We’ve had Brazil and the Netherlands, now it’s the turn of the most consistent nation in World Cup history and perennial semi-finalists, Germany. Germany have won the World Cup three times, whilst appearing as losing finalists four times. They have progressed from the group stages at every World Cup since 1938, with the exception of 1950 which they didn’t even appear at due to their ban from competing, owing to their post-war occupation by the Allies.
Today’s XI would give any dream team a headache and more than likely come from behind to win. It might not be pretty but with the attacking power today’s side possesses there would no lack of goals from the Germans. You would expect this XI to be dominated by players from that great German team of 1972-76 but there are four modern-day internationals included whose caps were all earned as part of a unified German national side.
Manager: Helmut Schön (1966, 1970 & 1974)
GK: Oliver Kahn (2002 & 2006)
It is curious that despite featuring in the Germany’s squads for the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, Oliver Kahn would not make his World Cup debut until 2002. Entering the tournament, Germany’s expectations were at an all-time low after their embarrassing exit in the group stages at Euro 2000. Despite this, the Germans made it all the way to the final in rather unremarkable fashion, thanks in large part to the performances of Oliver Kahn.
Throughout the course of the tournament Kahn only conceded three goals, one to Robbie Keane in the group stages (c’mon Ireland!) and twice in the final to Ronaldo. The final was a poor reflection of his performances as a whole, playing with torn ligaments in one of his right fingers, Kahn was brutally punished by a resurgent Ronaldo. Despite this Kahn was not only voted the best goalkeeper of the World Cup but also became the first goalkeeper, and only to date, to win the Golden Ball. Although Sepp Maier was a commanding presence at three World Cups (Kahn only played in the third/fourth-place play-off in 2006), Kahn’s achievement of being the only goalkeeper to win the Golden Ball merits his inclusion.
RB: Philipp Lahm (2006, 2010 & 2014)
Philipp Lahm’s position as one of the finest full-backs of the modern era is already assured and even if he fails to win a World Cup winner’s medal this year his place in this side ahead of the no-nonsense Berti Vogts is secure. Although he usually plays at left-back, he features at right-back in this side to facilitate Brehme.
Lahm announced himself at the World Cup in spectacular fashion, scoring an absolutely wonderful goal from the corner of the box against Costa Rica in Germany’s opening game. Consistent brilliance throughout saw him feature in the All-Star team. In South Africa, in the absence of the injured Michael Ballack, Lahm captained Germany to a second successive third-place finish. He has impressed so far in Brazil as Germany aim for their first World Cup success as a unified nation.
CB: Franz Beckenbauer (1966, 1970 & 1974) [CAPTAIN]
This is pretty much a given. Der Kaiser is quite simply the greatest footballer Germany has produced. Although he started out as a midfielder, it was as a defender that Beckenbauer cemented his status as an all-time great. Beckenbauer also holds the unique distinction of having a World Cup winners’, runners-up and third-place medal.
West Germany fell at the final hurdle in 1966 but Beckenbauer impressed, finishing tied-third in the top scorers’ list. In 1970 he participated in that famous semi-final clash (“The Game of the Century”) with Italy that went to extra-time and produced seven goals [see here]. Despite being a spectacle for the neutrals, Beckenbauer endured a torrid time; shipping four goals and continuing to play on with a dislocated arm in a sling.
On home soil in 1974 Beckenbauer captained West Germany to glory at the expense of the Dutch. As a result West Germany held both the European Championship and World Cup. In 1990 Beckenbauer was manager when the West Germans won their third World Cup. As a result he became, and remains, the only man to captain and manage his nation to World Cup success.
CB: Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck (1974 & 1978)
A less obvious choice than Matthias Sammer but Schwarzenbeck’s role as Beckenbauer’s defensive partner in 1974 merits his inclusion. Sammer missed out on success in 1990 due to the fact he was born in East Germany and only appeared at one World Cup, the less-than-successful USA ’94.
Schwarzenbeck is a solid if unexciting choice but in a German XI that is strong in every position on the field, Schwarzenbeck’s realibity means he is no exception to this rule.
LB: Andreas Brehme (1986, 1990 & 1994)
Selected ahead of Paul Breitner for his free-kick taking abilities as well as his penchant for bombing forward, thus giving this German XI some needed width, along with Lahm. He was also gifted with both feet, Andreas Brehme believed his right to be more accurate but that his left produced more power.
In 1986 he scored a free-kick against France in the semi-final but was powerless to prevent Argentina triumphing in the final. At Italia ’90 he scored another free-kick in the semi-final, this time against England. In an ill-tempered and lacklustre final, Brehme scored the game’s only goal, a penalty. His last international caps came in USA ’94 as the Germans made, what is for them, an early exit in the quarter-finals.
CM: Wolfgang Overath (1966, 1970 & 1974)
The only other player alongside Beckenbauer to have a complete set of World Cup medals, Wolfgang Overath was a creative playmaker whose passing abilities would start plenty of potential goalscoring opportunities for this German XI.
Overath was at the nucleus of Germany’s World Cup sides in 1966, ’70 and ’74. He scored the only goal in the 1970 third/fourth-place play-off and was deemed by many to be Germany’s best player in Mexico. Although his place in the side came under threat with the emergence of Günter Netzer, Overath regained it in time for the 1974 World Cup on home soil.
CM: Lothar Matthäus (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 & 1998)
A veteran of five World Cup tournaments (one of only three to do so), Lothar Matthäus is also the World Cup’s most capped player, having played 25 games over the course of 16 years. Although he retreated back to sweeper later in his career, his pomp was undoubtedly when he played as an aggressive box-to-box midfielder.
Matthäus was a runner-up in 1982, and 1986, where he was charged with man-marking Diego Maradona in the final. At Italia ’90 though Matthäus redeemed himself, scoring four goals as West Germany made it to a third consecutive final. This time Matthäus and co. got revenge on Argentina as Matthäus lifted the World Cup trophy a few months before German reunification.
AM: Fritz Walter (1954 & 1958)
The only member of the 1954 West German winning side, Fritz Walter’s story is a remarkable one, one which is worthy of its own article.
Walter was captain of the West German side that, despite losing 8-3 to Hungary in the group stages, turned around a two-goal deficit in the final to win 3-2 against the much-fancied Hungarians. True to his reputation for apparently performing better when the weather was adverse, the 1954 final was played in “Fritz Walter’s weather” conditions. His legacy in German football cannot be denied and was proven by the DFB’s decision to name him as their Golden Player in 2003 as part of UEFA’s Jubilee celebrations.
AM: Thomas Müller (2010 & 2014)
In the current golden crop of German players, Thomas Müller is the shining light. At the 2010 World Cup Müller was top goalscorer in a free-scoring German side. He bagged five in South Africa which, coupled with his three assists, saw him awarded the Golden Boot. He was also voted the Best Young Player.
Müller continued his fine World Cup form in Brazil, hitting a hat-trick in Germany’s 4-0 demolition of Portugal in their opening game. Still only 24 years old, Müller has scored nine goals in ten World Cup matches and provided five assists, and that’s at time of writing. It’s scary to think that, barring injury or a chronic decline in form, realistically Müller has another two World Cups in him, which doesn’t bode well for opposing defenders or the record 15-goal mark.
CF: Gerd Müller (1970 & 1974)
Der Bomber is quite simply the most lethal finisher the World Cup has ever seen. Gerd Müller only appeared at two World Cups but held the record for the highest goalscorer at the World Cup for 32 years.
In 1970 Müller hit ten as West Germany made it all the way to the semi-finals only to fall to Italy in that spectacular seven-goal spectacle. As well as winning a bronze medal, Müller was awarded the Golden Boot. Four years later on home soil Müller was less proficient in front of goal but he scored the most important of his 14 World Cup goals in the final, Germany’s second, which secured a 2-1 victory.
CF: Miroslav Klose (2002, 2006, 2010 & 2014)
Despite having a club career that has left a lot to be desired, Miroslav Klose will remembered for a long time as a World Cup legend. Currently (at time of writing) the joint all-time World Cup goalscorer with Ronaldo, Klose is also Germany’s leading goalscorer, ahead of Gerd Müller, with 70.
Making his debut in 2002, Klose scored five times in the group stages, all of which were headers, to open his World Cup account. Four years later in Germany Klose scored another five goals, one of which was in the knockout stages, to win the Golden Boot. For the second successive tournament he was included in the All-Star team.
In South Africa, despite the younger stars grabbing the headlines, Klose’s four goals helped Germany to yet another semi-final. His 13th and 14th World Cup goals came in the 4-0 rout of Argentina in the quarters, thus putting him level with Gerd Müller. This year he scored once against Ghana to put him joint first with Ronaldo. Klose is guaranteed another two games so that record could well be his and his alone come 13 July.
By Eoghan Wallace