2016 will be the first time that Germany have taken both a male and a female team to the Olympics. The Olympic football tournament will run from Thursday until 20th August and the men’s squad will be lead by Horst Hrubesch, who will be wanting to reach the final and “also win the final” on his farewell tour as a DFB coach. It would be the first time that Germany would have made it to the final of the Olympics in DFB’s history.
Germany- a tournament team. The DFB teams have earned this title through their exploits in both World Cups and European Championships over the years and with only a few exceptions they have only confirmed this reputation, winning four world titles and three continental honours. However, at the Olympics it’s a totally different story, with the DFB only making it to the podium once in 1988 in Brazil, when they lost on penalties to a Brazil side containing stars such as Jorginho, Bebeto, Romario and Careca, following a promising run in the tournament. They took home bronze following a 3-0 win over Italy in the third place play-off.
Qualification for the Olympic football tournament has been seen by the DFB as an unlucky and negative endeavour. It has taken 28 years, in which there have been six Olympic Games without a male German Olympic team, for them to once again be able to participate. They qualified for this year’s Olympics with their progression into the semi-finals of the U21 European Championship in 2015.
Teams will be competing for medals for football for the 24th time overall in Brazil, while it is only the ninth time that Germany have participated. Head coach Jupp Derwall’s amateur national team took part in 1972 after qualifying as the summer games’ host nation, however they were eliminated at the intermediate stage despite having a later World Cup winner in Uli Hoeneß, a later successful coach in Ottmar Hitzfeld as well as future Germany internationals such as Manfred Kaltz, Ronnie Worm, Klaus Wunder and Bernd Nickel. They lost the deciding match 3-2 to the GDR, with Jürgen Pommerenke, Joachim Streich and Eberhard Vogel scoring for the East Germans. Hoeneß and Hotzfeld bagged for the DFB team in front of 80,000 spectators.
Germany didn’t manage to qualify for the Olympics 12 years later but were selected by the IOC following the eastern block’s decision to boycott the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Head coach Erich Ribbeck along with Andreas Brehme and Guido Buchwald, who became World Champions six years later, made it to the quarterfinals.
Germany’s footballing history at the Olympics began in 1912 when the Germany team, which consisted of 22 players but no coach, travelled to Stockholm. The first competitive international in the DFB’s history started promisingly as Adolf Jäger, “one of the greatest geniuses of German football and founder of modern combination play,” as he was described by the first head coach of the Reich Otto Nerz, an intelligent striker from Altona, gave Germany a 1-0 lead going into half time.
The son of a shoemaker from Eimsbüttlel in Hamburg was one of the great footballing stars of years gone by, scoring eleven goals in 18 international appearances and becoming the first player to captain the team on more than ten occasions. The the 23-year old attacking artist, who played for the national team until 1924 was unfortunately helpless as the Germany team saw their goalkeeper leave the field. Albert Weber collided with the post and an opposition player while attempting to make a save and with no substitutions being allowed at the time centre-forward Willi Worpitzky was forced to deputise in goal. However, he could do nothing to stop the 5-1 defeat.
Eliminated, the German team then participated in a repêchage, in which the other travelling players got the chance to play. The Germany team beat Russia 16:0 in what is still the biggest win for Germany international during this competition and Gottfried Fuchs bagged ten goals (another unbroken record). This was however followed by 3-1 loss to Hungary and Germany’s first Olympic adventure was over.
Germany competed twice more at the Olympics with a professional team in 1928 in Amsterdam (out at the intermediate stage) and 1936 in Berlin, where the hope of a home Olympic win was extinguished by a 2-0 loss to Norway in their second match of the tournament.
Western countries started sending amateur national teams rather than their A teams from 1952. This was an initially a positive idea from the Germans perspective as Germany made it to the third place play off and only missed out on bronze due to a 2-0 defeat to Sweden. Four years later came Melbourne, where head coach Sepp Herberger’s team were eliminated in the quarterfinal by the so called state amateurs of the USSR, who consequently won the competition.
It was the GDR team that recorded the most Olympic success in the two decades leading up to 1980. Indeed, they lost two matches to the DFB team during the internal qualifier for the 1960 Olympics in Rome (2-0 and 2-1). Afterwards, their march to a precious Olympic medal was unstoppable though, as they took home Bronze at Tokyo 1964 and 1972 in Munich, gold at Montreal 1976 and silver from Moscow 1980.
The qualification system for the Olympic football tournament changed after 1980. You were firstly only allowed to select players for your team who hadn’t taken part in a World Cup. Then from 1990, the point at which a team was eliminated from the U21 European Championship decided if a team qualified for the Olympics.
After Germany snuck in the back door at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles following the East Block’s tournament boycott, it qualified once again for the Olympics through regular means in 1988 after 32 years, however, this lead to a problem as the Olympics in Korea was due to be held between the middle of September and the beginning of October, clashing with the beginning of the Bundesliga season. Many people figured that the problem would solve itself after Germany lost their first qualifier 1-0 in Romania in April 1987. But that wasn’t to be the case as head coach Hannes Lohr managed to publicly convince the team to raise their game regardless of the clash with the professional football season. The team continually improved and managed to book their ticket to Korea following wins over Greece, Denmark, Poland and lastly against Romania in Dortmund.
A compromise had to be found between DFB and the Bundesliga. A team head coach Franz Beckenbauer turned out to be an understanding ally along with most of the Bundesliga clubs. Löhr was able to travel to Korea with Jürgen Klinsmann, Frank Mill and Wolfram Wuttke, three players who had been a part of the Germany EURO squad that made it to the semi-final of the European Championship that same year and lost 2-1 to the Netherlands. He also brought three more newcomers into the squad: Thomas Häßler, Holger Fach and Karl-Heinz Riedle, and made his way to the 1990 World Cup in Italy. A trio who debuted two weeks before the journey to Korea in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win against Finland.
And so it came to pass. What had seemed like an unimaginable adventure turned out to be the most successful Olympics in the history of German football. In 1988, the games finally became a positive event for German football fans. The team, including Frank Mill, Rudi Bommer and Christian Schreier, who were at their second Olympics after 1984, defeated China 3-0 just one day after arriving in Korea and three days after the final Bundesliga matchday. The goals came from captain Mill, Klinsmann and Wuttke. The team had to admit a 2-1 defeat against Sweden, but two 4-0 victories against Tunisia and later Zambia in the quarter-finals (Klinsmann hat-trick) paved the way to the semi-final.
In a dramatic encounter against Brazil, Fach put Germany in front, but Romario equalised before four missed penalties put the gold medal within reach. Wolfgang Funkel was awarded a penalty just before the end of the match to put the game to bed. However, he hit it straight against Taffarel, who went on to save from Olaf Janssen and Wolfram Wuttke in the resulting penalt shootout. Jürgen Klinsmann was unlucky to hit the post.
"Bronze", the first Olympic medal for the DFB actually “shone like gold”, according to the headline in Kicker after the 3-0 victory against Italy in the third-place match. Kamps (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Hörster (Bayer Uerdingen), Funkel (Uerdingen), Schulz (FC Kaiserslautern), Kleppinger (Uerdingen), Sievers (Eintracht Frankfurt), Bommer (Viktoria Aschaffenburg), Häßler (FC Köln), Wuttke (Kaiserslautern), Schreier (Bayer Leverkusen), Grahammer (Bayern Munich), Klinsmann (VfB Stuttgart) and Mill (Borussia Dortmund) got their medals on 30th September 1988 in front of 60,000 fans in Seoul.
Eleven players, who at the beginning were unfamiliar, played their way over the course of two years into the hearts of the fans. And they also played themselves into the Germany first team. Klinsmann, Häßler, Riedle and Mill were all there for the World Cup triumph two years later in 1990. Fach became an established name in the team as a sweeper on the way to the World Cup. Michael Schulz was playing for VfB Oldenburg in the amateur Oberliga 16 months earlier, but because of his ball control, heading ability and brilliant tackling in South Korea, the Olympics was the spark that ignited a glittering professional career in the Germany side led by Berti Vogts.
Hannes Löhr, who very suddenly passed away recently at the age of 73, was a friend to many and was highly respected. He was the man who brought in players like Wolfram Wuttke and Frank Mill, and he said: "that was a very special time." A tournament standard team, now finally at the Olympics.
Horst Hrubesch, also respected by many, wants to wish his team all the best for a similar result 32 years later in Brazil. In a sporting and atmospheric sense, with a tournament standard team which has earned that title.
Quote: “The Olympics is in fact a unique experience. I enjoyed it and I am extremely proud that I was able to be a part of it twice.” (Frank Mill, Olympic Games participant in 1984 and 1988.)