany getting a clear shot at goal nine yards away, but wasting it shooting right at Iker Casillas.
Overall the Spaniards were able to make the Germans adjust their strategies and this led to a Spanish dominated match.
So the question isn’t how well will the German’s do in the next major tourney, it’s more can the German substitutes successfully step up when their number is called.
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