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. In part XVII, we turn our attention to South Africa, rewinding to 2010...
The world was ready to make history – it was time for the first ever World Cup tournament in Africa. Die Mannschaft were led by Joachim Löw, making this the third consecutive World Cup with a new German head coach. Jürgen Klinsmann’s assistant at the previous World Cup took over in 2006, taking the national team to the final of the 2008 European Championship in his first major tournament in charge. Despite coming so close to silverware only two years earlier, the expectations on Löw and his players for the 2010 World Cup were considerably low.
It was largely factors out of Joachim Löw’s control, but also the odd squad choice or other that left the nation unhopeful of success in South Africa – if a 2006 squad brimming with talent and experience could only make the semi-finals, what chance did Germany’s injury-plagued squad – the youngest since 1934 – stand?
Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, who had a mere five goals between them that Bundesliga season, both made the starting XI for Germany’s opening fixture against Australia, along with World Cup debutant, 20-year-old Thomas Müller, who had only one year of professional football under his belt. There were plenty doubters, but they were soon won over: Podolski, Klose and Müller all scored before Cacau came on from the bench to round things off with the fastest ever World Cup goal by a substitute. A convincing 4-0 victory to say the least, and just like that, the German outlook on South Africa 2010 changed: The nation hoped and expected again.
The trust in Löw the national team had returned. Elsewhere, Germany were feared once again, but the next group stage opponents could not afford to be scared: Serbia were on the brink of elimination, while Germany knew a win would see them through to the knockouts with a game to spare. The curse of the second game, which Germany have failed to win more than any other at World Cups, struck again. After 37 minutes of a balanced encounter, Miroslav Klose, the only German striker in the 4-5-1 formation was sent off for a second yellow-card offence and less than a minute later, Serbia took the lead.
These proved to be a couple of fatal setbacks: While ten man Germany’s domination of the game was both commendable and promising, it could not be converted into an equaliser, not even from the penalty spot – Lukas Podoslki had the opportunity on the hour mark to make up for his missed chances earlier in proceedings, but his shot was saved. Germany had missed a World Cup penalty for the first time since 1974 – headline worthy news in England, and the final proof that it was just not meant to be on that afternoon in Port Elizabeth. Germany’s first group stage defeat at a World Cup for 24 years meant that everything now rested on the final group game against Ghana.
Ghana led the group with four points, Germany sat in second with three, only ahead of Serbia on goal difference. With one eye on the parallel Group D game, Germany braved a cold night in Johannesburg knowing that only a win would guarantee progression, a draw might not be enough. This all-or-nothing situation at such an early stage in the tournament was a true test of both the ability and character of this young German side. Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, whose tackle on Michael Ballack in the FA Cup final had ruled the German midfielder out of the World Cup, refused to speak to the German press, stating simply that "the talking would be done on the pitch". Bild newspaper wrote: "Win! Otherwise we’ll be the laughing stock of the world. Otherwise we’ll have to find a new manager and the whole World Cup buzz will die." The tension was rife, the pressure immense, and Joachim Löw’s men were nervous.
In the first 45 minutes, Manuel Neuer had to make more saves than in the first two games put together – the score was 0-0, as it was in the parallel game between Serbia and Australia. With all four teams still fighting, the outcome of this group was impossible to predict. The Germans continued to suffer, almost conceding on a number of occasions, until the 60th minute, when one moment of magic relieved all the tension. Mesut Özil received the ball at the edge of the penalty area, allowed it to bounce up and drop down for his stronger left foot with which he smashed it into the far corner of the goal, leaving the goalkeeper no chance whatsoever. The relief was written all over Özil’s face, all over Joachim Löw’s face – a weight had been lifted, but the celebrations were put on hold.
The job wasn’t quite finished – Löw made a few tactical changes to see the game out, which proved to be enough, just about enough for a win. With supporters all out of nails to bite, it was time to get excited about the knockouts. Not just for Germany either – Australia’s surprise win over Serbia meant that Ghana had also gone through and the teams celebrated together on the pitch in front of 86,000 spectators in the Soccer City Stadium. As a precaution, DFB had booked a flight home to Germany for the following day, but took great pleasure in tearing up the tickets. Passports back in the suitcases – Germany were staying in South Africa.
Germany’s Last 16 promised to be a cracker, which games against England usually were. This international Klassiker was to take place in the second smallest stadium at the 2010 World Cup – a sold-out stadium, nevertheless, packed to the rafters with 40,000 spectators and their Vuvuzelas, emitting the familiar deafening buzz that the players had become accustomed to. Bild reported ahead of the tie that Bloemfontein was considered to be “South Africa’s most boring city”, but that was all about to change... History was about to be written.
Twenty minutes, goal! Miroslav Klose! Thirty minutes, goal! Lukas Podoslki! The usual suspects were at it again. Not only that, but everything Germany touched to turn to gold; England were chasing shadows. It seemed for a few minutes as though nothing could stop these young Germans from soaring into the quarterfinals. However, when Matthew Upson pulled one back for the Three Lions, Joachim Löw’s men needed a big favour to remain on track, a favour from the football Gods, who on this day decided it was time to make amends with Germany for the famous Wembley goal in 1966 - the goal that never crossed the line – the goal that handed England their first and only World Cup title at the cruel expense of West Germany.
The football Gods’ mouthpieces on earth that day, Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda and his assistant on the touchline watched as Frank Lampard’s effort from the edge of the box struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced about half a yard over the line before spinning back out into the arms of Neuer. All eyes now turned to the referee, except those of Fabio Capello, who had already turned around to celebrate... “Play on” was the call from the official. Germany were off the hook.
Somewhat overlooked by virtue of the controversy was Germany’s second half performance – a lesson in football, England were picked apart by the faster, stronger and all-round better team: Müller scored twice on the counter to make the full-time score a convincing 4-1 victory.
Fabio Capello digressed; the better team had won, but raised the question as to how, with so many referees, that goal could not be given. The following day, FIFA president Sepp Blatter apologised to England on behalf of the match officials, his words sparking a revolution in the modern game. The introduction of goal-line technology at every ground from the next World Cup onward had its roots in that pivotal moment in Bloemfontein – never again would such a decision fall to the naked eye of a referee.
"My boys will get the job done, no doubt about it. Germany’s World Cup journey ends here." The words of a justifiably confident and somewhat arrogant Diego Maradona – his Argentina side had looked unstoppable, having won every game at the tournament to that point. "Of course Argentina are favourites," said a much more humble Miroslav Klose: "They have more individual quality, but so did England: It’s the unity in our team which sets us apart," he added. And it was he and his teammates who had the last laugh, reducing football icon Diego Maradona to tears on the touchline.
Little over two minutes into the game, an upset looked on the cards when new fan favourite Thomas Müller headed Germany into the lead. After that, it never looked in doubt. Perhaps the only shock going forward was just how easy it seemed for Germany at times. Klose finished off a marvellous team goal, before Arne Friedrich of all players popped up with the third. Was this really a quarterfinal against Maradona’s Argentina? Already cruising into the semi-finals, the fans were treated to one last Klose somersault – the man making his 100th international appearance put the icing on the cake with a fourth. "It was simply spectacular. This is a young team, but the way they took their chances with such composure absolutely fascinated me," said Chancellor Angela Merkel after the game.
Revenge against England for 1966 had been achieved, Argentina’s revenge for 2006 had been avoided, and once again, ‘revenge’ was at the forefront ahead of Germany’s semi-final. This time, Joachim Löw’s men wanted revenge for the European Championship final two years earlier, when Germany were taught a lesson by the Spaniards. Löw insisted that the lessons had been learned, and that his team was now technically capable of outplaying Spain.
However, the world was witnessing a Spanish dynasty, which had begun two years earlier and was about to reach a pivotal moment. Playing at the height of tiki-taka football, Spain proceeded to dominate the game, with seven players from Barcelona whose understanding of each other proved too much for teams at the World Cup to cope with. Only their sloppiness in front of goal gave Germany hope, but in the 73rd minute, Carlos Puyol leapt highest from a corner and beat Manuel Neuer with a bullet header. Just like in 2008, Germany’s tournament ended with a 1-0 defeat to Spain, and just like in 2006, a third-place playoff awaited. Germany beat Uruguay 3-2 in an entertaining game of football and were welcomed back home like heroes. "Heads up lads, we’ll win it in four years," was the call from the public. How right they were...
Germany 4-0 Australia - 13th June, Durban (62,660 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Podolski (8’), 2-0 Klose (26’), 3-0 Müller (68‘), 4-0 Cacau (70‘)
Germany 0-1 Serbia - 18th June, Port Elizabeth (38,294 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Jovanovic (38’)
Germany 1-0 Ghana - 23rd June, Johannesburg (83,191 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Özil (60’)
Germany 4-1 England - 27th June, Blomfontein (40,000 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Klose (20’), 2-0 Podolski (32’), 2-1 Upson (37’), 3-1 Müller (67’), 4-1 Müller (70‘)
Germany 4-0 Argentina - 3rd July, Cape Town (64,100 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Müller (3’), 2-0 Klose (68’), 3-0 Friedrich (74‘), 4-0 Klose (89‘)
Germany 0-1 Spain - 7th July, Durban (60,960 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Puyol (73’)