As Germany's first game at 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. We now look back at 2006, on home soil...
Two years after Germany’s group stage exit at the 2004 European Championship, the country was ready for a fresh start, ready to play to win again, the German way. And what better way to spark such a revival than hosting a World Cup? Where better to fight for another major trophy than your own backyard? The stage was set for a summer fairy-tale of German football.
Carrying the hopes and dreams of an entire nation was a healthy mixture of old and new: Under the management of Jürgen Klinsmann, the German national team had fielded eleven debutants in the international friendlies leading up to the tournament, for which Germany, as hosts, were of course automatically qualified. Klinsmann exercised trust in youth, introducing the likes of Per Mertesacker, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podoslki to the international stage, but by no means put all his eggs in this albeit promising basket: Eleven players from Germany’s 2002 World Cup squad survived Klinsmann’s call-up.
For the first time at a World Cup, it was the hosts who would kick things off with the opening game of the tournament, as opposed to the defending champions. So as the Germany squad left their base in Berlin, the world’s attention turned to Munich, to a sold-out Allianz Arena, where Klinsmann’s men were set to face a Costa Rica side, given little-to-no chance by the media in the build-up. A quietly confident Costa Rica side, however, who, at 25th in FIFA’s World Rankings, were in fact only three places behind Germany.
The party atmosphere in the ground following a Bavarian-themed opening ceremony soon erupted into jubilation, when only six minutes into the tournament, Philipp Lahm did a ‘Philipp Lahm’ – cutting inside the area onto his stronger right foot and launching one in off the far post, a trademark move the Costa Ricans were perhaps unprepared for, but they would have done well to prevent in any case. The fairly-tale had begun.
The nerves were settled, chants of ‘Number one in the world’ began to echo around the stadium, but the first setback of the day was just around the corner: Paulo Wanchope silenced the crowd with a timely equaliser for Costa Rica. A noble response from the underdogs – so, how would the favourites respond, was the question. Answer: As though nothing had happened. Birthday boy Miroslav Klose restored the Germans’ lead just five minutes later, and despite a further ten attempts on goal from the hosts, the teams went in at half-time with the score 2-1.
With the tension rising, Germany’s slender lead looked in danger; mistakes began to creep into the passing game; this rollercoaster of an opening fixture was far from over. Miroslav Klose temporarily relieved the tension with his second of the day, only for Costa Rica to halve the deficit once again with almost a carbon copy of their first goal. The nerves were back, now greater than ever, but one more goal for the Germans would surely settle it. And so it did: Fortunately, long-range specialist Torsten Frings slipped as he let fly from 25 yards, his mishit shot sailing into the far corner to once and for all secure the three points Germany deserved from this game; a game with a whole tournament’s worth of ups, downs, nail-biting and celebrations; a game which, however, was only the beginning of an unforgettable journey.
Germany vs. Poland, a fixture dominating the preview headlines: Germany had never lost against Poland, nor on the 14th July, nor in Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion. Among many, one question on every journalist’s lips was how Germany’s Poland-born front two of Klose and Podolski felt about the game. "This is a game of football. I want to win every game of football. That is all," declared Podolski.
On the day, however, it was just not meant to be for Lukas Podoslki and his strike partner Miroslav Klose – chance after chance after chance went begging, and not just for the two forwards. Deep into the second half, Germany had nothing to show for their total domination, but still they pressed - the 60,000 or so fans behind them in every attack, and still nothing. Jürgen Klinsmann took action, bringing on two attacking players in David Odonkor and Oliver Neuville, still nothing: the 90 minutes of normal time were up and the game was still goalless.
Only stoppage time was left to play: Germany had a one-man advantage on the pitch, a 40,000 man advantage in the stands, and little over two minutes to find a winner. It was time for a hero… or three. Torsten Frings played a perfectly-weighted long ball down the wing for the fresh legs of Odonkor to run onto; fearful of his potential, three Polish defenders moved over to close down the young winger, but none could prevent his cross into the six-yard box, where Oliver Neuville reacted quickest to poke home and send the nation wild. The Westfalenstadion erupted. It was a moment that would go down in German football history as the Urknall (the ‘Big Bang’).
With Ecuador having beaten Costa Rica and Poland as well, the last remaining group fixture was a battle for top spot, which Germany grabbed with both hands: Klose and Podoslki shook off the criticism a frustrating evening against Poland had brought on and put the game to bed in less than an hour. A comfortable 3-0 win was just what Germany needed after the first two group games and with the knockout stages now on the horizon.
A perfect nine points out of nine – the country’s best ever World Cup group stage finish. Philipp Lahm reminisces in his autobiography Der feine Unterschied: “People celebrated on every street corner, saluting as the team bus rolled by. The country was a party and we were its guests of honour.” It fell on head coach Jürgen Klinsmann to remind his team and indeed the country that the job was far from done: “We are a footballing nation, anything less than the semi-final will be a failure,” he insisted in the press conference ahead of Germany’s Last 16 tie with Sweden. Message clearly received and understood, not least by Klose and Podolski, the former with two assists for the latter inside the opening 12 minutes – the Germans were on fire and ready for the quarterfinals, where Argentina awaited.
A quarterfinal between two of the tournament’s favourites, between two historic World Cup rivals, a feisty affair certainly not for the fainthearted, but this quarterfinal would go down in history for one thing in particular: a mere scrap of paper.
After trailing for the first time in the tournament, Germany’s first hero of that Friday night in Berlin was Miroslav Klose, who headed home the 80th minute equaliser in a game he later described as "the best experience of [his] career." It was a game simply too close to call, reflected in the full-time score of 1-1, with a penalty shootout arguably the only fair way to settle it. That is unless, of course, one goalkeeper had some inside knowledge regarding the opposition takers...
In a moment to savour for football fans around the globe, Oliver Kahn, having missed out on Germany’s number one shirt to new first choice ‘keeper Jens Lehmann, walked over to his squad rival and passed on some words of encouragement ahead of the penalty shootout. There was little love lost between Kahn and Lehmann, and this was no secret to the world, but at that moment, team spirit triumphed above all. "This wasn’t about a personal rivalry, this was about something much, much bigger: This was about the World Cup," said Kahn looking back later that year.
Some wise words from Oliver Kahn were not the only thing Jens Lehmann had to take into the penalty shootout. Moments before the first kick, goalkeeping coach Andreas Köpke handed Germany’s number one a small scrap of paper, which Lehmann proceeded to study closely before each of Argentina’s penalties. Detailed insights into penalty-taking habits? Or pure mind-games? Whatever the case, it worked! The Argentines were unnerved. Jens Lehmann guessed the right way to deny Ayala and later Cambiasso, sending Germany into the semi-finals and keeping the national team’s 100 percent World Cup penalty shootout record intact.
The problems had started before the game – the bad omens were rife in the air on that hot summer night in Dortmund: Amidst the violent commotion between Germany and Argentina players after the quarterfinal, Torsten Frings, an integral part of the Germany’s midfield was adjudged to have struck Julio Cruz and was subsequently suspended for the semi-final. Furthermore, Germany’s record against Italy at major tournaments did not bode well for the hosts – zero wins in four attempts. The aim was clear, however: “Beat Italy for the first time! Do it for Torsten Frings! Do it for Germany!”
A long night of football lied ahead, with the 90 minutes of regulation time serving up few chances, but keeping spectators on the edge of their seats nonetheless – to be expected with a place in the final at stake. When extra time inevitably came around, a very different game unfolded: Italy manager Marcelo Lippi shocked the world with some uncharacteristic attacking substitutions, clearly intent on avoiding a penalty shootout at all costs. With penalties on the horizon, Germany could count themselves lucky to have survived extra time, or so we thought...
Last minute of the game, corner to Italy, Borowski cleared, but Pirlo sent the ball back into the mix, where the most unlikely of candidates, left-back Fabio Grosso, delivered a shot to German hearts and put Italy in front. With just seconds left to play, Germany threw everything forward in a desperate attempt to equalise, but the surge broke down, Italy pounced and sprung into a textbook counterattack, finished off by del Piero. That was it. The dream was over. No time for a restart: The Italians celebrated, leaving the Germans in tears on the pitch. Not every fairy-tale has a happy ending.
Devastated, but oh so proud of their heroes, hundreds of supporters applauded Klinsmann and his players upon their return to the team hotel and thousands turned out to witness Germany’s consolation victory in the third-place playoff in Stuttgart, ironically chanting “Stuttgart is much nicer than Berlin.” A 3-1 victory over Portugal and a bronze medal was not how anyone wanted the tournament to end, but it was a nice send-off nevertheless.
Germany 4-2 Costa Rica - 9th June, Allianz Arena, Munich (66,000 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Lahm (6’), 1-1 Wanchope (12’), 2-1 Klose (17’), 3-1 Klose (61’), 3-2 Wanchope (73’), 4-2 Frings (87’)
Germany 1-0 Poland - 14th June, Westphalenstadion, Dortmund (65,000 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Neuville (91’)
Germany 3-0 Ecuador - 20th June, Olympiastadion, Berlin (72,000 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Klose (4’), 2-0 Klose (44’), 3-0 Podolski (57’)
Germany 2-0 Sweden - 24th June, Allianz Arena, Munich (66,000 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Podolski (4’), 2-0 Podolski (12’)
Germany 1-1 Argentina (4-2 on penalties) - 30th June, Olympiastadion, Berlin (72,000 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Ayala (49’), 1-1 Klose (80’)
Penalty shootout 1-0 Neuville, 1-1 Cruz, 2-1 Ballack, Lehmann saves from Ayala, 3-1 Podolski, 3-2 Maxi Rodriguez, 4-2 Borowski, Lehman saves from Cambiasso
Germany 0-0 (0-2 a.e.t) Italy - 4th July, Westphalenstadion, Dortmund (65,000 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Grosso (119’), 0-2 del Piero (121’)