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 XVIII, we turn our attention to Brazil, rewinding to 2014...
Germany flew to Brazil under pressure to perform, having gone without a World Cup title for 24 years. The World was gripped by samba football fever and the stage was finally set, after some worrying construction delays and controversy.
But luck didn’t seem to be in favour of the Germans as Joachim Löw faced some troubling headaches over the squad. Dortmund’s talisman Marco Reus injured himself in the run up to the tournament, giving way to Shkodran Mustafi. There were doubts over the fitness of Manuel Neuer, Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger and so Captain Philipp Lahm suddenly found himself with the unusual duty of patrolling the midfield. The new makeshift German defence, which comprised of Mats Hummels, Per Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng and surprise left-back inclusion, Benedikt Höwedes stirred some jokes from the German media, who likened the lanky quartet to an “ox on a skewer” lodged in front of the goal.
The last time Germany played Portugal, they sealed third place in the 2006 World Cup playoff with a 3-1 win. Lukas Podolski was adamant that die Mannschaft had to kick-off the campaign with intent, “We have to make sure that the other teams are saying ‘Wow, the Germans are on form’”, said the striker in a pre-match interview. 10,000 German fans turned up to the contest in Salvador with another 26.36 million tuning in at home.
Löw surprised everyone with the inclusion of Mario Götze over Schürrle or Podolski and the risk paid dividends almost immediately. Götze was dragged down in the box early on and Müller duly converted the spot-kick. The Germans began to caress the ball smoothly amongst their ranks and took control of the game. After 32 minutes, Mats Hummels rose high to meet a Toni Kroos corner and made it 2-0. Portuguese tempers flared as Pepe was penalized for a rugby-like handoff on Müller, but was then shown a straight red for a rather unusual head-butt on the German, who later said, “I have no idea why Pepe came at me. Only he knows.” Germany wrap up the game just before the half time break as Müller makes it three, capitalizing on a fluffed clearance and stroking it past Rui Patricio.
The 26 degree heat and sweltering humidity in Salvador began to take its toll on the players and the game went down a gear in the second half. Yet one more chance befell Müller and he capitalised with aplomb, jumping onto a parried Schürrle cross, poking it past Rui Patricio and writing himself into the record books. Müller became the sixth German player to score a World Cup hat-trick amongst the likes of Gerd Müller(1970), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (1982) and Miroslave Klose (2002). For the seventh time in a row, Germany won their opening game. Four goals against the no.4 ranked team in the World; a good omen on the hunt for that fourth star above their badge.
From the outset, this match was no walk in the park. The Ghanaians pressed hard and tested Neuer several times early on. Muntari, Atsu and Asamoah posed a threat while Müller pushed the ball wide of the Ghana goal on a couple of occasions. The deadlock is broken after half time by a fortunate Götze goal. The young front man runs in behind the defence and nods a long ball straight onto his outstretched foot and into the goal. The sort that looks far more elegant in real time.
Was this the springboard for Germany to take control of the game? Quite the opposite; Ghana level the affair almost immediately. André Ayew gets above Mertesacker and Mustafi and thumps a header into the left corner of the net. Before the Germans managed to settle themselves, Muntari intercepts a poor pass from Lahm and sends Gyan on his way. The Ghanaian storms into the box and whips the ball past Neuer; 2-1 after 63 minutes.
Germany dug deep and brought on veterans, Klose and Schweinsteiger, who had 236 combined caps to their name. The impact was felt immediately as the 36-year-old striker stroked a bouncing ball home from inside the six yard box. “Goal for Germany! Klose’s done it!” rejoiced commentator Tom Bartel as Klose performs his trademark somersault, overcome by ecstasy and defying his age. 15 World Cup goals to his name and now on a par with the great Ronaldo.
Die Mannschaft had scraped through a tough game and the World had pricked up its ears to their leaky defensive display. Le Parisien went with the headline, “Germany is not the unstoppable machine that we assumed it was after the Portugal match.”
Joachim Löw faced a stern test at the hands of his former head coach, Jürgen Klinsmann. The USA manager would have prepared and informed his team well about the German system. There was no question of either side going for a draw. “We always fight for the win”, said Klinsmann, whilst Löw asserted “When you play for a draw, it rarely goes to plan.”
A storm was brewing in Recife which sent the match organizers into a frenzy. There was talk of delaying, relocating and abandoning the match. Eventually the weather smoothed over and the match went ahead. Germany were sporting a new red and white kit design, reminiscent of eleven Dennis the Menaces patrolling the pitch. Die Mannschaft controlled the early stages with 89% passing accuracy, yet had “endless possession but hardly any ideas” said Kicker.
After the break, Klose came on to force the issue and the Americans began to crack in the driving rain. Eventually, Germany found a way through. Tim Howards firmly parried a Höwedes header to the edge of the box, but the ball found Thomas Müller, lurking in space, who curled it into the far corner. With his ninth World Cup goal, he wins a token of justice overtaking Maradona in the all-time scorers list, who mistook him for a ball-boy at the 2010 tournament.
The USA have one good chance as the ball bounces around in the six yard box late on, but Dempsey can’t keep his header down. Both teams celebrate the final whistle and Klinsmann enthusiastically congratulates Löw, having learnt that Portugal’s 2-1 win over Ghana had sent his team through in second place; a charming end to an unremarkable affair.
Löw had some minor selection problems, with Mustafi replacing a sick Mats Hummels as well as the ongoing “number 6 conundrum” between Schweinsteiger and Khedira. However, Algeria were rather more inconvenienced by the Muslim festival of Ramadan. There was a great debate about whether professional sportsmen should be exempt from the fasting tradition. The German newspaper Bild asked the question, “Will fasting make the Algerians hungrier for goals?”
The match in Porto Alegre kicked off in the early evening and Algeria came out of the blocks quickly, managing to shock the favourites early on and score past Neuer. But the linesman raised his flag for offside. All the signs were there that Algeria were going to put up a serious fight. This match was no given. The first half was evenly balanced, dominated by the reflexes of both goalkeepers. The Algerian keeper M’Bohli made a terrific double save to deny Götze. Then another flying stop to keep out a Müller header.
In the second half, Joachim Löw brought on Schürrle for the exhausted Götze, and the Chelsea winger stamped his mark immediately, firing inches over the bar. Neuer then came to the rescue again, heading the ball away from miles outside of his box as Slimani breaks through the German defence. “That’s just my way of playing”, said Manu after the game. The 90 minutes ends 0-0 despite a wealth of chances for both teams.
Extra time began and Germany went up a gear. Schürrle finds the net almost immediately with a delicate back-heel past a seemingly unbeatable, M’Bohli. At last! Then late on in the added 30, Schweinsteiger finds himself in acres of space behind the Algerian back line. He unselfishly passes to Özil, who pokes it straight back. Just when it looked like Germany has fluffed the chance, Özil calmly picks up the ball again and slots it between the scrambling defenders. Moments from the final whistle, Algeria get a consolation as Abdelmomene Djabou converts a deep cross past Neuer. But it’s all too little too late and Germany scrape through to the quarter finals.
The German press were all but convinced; Bild replaced their match report the following day with the statement, “This text should contain the highlights of the Germany match. Sadly there were only low-points for 90 minutes, with the exception of Manuel Neuer, the giant. He was both the goalkeeper and best defender.” Expectations were not running high for the quarter final clash with France.
The Maracana stadium had never before seen a German win (two draws, three defeats) and the first heavyweight clash of the knockout stage proved a tight affair. Joachim Löw instructed the Germans to stay tight to their French counterparts to prevent the counter attack. As Otto Rehhagel said, “A little ‘old school’ can also be modern, because modern is when you win.”
Germany took the lead early doors as Mats Hummels produced an almost carbon copy of his first goal of the tournament, fending off a French defender grappling with him to nod Toni Kroos’ dangerous free kick past Lloris. France then had good chances to equalise. Once again, Neuer stepped up and stoically kept out Valbuena and then Matuidi from close range.
The second half hosts few chances from each side. Schürrle found himself unmarked in space in the box and had the chance to seal the win, but his weak effort is kicked away by Lloris. Another good save from Neuer denies Benzema before the final whistle blows. The Frankfurter Rundschau published the headline, “The hand of Neuer”: a play on Diego Maradona’s “hand of God”, which took Argentina into the semis in 1986. The team spirit in the German camp had begun to manifest itself. DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach took the microphone on the flight back to Porto Seguro and praised the substitutes, saying “phenomenal how you present yourself as a team.” He emphasised the role of Per Mertesacker, a regular feature in the starting XI, who was relegated to water bottle duty. Yet the Arsenal centre back was equally elated, “What I experienced from the bench today was sensational. I don’t want to miss that.” Even Bild changed their tune with the headline, “World Cup title, here we come!” The tables has turned, it seemed.
This was the game that raised a lot of expectation. The stylish, Brazilian samba against the efficient, German winning machine; a fascinating contest on paper. It would, however, go down as the biggest humiliation in the history of Brazilian football.
The Germans lined up in Belo Horizonte, clad in their Dennis the Menace away strip, with the unpredictable upset ahead surely unbeknown to them. Brazil’s national celebration soon turns into a funeral. Thomas Müller opened the scoring after 11 minutes, drifting away from his marker at a corner and volleying home, unchallenged. Brazil needed to a leader to step up and level the affair. Yet what followed was the most stunning six minutes in World Cup history. Klose immortalized himself in the record books with his 16th World Cup goal, dethroning the great Ronaldo atop the all-time top scorers list. Then Toni Kroos doubled the German advantage within 3 minutes with a thumping volley from just inside the box, before tapping in a pullback from Khedira. ARD Radio reporter Alexander Bleick sings “4-0! 4-0! The Germans are playing Brazil like a yoyo”. But the madness didn’t end there; number five arrives almost immediately as Khedira slots home past the exasperated Brazilians, who seemed to let Germany walk straight through them. A miraculous succession of four goals between the 23’ and 29’ minute that shocked the World. The cameras pass between shots of men, women and children in green and gold, stricken with grief and disbelief. The following day, Bild published the headline, “Without Words!” with a five page wordless spread showing the German goals to express the footballing phenomenon that silenced the world. They sold 330,000 copies more than usual and won a journalistic award for the unique idea.
In the visitors’ dressing room at half time, the team swears to rule out complacency until the final whistle blows. Brazil come out of the tunnel emotionally charged and come at Germany immediately. But Manuel Neuer is there to swat away any threats on goal. The upset then becomes a humiliation with the introduction of André Schürrle, who promptly knocked in number six before making it seven with a spectacular shot put on a postage stamp past Julio Cesar at the near post. Oscar regained a shred of pride by putting his side on the scoresheet in the 90th minute. But he merely walked back to the spot, expressionless. There was nothing to celebrate. Despite doing well to reach the semi finals given their rather below-par team, the Brazilian players were hounded by the press and public alike, even accused of treason. As Paul Hayward wrote in The Guardian, “Brazil spent $11bn on a national calamity.” For Germany, on the other hand, they had achieved the most resounding win in World Cup history. They bounced into the final as heavy favourites, brimming with confidence, pride and goals galore.
22-year-old Mario Götze demonstrated the technique and temperament of a world-class veteran to chest down Andre Schürrle’s cross and caress a left-footed volley into the net with the pressure of penalties looming. Lionel Messi and Argentina were distraught, having squandered chances to seal the crown themselves. Germany lifted the title for the first time since Rome 24 years ago, where Argentina were once again the unlucky losers.
On that fateful day in July, four years ago, the Maracana was alive and kicking with the buzz of a largely Argentine crowd amongst a wealth of green and gold-clad Brazilians mainly on Germany’s side despite the semi-final horror. More than 25,000 police, soldiers and firefighters were patrolling around the Maracana as tempers were expected to flare. Early on, Messi’s tricky footwork posed problems for the German defence and Argentina had the game’s first big chance thanks to a Kroos error. His errant header set up Higuain clear on goal, but the Real Madrid striker fluffed his shot wide. However, Higuain then converted a Lavezzi cross and sprinted off in wild celebration, unaware that the linesman had raised his flag for a clear offside. Argentina continued to trouble the German back line and a Jerome Boateng last ditch clearance was needed to keep the contest level pegging after Messi pulled back the ball into space.
Germany had their share of the attack, forcing Sergio Romero into a pair of fine saves to keep out Schürrle and Özil. Höwedes came the closest to breaking the deadlock with a crashing header that hammered into the post. In the closing stages of the 90 minutes, Kroos had a rare opening courtesy of a Mesut Özil lay-off, but the FC Bayern playmaker skewed his side-footed effort off-target.
Extra time came and the nerves were jangling. Rodrigo Palacio came close, attempting to lob Neuer yet overcooking the attempt over the crossbar. Up stepped Götze with class and composure to finally break the ice in this nail-biting stalemate, break the hearts of the Argentines and light up the final stages of a magical tournament in Brazil. Joachim Löw and Germany had triumphed and were crowned the first European team ever to win the World Cup in South America.
Germany 4-0 Portugal – 16th June, Salvador (51,081 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Müller (12’ penalty), 2-0 Hummels (32’), 3-0, 4-0 Müller (45’, 78’)
Germany 2-2 Ghana – 21st June, Fortaleza (59,621 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Götze (51’), 1-1 André Ayew (54’), 1-2 Gyan (63’), 2-2 Klose (71’)
Germany 1-0 USA – 26th June, Recife (41,876 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Müller (55’)
Germany 2-1 Algeria (a.e.t.) – 30th June, Porto Alegre (43,063 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Schürrle (92’), 2-0 Özil (119’), 2-1 Djabou (120’+1)
Germany 1-0 France – 4th July, Rio de Janeiro (74,240 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Hummels (13’)
Germany 7-1 Brazil – 8th July, Belo Horizonte (58,141 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Müller (11’), 2-0 Klose (23’), 3-0, 4-0 Kroos (24’, 26’), 5-0 Khedira (29’), 6-0, 7-0 Schürrle (69‘, 79‘), 7-1 Oscar (90‘)
Germany 1-0 Argentina (a.e.t.) – 13th July, Rio de Janeiro (74,738 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Götze (113’)