As Germany’s first game at the 2018 FIFA World Cup approaches, DFB.de takes you on a journey back through our previous appearances at the tournament, bringing you everything from historic matches to unusual anecdotes. Today, we rewind to 2002...
German football was heading in the wrong direction by 2002. The European Championship triumph of 1996 was followed by a disappointing quarterfinal exit at France 98, and Die Mannschaft’s stay at Euro 2000 didn’t even extend past the group stage. There was off-the-pitch turmoil developing too. After Berti Vogts’ resignation in 1998 and Erich Ribbeck’s failure to deliver success at the Euros, Bayer Leverkusen’s successful coach Christoph Daum was lined up to be his successor. The club weren’t keen to let him go before the end of the 2000/01 season though, so Leverkusen’s sporting director Rudi Völler stepped in to fill the position temporarily. However, when a tabloid newspaper reported that Daum was using cocaine, and the hair sample he submitted to dispel the rumours in fact confirmed them, he was removed from his future job with the DFB and from his current one at Leverkusen. Völler was left juggling both coaching roles until Vogts took over the Bundesliga club and Völler could focus solely on qualifying for the World Cup in his new permanent role as Germany head coach.
While Germany safely made it to the 2002 World Cup, it required a first ever play-off, after a 5-1 defeat to England was followed by a goalless draw with Finland in the final two qualifiers. Ukraine were dispatched of after the two legs though and Völler’s 23-man squad began their journey to Korea and Japan. However, there were some key players missing from his final selection. Sebastian Deisler, Christian Wörns and Jens Nowotny were all sidelined late on through injury, while Mehmet Scholl announced his international retirement in April and Jörg Heinrich pulled out on the eve of departure, saying he felt he wouldn’t be much help to the team in his current shape. After an impressive campaign, despite finishing runners-up in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League, there was a strong Leverkusen faction in the squad in the form of Michael Ballack, Oliver Neuville and Bernd Schneider. Nevertheless, there was little belief in this group of players, with only 2% of Germans believing they could bring home the trophy.
Germany’s first Group E game saw them take on Saudi Arabia. Despite not scoring all season in the league, Carsten Jancker was partnered up front by 23-year-old Kaiserslautern striker Miroslav Klose, who was still playing Regionalliga football four years earlier. It was a name that would be etched into World Cup history, and the story began in Sapporo on 1st June 2002. Despite Germany somehow still without a goal after 20 minutes, Klose did finally break the deadlock with a towering header. A second followed in similar fashion only five minutes later. Ballack and Jancker made it 4-0 at the break against a Saudi Arabia side who hadn’t conceded a single goal during qualifying and were considered dangerous, but simply couldn’t deal with the Germans’ physicality. Klose completed his memorable hat-trick in the second half with yet another header – one of five headed goals in a record-setting 8-0 romp. DFB president Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder was keen to share a drink with the team after such an impressive start, but the players themselves weren’t getting ahead of themselves. “We can’t allow ourselves to make the mistake of getting lost on cloud nine. It was an important win, and the other teams will respect us a bit more now,” said Kahn.
The triumph had suddenly seen Germany move up to sixth-favourites at the bookies, and they could already wrap up their place in the last 16 with victory over the Republic of Ireland. Just like in the opener, Miroslav Klose provided the first goal around the 20-minute mark. Four goals, four headers – Ireland knew where Germany’s biggest threat was coming from and, unlike Saudi Arabia, their physical defenders made sure it was to be one of Klose’s quieter days after that. In fact, Rudi Völler’s side dropped off significantly after they took the lead and the Boys in Green carried a serious threat. Kahn had to produce a slide tackle to keep Damien Duff at bay, while Matt Holland wasted two great chances. There was little change in the second 45. Kahn had a lot more to do, blocking a point-blank shot from Damien Duff and bravely diving at the feet of Robbie Keane one-on-one. A swap of the almost permanent offside Carsten Jancker for Oliver Bierhoff left many in the press box scratching their head, expecting the more technical Neuville to be introduced. Völler later admitted he needed Bierhoff’s aerial strength for inside Germany’s own box for set pieces. However, it was no help when a last-minute hoof forward was flicked on perfectly by Niall Quinn. This time Kahn couldn’t keep Keane at bay and Ireland snatched a 1-1 draw. “We stopped playing football after our goal,” bemoaned Völler. Germany were now under pressure in their final group game with Cameroon.
The coach named the same starting XI for the third game running, with Klose cleared to play despite needing treatment at half time against Ireland. However, medical specialists back home were warning of the danger of his trademark front-flip celebration to his Achilles. A point would be enough for top spot in the group, but Cameroon started better and Kahn had to be at his best to keep the scores level. The task was made much harder in the 36th minute when defender Carsten Ramelow was shown already his second yellow card of the game for stopping a dangerous attack from a young Samuel Eto’o. It was one of 16 bookings handed out by the Spanish referee in total, but fortunately it didn’t carry much consequence for Germany. Klose turned provider for the opening goal this time, putting Marco Bode through to finish 1v1, before Cameroon themselves were reduced to ten men courtesy of Patrick Suffo’s second yellow. All that was missing was a Klose goal, and he continued his streak with another header from another Michael Ballack cross. There was no front-flip celebration this time, but the Kaiserslautern striker said it just never crossed his mind to do it. Instead, he could enjoy the fact that Germany were safely into the last 16, although Oliver Kahn refused to get wrapped up in the party atmosphere. “Only the title counts,” said the Titan.
After playing all their group games in Japan, Germany now moved base to South Korea, with the entire their side of their bracket – bar the final – set to take place on the peninsula. There were finally changes to the team too, albeit enforced through suspensions. Red-carded Ramelow was replaced by Marko Rehmer, while a yellow-card accumulation for both Dietmar Hamann and Christian Ziege meant Jens Jeremies and Marco Bode came into midfield. There was also a change up front, with Oliver Neuville finally given his chance ahead of Jancker. Meanwhile, doctors worked day and night to ensure Michael Ballack could play, and his calf was up to scratch just in time for Saturday’s clash with Paraguay. The stadium was unusually only half full, with birthday boy Oliver Kahn easily able to hear a group of fans singing a rendition of Happy Birthday. “It was hard to get to the right level mentally,” he later commented. “This was the last 16 at the World Cup, but it felt like we were playing a friendly in Giesing.” The game perhaps suffered a result and many later referred to it was the World Cup’s worst. Kahn was forced into a world-class save to deny Jorge Campos though, as his fine form at the tournament continued. Germany were struggling to create chances, with Bernd Schneider taking over creative duty from a clearly not 100% fit Ballack. Both sides were tiring, but ‘Schnix’ did get the job done, his 88th-minute delivery from the right drilled home at the near post by Leverkusen teammate Neuville. The game ended with sour grapes from Paraguay as Roberto Acuna’s elbow to Ballack’s face was punished with a straight red, but it wouldn’t take away from a hard-fought win for Rudi Völler’s side, and after reaching the quarterfinals, the coach was feeling festive: “I think the players can certainly enjoy a couple of beers tonight.”
The party atmosphere in the camp was cut short before the quarterfinal clash with the United States, with news of the death of Germany’s first honorary captain Fritz Walter reaching the team in South Korea. As a Kaiserslautern player, Miro Klose promised to dedicate his next goal to his idol and the Bild newspaper captured the mood with the headline: “Let’s win for Fritz Walter!” The first half an hour or so in Ulsan didn’t do their cause much justice, however, with Oliver Kahn to thank that USA weren’t leading 3-0. Remarkably, Germany found themselves 1-0 in front instead, with Ballack – usually the provider for the long list of headed goals – nodding the ball home himself this time from Christian Ziege’s free-kick. It could even have been 2-0 at the break if Klose’s header hadn’t come back off the upright. The second 45 produced more superb reflexes from Kahn, although Germany were lucky not to concede a penalty when one save rebounded onto the hand of Torsten Frings on the line, while Claudio Reyna speculative 50-yard effort after Kahn’s sweeper-keeper-esque header away landed just wide of the vacant goal. That was all USA could muster though, and Germany were into the semi-finals for a record tenth time, although the team weren’t overly pleased with how they got there. “The only positive thing is that we’re in the final four. I’m obviously delighted, but I really suffered today,” was Völler’s assessment.
Despite a semi-final against hosts South Korea lined up, there was criticism of Germany in the media. Even Franz Beckenbauer was quoted saying: “Apart from Oli Kahn, you could stick them all in a sack and take a swing at it, and you’d hit someone who deserved it.” Meanwhile, the hosts had benefitted from poor refereeing to make the semi-finals, but were still considered favourites for the game, especially with the fans behind them. “The whole stadium will be against us,” said Michael Ballack. “It’s going to be awesome.” It was a fairly open first half, with chances for both sides. Another world-class save from Oliver Kahn denied Chun-Soo Lee, while Bode couldn’t quite react in time after a corner unexpectedly dropped to him five yards out. It may have been goalless at the break, but the media wouldn’t be complaining about the quality of the football on display this time. Germany had taken eleven shots to South Korea’s two by the 70th minute, but there was just no way through.
Then came a defining moment in Germany’s World Cup campaign. Ballack stopped a counter with a cynical foul on Chun Soo Lee, a moment of selflessness that earned him a yellow card that would rule Germany’s midfield maestro out of the 2002 World Cup final. He wasn’t going to let that stop his teammates getting there though. Just three minutes later a break down the right, a ball in from Neuville, and a crucial shout from Ballack for Bierhoff to leave it. “I was sure he’d score,” said Bierhoff. And he did, albeit from the rebound after his initial first-time finish was saved. The home crowd roared South Korea forward for the final 15 minutes, but Germany stood firm. With a big Kahn goal kick came the full-time whistle, confirming Germany’s place in the final and a fourth win out of six games against World Cup hosts. The country was euphoric, but there was one man who couldn’t enjoy it the same way. Ballack was in tears in the winning changing room. “You have to take your hat off to him,” said Oliver Kahn. “He has committed a foul that he had to make for the team, for us to make the final. It epitomises the character of this team.”
The biggest game in world football pitted two World Cup giants against each other, remarkably for the first time in the history of the competition in its 17th edition. Germany vs. Brazil was also a meeting between the two top scorers, Klose – although he was without a goal in three games – and Ronaldo. However, Germany were banking on their strong defensive record, having conceded just one goal all tournament, equalling the Netherlands’ record from 1974. “We want to win it for Michael,” was the message from Rudi Völler. “Everyone needs to play the game of their lives.” An early Kleberson effort was a comfortable save for Kahn. “That will give him confidence,” said German TV commentator Bela Rethy. He wasn’t wrong. The man who would become the first and still only goalkeeper to be awarded the Golden Ball for the best player at a World Cup looked at his usual best. Twice Ronaldo found his maker in the Titan. Germany weren’t getting in as many dangerous positions as the Brazilians, with a few speculative efforts clearing the target. But it was still a promising first-half performance.
The second 45 started with a different goalkeeper catching the eye. Oliver Neuville lined up a free-kick from a good 30 yards, which Marco brilliantly tipped onto the post. The action was soon back at the other end though, and again Kahn reacted superbly to deny Gilberto Silva’s header and follow-up, but in the process, he was caught by the Brazilian and hurt the ring finger on his right hand – little was made of it at the time. Fast forward to the 67th minute. Hamann loses the ball after turning into trouble inside his own final third, Ronaldo quickly passes to Rivaldo and he shoots. It’s straight at Kahn, but the ball spills out of his hands and at the feet of Ronaldo, who doesn’t ask twice and slots in the opener. “You have to say, he should save that,” says the German commentator. “But without Kahn, we wouldn’t even be playing in this final!” he quickly adds. Germany found themselves behind for the first time at the tournament. On came Bierhoff, the man who scored twice off the bench to make Germany European Champions in 1996, but any hopes of a repeat were soon quashed. Rivaldo’s genius nutmeg allowed Kleberson’s ball in to find Ronaldo, and he coolly picked out the bottom corner. Game over.
Brazil won their fifth World Cup, Germany finished as runners-up for the fourth time. It could only be considered a huge success considering pre-tournament expectations, but one man is inconsolable. The image of Kahn slumped to the ground leaning against his goalpost is one of the most iconic in Germany’s World Cup history. The defeat was a little easier to digest for the rest of the players. They were simply proud to have been a part of this team, and they were met with a hero’s welcome by 30,000 fans in Frankfurt. “Imagine what the scenes would have been if we had won!” said an overwhelmed Rudi Völler at the celebrations.
Germany 8-0 Saudi Arabia - 1st June 2002, Sapporo Dome, Sapporo (32,218 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Klose (20’), 2-0 Klose (25’), 3-0 Ballack (40’), 4-0 Jancker (45+1’), 5-0 Klose (70’), 6-0 Linke (73’), 7-0 Bierhoff (84’), 8-0 Schneider (90+1’)
Germany 1-1 Republic of Ireland - 5th June 2002, Kashima Soccer Stadium, Ibaraki (35,854 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Klose (19’), 1-1 Keane (90+2’)
Germany 2-0 Cameroon - 11th June 2002, Ecopa Stadium, Shizuoka (47,085 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Bode (50’), 2-0 Klose (79’)
Germany 1-0 Paraguay - 15th June 2002, Jeju World Cup Stadium, Seogwipo (25,176 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Neuville (88’)
Germany 1-0 United States - 21st June 2002, Munsu Cup Stadium, Ulsan (37,337 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Ballack (39’)
Germany 1-0 South Korea - 25th June 2002, Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul (65,256 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Ballack (75’)
Germany 0-2 Brazil - 30th June 2002, International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama (69,029 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Ronaldo (67’), 0-2 Ronaldo (79’)