3x World Champion, 3x World Cup Runner-Up, 3x European Champion,
2x European Championship Runner-Up, since 1954 a regular feature
in every World Cup, since 1972 participant in every European
This awesome record has catapulted Germany into the Top 10 of every
international rankings and makes them an automatic favourite for
every tournament the team enters. But is it the same this year ?
Read on to find out !
EURO 2000 QUALIFICATION
|Germany finished first
in Group 1 with 19 points. After a rocky start
against Turkey, the strongest opponent in the group, where the team
was missing half of its' regulars due to several reasons they went on
a 6-game winning streak clinching the direct qualification for Euro
2000 with a cynical 0-0 home draw again against Turkey in Munich.
The quality of play was quite different: It ranged from poor (in Turkey,
in Moldova) to "Arbeitssiege" (working victories) as we say in Germany
(in Northern Ireland, both Finland games) to real "gala performances"
against Moldova and Northern Ireland at home where the team played
some very good football at times.
The key to success was the very solid defense. With only 4 goals against
from 8 games Germany posts the third best record of all teams during the
Euro qualification (only Sweden (1) and Romania (3) were better). The
team scored an average of 2.5 goals per game, Oliver Bierhoff was the
topscorer with 7 goals (from 8 games).
RECENT FRIENDLY MATCHES
|If you did not want to
spoil your afternoon/evening there was one thing
you couldn't do for the past 2 years: Watch Germany friendly matches !
With maybe one or two exceptions (partly in Miami against Colombia and
in Zagreb against Croatia) all these games where not only dull and
boring but also downright embarrassing !
You have to exclude the Confederations Cup last July which Germany
entered for political reasons (World Cup 2006 bid) because the players
who took part there were pulled out of their holidays, "off the beach"
so to speak, without *any* preparation, and put into a national team
jersey to play football in the 40°C heat of Mexico's Guadalajara.
But there are no excuses for the "non-performances" against Malta (!),
Romania, Holland (both games), Scotland at home (!), against Norway and
the most recent "masterpiece" against Switzerland in Kaiserslautern.
All these games were led half-arsed, the players made no efford at all
and played some of the worst "stationary" football you will ever see !
This of course perfectly serves the cliché of the lazy, spoilt
"millionarios" that only turn up when money is on the line and who
don't feel any pride in wearing the "Adler auf der Brust", the "eagle
shirt" anymore. Because of that the attitute of the 08/15 German fan
to his national team is very negative at this time.
But the DFB, the German FA, has to take some of the blame themselves as
well. They have booked friendly matches during impossible times like the
Confederations Cup which fell right into the preparation phase for the
club season, the game against Norway which was the final game before the
winter break or against Switzerland which fell right into the decisive
phases of league play and European Cup.
Therefore it's no suprise a lot of players didn't make an efford because
their club coaches of course told them "not to get hurt" i.e. to take it
HISTORY AGAINST GROUP OPPONENTS
GAMES AGAINST ENGLAND
|29.06.1982||Madrid||England||0-0||Germany||Draw||WC Stage 2|
|* We got screwed !|
|Overall Record: 26
games, 10 wins, 4 draws, 12 losses, 32-57 goals
After England literally spanked our ass for the first two thirds of
this century everything changed on a meaningful June night in 1966.
A young German team led by a 21-year-old Libero named Beckenbauer
had just been screwed out of their 2nd World Cup thanks to the infamous
"Wembley Goal", a shot which clearly did not cross the line but which
was given by Swiss referee Dienst.
On that evening the likes of Hottges, Schnellinger, Overath as well
as the man they would later call the "Kaiser" got together and planned
to take revenge as soon as possible. No sooner said than done and only
two years later in Hannover Germany celebrated their first ever victory
Since then the English have never managed to beat us in any competition,
be it the World Cup or the European Championships again. Furthermore
Germany has eliminated England from two World Cups and two European
Championships ever since posting a record of 4-2-0 in competitive games
and a current 13-year unbeaten streak against the Brit's.
GAMES AGAINST PORTUGAL
|Overall Record: 13
games, 6 wins, 5 draws, 2 losses, 18-10 goals
The history against Portugal of course isn't as impressive as against
England but there have been a couple of good games between the two
countries as well.
The most remarkable from a German perspective perhaps being the 1-2
in 1985 of a Germany in generation change against Paulo Futre's Portugal
which had made it to the Final of the European Championships only a
The most recent clashes were in 1996, two of them for a berth for World
Cup 98. Both games ended in a draw which meant that Germany was
going to France while Portugal, perhaps *the* technically most gifted
team in Europe, had to stay at home.
GAMES AGAINST ROMANIA
|Overall Record: 10
games, 7 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss, 33-11 goals
With a record of only 1 loss out of 10 games and an average result
of 3-1 one could argue that Germany owns Romania's ass. But after
an impressive showing in the last World Cup as well as the Maltese
friendly 1½ years ago everybody in Germany is well aware what a
compact and strong team Romania currently has.
Interestingly both teams have already faced eachother at a European
Championship, in 1984, after both won their respective qualification
groups. The game ended in 2-1 favour of Germany but that still didn't
help them as they lost out to Portugal, another team from this years'
Group A, by a single point. Romania finished dead last in 1984.
JENS NOWOTNY - DEFENSE
Born : 11.01.1974 in Malsch
Position : Central Back
Height : 1,87m
Weight : 87kg
Clubs : Karlsruher SC 1991-1996
Bayer Leverkusen 1996-present
Caps : 17
Goals : 0
Debut : 30.04.1997 against Ukraine
Although the majority of people think of Oliver Kahn or Lothar Matthäus
as the "star" in defense I have chosen Jens Nowotny instead. Nowotny is
the central defender of Bundesliga runner-up Bayer Leverkusen. At this
moment he is the best "pure" defender Germany has. He is rated as one
of the 5 best defenders in Europe.
Nowotny has no obvious weaknesses. He is big, strong, authoritarian,
has won more tackles in the Bundesliga than *any* other player for the
past 3 years, he has pace and no concentration lapses. Before moving
to Leverkusen and being converted into a defender Nowotny played a real
Libero at Karlsruhe.
Because he played in this free role for 5 years he also has quite good
offensive capabilities. Although his advances into attack never reached
the level of a Sammer or Matthäus they are a dangerous weapon as
they're well-timed and as Nowotny is a very good passer.
Nowotny has a very good tactical understanding of the game and knows
exactly when to move forward and when it's better to stay back.
Therefore a lot of Germany's success will depend on how well he and
Matthäus can coordinate their rushes into offense while the other
player covers for him at the back.
CHRISTIAN ZIEGE - MIDFIELD
Born : 01.02.1972 in Berlin
Position : Left Midfield
Height : 1,86m
Weight : 78kg
Clubs : Bayern München 1990-1997
AC Milan 1997-1999
FC Middlesbrough 1999-present
Caps : 48
Goals : 8
Debut : 10.06.1993 against Brazil
Some people claim Christian is the only World Class midfielder Germany
has left. The sensitive left-footed winger whose inspiring play helped
Germany to Euro 96 and who only missed the World Cup two years before
due to a severe injury is back on track in Middlesbrough after two
below average seasons at AC Milan.
The Berlin-born Ziege is one of Germany's technically most gifted
players. He is very dynamic, has a very good understanding of the
game and has a dangerous shot with both his stronger left as well as
his right foot. The aspect of his game that still needs improvement
though is his crossing which highly depends on his daily form.
If Germany has plans to progress further into the tournament they need
a Ziege at his best scoring goals himself as well as creating goals
while untiringly marching up and down the left flank and also shifting
more into the centre from time to time where he can be very dangerous
MEHMET SCHOLL - ATTACK
Born : 16.10.1970 in Karlsruhe
Position : Playmaker/Support Striker
Height : 1,76m
Weight : 69kg
Clubs : Karlsruher SC 1989-1992
Bayern München 1992-present
Caps : 24
Goals : 3
Debut : 26.04.1995 against Wales
Mehmet's career in the national team resembles a wild rollercoaster
ride: As an understudy to Thomas "Icke" Häßler an Andy Möller, two
of Germany's best playmakers of all time, he made his debut in 1995
After he successfully started in Germany's final 3 games at Euro 96
everybody expected him to be handed the role of playmaker after the
tournament as Möller and Häßler at age 29 and 30 would be past their
best for World Cup 98.
But the stubborn Berti Vogts held on to the pair which led to a
disastrous showing in France. Furthermore he didn't even include
Scholl in the roster despite Mehmet's excellent form (5 goals from
the final 8 games of the season) which caused a national outcry.
Now after the generation change was done and among many others Möller
and Häßler had basically retired from the national team again everyone
expected this to become "Scholl's Team" and Euro 2000 "his tournament".
So what does coach Ribbeck do ?
He recalls 34-year-old "Icke" Häßler who although with 8 goals and 11
assists played a brilliant season and is just experiencing his "Second
Spring" but through this move he is of course questioning Scholl's
leadership abilities. So what is going to happen now ?
Scholl and Häßler will have to arrange themselves so they won't get
into eachothers' way. Perhaps one, most likely Häßler, will play
further back in midfield, while the other, Scholl, might play as
support striker directly behind the forwards.
Support striker is also the ideal position for the man the "Kaiser"
once called an "inconsistant Del Piero". Because just like the Italian
phenomenon Scholl has a very good dribble, has creativity, can score
himself or create goals, is excellent at set pieces, etc.
Everybody in Germany is excited to see what the man who has often been
written off as "teenie idol" and "eternal talent" is able to do in the prime of
his career, at age 29, when he finally has the chance to do so.
Can he make Euro 2000 "his tournament" ?
Germany, under new coach Erich Ribbeck, has already played in every
tactical formation there is. 3-4-3, 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-3-3, with Libero
in front of the defense, with Libero behind the defense, with 1, 2,
3 or even 4 attackers -- in the past 1½ years almost anything has
Because of that there are many question marks how Germany will actually
play when they take the pitch for the first time on June 12th against
Romania. Since the tactical formation, as everywhere else, completely
depends on the players which are actually playing, I'm just going to
run down the list of players and their chances of making the first 11
so we might possibly get the idea in the end:
Germany's undisputed n°1 in goal is the at this time perhaps best keeper
in the world, Oliver Kahn. Behind him there is Jens Lehmann of Borussia
Dortmund, who despite making some blunders in the past, is just like
Kahn able of making the "impossible save". Germany's third keeper is
Hans-Jörg Butt of Hamburg (soon to be Leverkusen) who has been the
rising goalkeeping star in the Bundesliga for the past two years.
In front of Kahn the ageless Lothar Matthäus will play a Libero that,
dependent on the situation will do his job either as "playmaker in the
teams' own half" or as traditional sweeper. The defenders will be Jens
Nowotny plus one of Markus Babbel or Thomas Linke. On the wings Boro's
Christian Ziege and Hertha's Sebastian Deisler have emerged as first
Both players are very good going forward without being a liability in
defense. And now it's getting tricky: In central midfield 4 players are
quarrelling over two spots. They are the more defensive-oriented Jens
Jeremies and Dietmar Hamann as well as the more offensive Thomas
Häßler and Michael Ballack.
Jeremies has been a first time regular for most parts of the Euro 2000
qualification campaign but unfortunately he picked up a shoulder injury
in Bayern's return leg with Real Madrid. Should he not be 100% healthy
Leverkusen's Carsten Ramelow will be his replacement.
In attack there is a clearer hierarchy: Captain Oliver Bierhoff, despite
his current scoring drought, is still the number one in attack. His 1st
replacement would be Bayer Leverkusen's Ulf Kirsten, the best Bundesliga
goalgetter of the 1990s followed by his teammate Paulo Rink and Carsten
Jancker who jumped onto the Euro train at the very last second thanks
to strong showings in the recent weeks.
By leaving counterattack specialists Oliver Neuville and Alexander
Zickler off the roster coach Ribbeck has robbed Germany of a different
type of forwards and basically the option to play the counterattack at
all. That way Germany's style of play will be mainly possession-oriented
with the goal of creating as many scoring chances as possible.
That should be achieved by oftenly using the wings to provide "air
monsters" like Bierhoff, Jancker or Bode with the necessary crosses
that are vital for their game. Players like Ziege, Scholl or Bierhoff
also have the ability of winning free kicks in and around the area.
So finally the eventual formation might look like this:
DEFENSE : Once Germany has taken the lead the defense works very
well allowing the opponent very little scoring opportunities. Nowotny is
able to mark his opponent completely out of the game and both Babbel
and Rehmer do a good job in guarding "their" forward and at the same
time covering one of the flanks. Finally Matthäus enjoys "natural respect"
from the opponents: He may not run as much as he used to 10 years ago
but his positional play, tactical understanding and even pace and tackling
are still World Class.
EXPERIENCE : Despite the relatively young age of some of the players
like Ballack (23), Deisler (20) or Jancker (25) each and every of
the 22 guys on the roster either has 3 years of league play under
their belts, have played in the Champions League or in a major
tournament. Finally there are experienced veterans like Matthäus
(played in 5 (!) World Cups) or Häßler (has won both World Cup and
European Championships before) who have been through it all and who
can indefinitely help the younger players in difficult situations.
"GERMAN VIRTUES" : Discipline, moral, fighting spirit and the sheer
unbreakable will to never give up and fight 'til the last drop of
blood which have helped German teams to come back from seemingly
impossible situations in the past. Other teams may have a "second
breath" as well but Germany often has the "third" or even "fourth
PASSING GAME : Germany's passing game is very accurate, the players
rarely waste a pass. They also do a good job in changing the pace
of passing e.g. they often slowly play the ball around in their own
half to lure the opponent out of defense and then quickly change
into "attacking mode", often via extremely precise 50 meter passes
from Matthäus or Ballack.
SIZE & STRENGTH : This German team has an average size of 1,83m
with six players nearly or well into the 1,90's. Thanks to that they will
be able to tower over their opposition, especially during set pieces.
The creative squad of Scholl, Häßler & Co. aside all players are
extremely well built as well and in Jeremies and Rehmer Germany has
two of the fastest players in World Football.
COORDINATION BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE TEAM :
When under pressure the wingers and central midfielders move back deep
into the teams' own half to help the defenders. As far as that it's nothing
special but when the team regains possession the midfielders often
take ages to move back up the pitch. Furthermore the defenders too
seldomly move up to midfield to create majority situations or even
into attack to create a surprise moment while the strikers don't
let themselves fall back to midfield and help often enough but just
stand in the opponents half and wait for balls.
CREATIVITY : When the team isn't in "fighting mode" the midfield has
often had great trouble in tearing apart a packed defense because of
a lack of creativity. When Germany plays with Bierhoff as attacking
tower, the team often only punts the ball upfield to make use of his
aerial superiority. Not only does the captain soon become tired by
having to fight for so many balls but this is also quite predictable
for the opponent.
LACK OF CONTINUITY : Around 40 players have been tried in the past
two years, in the qualification matches for Euro 2000 still 30 players
took the pitch of whom coach Erich Ribbeck now has the difficult task
of choosing the best 11 which shall represent the German colors in
Belgium and Holland.
LACK OF PRESSING : Instead of attacking the opponent right in his
own half and obstructing his buildup play the forwards and attacking
midfielders often only run around near the centre of the pitch and
wait for the defenders/defensive midfielders to win the ball back.
This is especially evident when the likes of Bierhoff and Kirsten
play up front together. For a pressing fan like me this is of course
a torture and makes me wish back a 1992 Klinsmann on top of his
game because he pressed until he had to puke !
THE COACH : Erich Ribbeck has the stigma of being an "eternal loser".
Even though he has coached 5 illustrous teams in Eintracht Frankfurt,
1.FC Kaiserslautern, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern
München during his 20-year-career all he managed was to win the UEFA
Cup with Leverkusen in 1988. After he was out of the business for
nearly 3 years he accepted the job of national team coach in 1998.
The biggest scepticism is not about whether or not he can pick a team
or make the necessary tactical changes (as the media will mainly force
his hand there) but can he really motivate the players to go all the
I figure most if not all questions will be answered on July 2nd at the
latest. Let's hope for an exciting and entertaining Euro with the main
action taking place *on the pitch* and not on the streets ! Until then,
so long everybody !