Football world cups have produced a list of memorable winners over the years. Although West Germany’s ruthlessly efficient winners of Italia 1990 are often forgotten. That team included some outrageously talented players who produced a series of powerful performances. Today we look back at their team.
Germany sealed their third World Cup win when gaining revenge over Argentina for the loss they suffered in the 1986 final. Coach Franz Beckenbauer saw his side cruise through the group stage before overcoming Holland, Czechoslovakia and England on the way to the final in Rome. Still Italia 90’ is recognised as one of the poorest World Cup tournaments of recent times culminating in a disappointing, foul-ridden and downright nasty final between holders Argentina and the form team of that summer, West Germany. Maradona and his teammates’ theatrics blighted a closely fought decider that was decided by a converted Andy Brehme penalty kick in the 85th minute. The 1990 World Cup witnessed the lowest goals-per-game average, a deluge of sendings-off and arguably the worst final ever seen. Just 115 goals were scored in 52 games at an average of 2.21 per game. There were 16 red cards and 164 bookings at an average of 3.46 per match, another record. In addition, penalty shootouts were routine – four in total – including both semi-finals. Argentina advanced at the expense of Italy and West Germany beat England, a night remembered to this date for Paul Gascoigne’s tears. Aside from their involvement in that disappointing final, the 1990 West German team still deserve their place amongst the list of best tournament winners.
In goal was Bodo Illgner and the former FC Cologne and Real Madrid shot-stopper played consistently throughout the tournament, enjoying the distinction of becoming the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in a World Cup final. Experienced centre half-pairing Jurgen Kohler and Guido Buchwald rarely put a foot wrong whilst in Italy with Buchwald doing a terrific man-marking job on Maradonna in the decider. Full backs Andy Brehme and Thomas Berthold completed a rugged back four with Inter Milan’s Brehme scoring the winner from the penalty spot in the final and curling home an outrageous effort in the second round victory over bitter rivals Holland.
Klaus Augenthaler played the ‘libero’ sweeper role to perfection and formed an intimidating defensive shield in between Kohler and Buchwald. A regular smoker throughout the tournament downtime, Augenthaler played a critical role in helping overcome England in the semi-finals and a tight last-eight encounter with the Czech. Lothar Matthaus was captain, leader both on and off the pitch and the Germans’ standout player of Italia 90’. Matthaus was 30 years old when he finally lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy but his ability to cover every inch of grass and drive his side to glory marks him out as one of the best players to ever wear the German shirt. Matthaus also contributed some stunning goals en route to claiming the trophy, beginning with two absolute crackers against Yugoslavia, a trademark long-range special against the UAE and the only goal (from the penalty spot) in the quarter-final defeat of Czechoslovakia.The experienced Pierre Littbarksi and playmaking ability of Thomas Hassler provided the creativity in the German’s midfield. Winning Italia 90’ proved a poignant moment for Littbarksi who retired following his side’s 1-0 defeat of Argentina to bring the curtain down on a 73-cap international career that began with a first appearance back in October 1981.
Littbarski was part of the German team that lost the 1982 final 3-1 to Italy in Spain and watched from the bench in 1986 after losing his place in the starting XI following a fallout with manager Beckenbauer before Argentina went on to claim a historic victory. The former FC Cologne stalwart netted a crucial winner against Colombia in the opening phase and provided pace and width on either wing as West Germany safely negotiated the knockout phase. Thomas Hassler was a diminutive playmaker who could drift in from either wing or play in the hole behind Germany’s two strikers. Hassler made up a creative, hard-working midfield trio alongside Littbarski and Matthaus and went onto win over 100 caps during a distinguished international career. Rudi Voller’s 1990 World Cup campaign will be remembered for ‘that’ spitting incident with Holland’s Frank Rijkaard during Germany’s second round victory. Both players were dismissed following the unsavoury incident but Voller returned in time for his country’s semi-final defeat of England.
Scoring five times at the 1990 tournament, Voller formed a predatory attacking partnership with fellow striker Jurgen Klinsmann and went on to play 90 times for his country and amassing 47 goals in the process. Voller guided Germany to the 2002 World Cup final before returning to Bayer Leverkusen as Director of Football. Jurgen Klinsmann will be remembered as one of the most lethal strikers in German history. A striker who played 80 times for his country, scoring 38 times, became head coach of hosts Germany and finished in third place at the 2006 World Cup finals. Klinsmann enjoyed a successful club career lining out for Stuttgart, Inter, Monaco, Spurs and Bayern Munich before retiring in 2003. Franz Beckenbauer aka ‘Der Kaiser’ remained at the helm following the Germans 3-2 loss to Maradona’s free-flowing Argentinean side following the Mexico 86’ decider. One of the greatest German footballers and coaches of all time richly deserved his Italia 90’ triumph having lifted the trophy as Captain of the 1974 winning team after featuring in the 1966 loss to England at Wembley.
The final between West Germany and Argentina has been cited as the most cynical and lowest-quality of all World Cup Finals. In the 65th minute, Argentina’s Pedro Monzon – himself only recently on as a substitute – was sent off for a foul on Jürgen Klinsmann. Monzon was the first player ever to be sent off in a World Cup Final. Argentina, weakened by suspension and injury, offered little attacking threat throughout a contest dominated by the West Germans, who struggled to create many clear goalscoring opportunities. The only goal of the contest arrived in the 85th minute when Mexican referee Edgardo Codesal awarded a penalty to West Germany, after a foul on Rudi Völler by Roberto Sensini leading to Argentinian protests. Andreas Brehme converted the spot kick to settle the contest. In the closing moments, Argentina were reduced to nine after Gustavo Dezotti, who had already been given a yellow card earlier in the match, received a red card when he hauled Jürgen Kohler to the ground during a stoppage in play. With its third title (and three second-place finishes) West Germany – in its final tournament before national reunification – became the most successful World Cup nation at the time.