As the 2018 FIFA World Cup approaches, DFB.de takes you on a journey back through Germany’s previous appearances at the tournament, bringing you everything from historic matches to unusual anecdotes. Our story continues in 1986…
The 1986 World Cup in Mexico was a unique one for West Germany on multiple fronts. Not only was 40-year-old Franz Beckenbauer the youngest Germany coach at a World Cup in the history of the national side, but ironically, he also selected the oldest average squad in Germany history as well (28.37 years).
It was a tough draw for Beckenbauer’s men, who were in the so-called ‘group of death’ alongside Uruguay, Scotland and Denmark. Expectations were very low across West Germany anyway, following a disappointing performance in EURO 1984. Beckenbauer himself even said famously, “We definitely won’t win the tournament. We will have had a good World Cup if we get out of the group.” It was a slight misjudgment to say the least.
Uruguay were the team that faced West Germany in their first group game, in a mouthwatering clash of “South American flair vs. European power.” (Uruguay coach, Omar Borras)
A 12 noon kick-off meant that the Germans would also be fighting the elements too. A breakfast of Spaghetti Bolognese was given out at the team hotel to make sure that they had enough energy to deal with the strain from the Mexican midday heat.
Wearing green at a World Cup for the first time since 1974, things didn’t start well for Germany. Lothar Matthäus made an uncharacteristically critical error to gift Uruguay an early lead. His looping and inaccurate back pass fell directly into the path of Uruguayan striker Antonio Alzamendi, who proceeded to beat Toni Schumacher easily. “International players cannot make mistakes like that,” said Matthäus following the game.
Thankfully for Matthäus, it wouldn’t doom his country to an opening game defeat. Despite Uruguay parking the bus in a desperate attempt to secure the win, a late goal from Klaus Allofs saved a point for West Germany. It might have been a draw, but it felt like a win. The formally pessimistic Beckenbauer himself even said that he “couldn’t give enough credit” to his team for their superb showing of fight and character.
After a gritty fight back in the opener, the second group game was a dive into the unknown. It was the first ever meeting between Scotland and West Germany at a major tournament and what’s more, no member of the German squad had ever played Scotland before at all.
Germany started slow yet again, with Gordan Strachan given too much space to find space, pick his spot and put Sir Alex Ferguson’s side up by one.
The equaliser didn’t take long to come about, however, as Rudi Völler kneed in his first of the tournament a mere four minutes later. And then they went one better. Völler dribbled past three defenders and set up Allofs for his second goal in two games and his country’s first lead of the tournament. It was a lead that would not be relented.
The final game of the group stage came against the surprise package of the tournament so far. Denmark had already won their first two games, including a resounding 6-1 victory against Uruguay. “They’ve played the best football at the World Cup, but we can still beat them.” (Beckenbauer)
However, a big talking point in both camps before the game was that it possibly wasn’t the best idea to actually win, as the second placed team in the group would go on to face outsiders Morocco in the next round, who surprised everyone to win Group F.
The first half ended goalless, but then after the break, sweeper Morten Olson went on a 40 meter run from the back and didn’t get touched until he was brought down in the box for a penalty. Converted. 1-0.
Third game of the tournament, third time Germany had fallen behind. The only other time that had happened was in the 1958 World Cup, when they came back in every group game. It wasn’t to be this time. Eriksen doubled the Danish lead and that’s how it would finish, with substitute Rummenigge again not able to have an impact.
And so West Germany finished second in the group. “We played well and lost, but I think we’ve shown that we’re on the right track,” said a positive Franz Beckenbauer.
It was an unfamiliar Germany side going into this last 16 clash with Morocco. Rummenigge made his first start and Beckenbauer named three strikers for the first time. He had no intentions of being defensive - the only thing that mattered now were wins. It was a special occasion for Morocco, who were the first African nation to be playing in a World Cup knockout game.
Both sides were forced to be patient, with Morocco keen to take the game into extra time. Rummenigge was taken down in the 88th minute, however, and Lothar Matthäus stepped up to take the resulting free-kick. It was 30 yards out and the Moroccans were not expecting him to take on a shot. Their wall curiously consisted of three men in front and two behind them. Matthäus took advantage to curve a low shot around them into the bottom-right corner, away from the outstretched arms of the keeper. “I think that helped people to forget about my mind lapse against Uruguay,” Matthäus said happily. A date with the hosts in the quarterfinals had been set.
The first bit of controversy of the tournament took place ahead of the next game, as third choice goalkeeper Uli Stein was sent home for some derogatory comments towards Franz Beckenbauer and the rest of his teammates.
Even with the drama which clouded the team, Germany were already unfavoured against Mexico. Beckenbauer decided to be more defensive and wait for them to make mistakes and named only two strikers as a result.
The game took a while to get going, but then some drama occurred, actually on the pitch this time. Thomas Berthold was fouled by Fernando Quirarte and then hit the Mexican in the head with his arm as he was getting up. Berthold said it was “a reflex,” but he was sent for an early shower nonetheless. He became the first Germany player to be sent off since 1969. Advantage Mexico.
Schumacher didn’t let that get to him, however, as he kept Germany in the game with a spectacular save. Javier Aguirre smashed a volley at him from six metres out, but the Cologne man miraculously kept it out and forced extra time. Aguirre then proceeded to be sent off himself for body checking Matthäus in the hundredth minute. At the end of all 120 minutes the game was still goalless and a penalty shootout loomed.
Schumacher was the hero once again as he saved two penalties whilst the rest of his teammates showed no nerves at all in converting all of theirs. The final score was 4-1 to Germany. Staying up until 02:40 European time was worth it for the fans back home, as they could finally celebrate Germany reaching the World Cup semifinals once again.
Just like four years prior in Sevilla, Germany met up with France for another World Cup semi-final. Juventus’ Michel Platini was the danger man for the French, which Beckenbauer knew very well. He counteracted by naming Wolfgang Rolff in his starting side, who played excellently against the French captain in the 1983 European Cup final with Hamburg.
It would be a feisty tie, with the Frenchmen keen to put things right from 1982. However, their goalkeeper clearly didn’t get the memo. Andreas Brehme stepped up to take a free-kick from a modest distance. He connected poorly, although his shot was still on target. Always a potential weak link in the team, goalkeeper Joel Bats got across, but let the ball slide under him and into the net. Finally an early lead for Germany!
Brehme’s goal gave his side a new lease of life. The rest of the first half passed at a furious pace, meaning there were more than a few tired legs in the second. Rudi Völler took advantage by getting in behind and chipping the ball over the onrushing Bats, before collecting the ball again and coolly slotting home into an empty net.
It was the second time in a row that Germany had made it to the final and their fifth time in total - a World Cup record. “The whole of Germany can be proud of this team,” beamed Beckenbauer post-match.
The final aptly saw Germany face their biggest test of the tournament. Argentina, who hadn’t lost a match throughout the whole competition, were going to make stern opposition.
That was not least because of their unbelievably gifted talisman, Maradona. He had already grabbed the headlines in the quarterfinals, when two infamous goals sent England crashing out of the tournament. ‘Hand of god’ or not, Maradona’s winding run from his own half and sublime finish quickly reminded everyone why he was one of the best players in the history of the game.
As his quickest and feistiest player, Beckenbauer singled out Lothar Matthäus as the man that was to mark Maradona. Renowned sport author Ulfert Schröder wrote: “Matthäus has to stop the Argentine artist for Germany to have any chance.” But the time for speculation was over. 114,600 fans were in the stadium, with over a billion from 142 countries following the 1986 World Cup final on TV across the globe.
It was a nervy start for both teams with Maradona and then Matthäus seeing yellow. The resulting free-kick from the Matthäus foul was in a dangerous position out wide on the right. The ball was crossed in to the box and Schumacher came but didn’t reach the ball. José Brown does, and heads Argentina in front.
With the game now into its second half, Germany desperately needed a goal, but it’s Argentina who doubled their lead in the 55th minute. “Is that it now?” questioned German commentator, Rolf Kramer. It wasn’t - two goals in quick succession from Rummenigge and Völler tied things up. Huge celebrations ensued, to the extent where it could be argued they had let their guard down...
And just two minutes later, Germany fail to catch Argentina offside and Burruchaga runs through to kill the game. The final would end 3-2, with Maradona capping off a wonderful tournament with a World Cup trophy.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl summed up the mood of his country well: “You represented West Germany admirably. We are all proud of you.” It was a tournament that raised expectations and ended in disappointment, but ultimately gave a lot of hope for the future.
West Germany 1-1 Uruguay - 4th June 1986, Estadio La Corregidora, Querétaro (30,500 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Alzamendi (4’), 1-1 Allofs (84’)
West Germany 2-1 Scotland - 8th June 1986, Estadio La Corregidora, Querétaro (28,000 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Strachan (18’), 1-1 Völler (23’), 2-1 Allofs (49’)
West Germany 0-2 Denmark - 8th June 1986, Estadio La Corregidora, Querétora (36,000 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 J. Olsen (43’ pen.), 0-2 Eriksen (62’)
West Germany 1-0 Morocco - 17th June 1986, Estadio Universitario, San Nicolás de los Garza (19,800 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Matthäus (88’)
West Germany 0-0 Mexico (4-1 after pens) - 21st June 1986, Estadio Universitario, San Nicolás de los Garza (41,700 spectators)
Penalty shootout: 1-0 Allofs, 1-1 Negrete, 2-1 Brehme, Quirarte attempt saved by Schumacher, 3-1 Matthäus, Severin attempt saved by Schumacher, 4-1 Littbarski
West Germany 2-0 France - 25th June 1986, Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara (45,000 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Brehme (9’), 2-0 Völler (89’)
West Germany 2-3 Argentina - 29th June 1986, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City (114,600 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Brown (23’), 2-0 Valdano (55’), 2-1 Rummenigge (74’), 2-2 Völler (80’), 3-2 Burruchaga (83’)