Having negotiated their way through what had been a tough first phase group along with the Netherlands, the Nationalmannschaft would line up in the semi-finals against hosts Sweden. Germany’s path through to the semis had as much to do with their own performance as it had to do with Scotland’s 3-0 victory over the CIS, something that would be acknowledged by German supporters brandishing a banner saying “thanks Scotland”.
With the Dutch playing outsiders Denmark in the other semi-final, Germany’s meeting with the Swedes would be a rematch of the 1958 World Cup semi-final – an historic and controversial encounter that had seen Sepp Herberger’s side go down 3-1 to the hosts amid a series of at times curious refereeing decisions.
Sweden themselves had made the semis with little fuss, drawing 1-1 with France and beating neighbours Denmark 1-0 before coming from behind to beat England 2-1 in what was probably the most exciting game of what was in truth a fairly dull group. Their man of the moment was the youthful Tomas Brolin, whose well-taken winner eight minutes from time against the Three Lions had ensured his sides passage into the semis at the top of the group.
After having to make do with a patchwork defence in the previous game against the Dutch,Nationaltrainer Berti Vogts was once again able to call upon Guido Buchwald and Stefan Reuter, both of whom returned to the starting line-up. Another key change would be the retention of Thomas Helmer, who replaced Manfred Binz at sweeper as part of a similar attacking 1-2-5-2 that had started against Scotland. Buchwald returned in place of Michael Frontzeck to join Jürgen Kohler as part of the two-man defensive unit, while Matthias Sammer joined the fit-again Reuter alongside Thomas Häßler, Stefan Effenberg and skipper Andy Brehme in midfield – with the unlucky Andy Möller being consigned to the bench. Up front, Vogts kept his two fit strikers, Jürgen Klinsmann and Karl-Heinz Riedle.
On what was a pleasant June evening in Stockholm in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, both national anthems were dutifully respected – a marked contrast to the all too predictable pre-kickoff shenanigans that taken place a few days earlier during the Nationalmannschaft’smeeting against the Netherlands. It made a refreshing change to hear the unaccompanied soloist singing both anthems not being drowned out by moronic chanting, and it immediately made for a good atmosphere among the crowd of just under thirty thousand. Italian referee Tullio Lanese got the game underway, with the home side playing in their traditional yellow and blue and the Germans in their familiar Schwarz und Weiß.
Germany started brightly, and within minutes of the kick-off both Klinsmann and Riedle provided an indication of the danger they presented to the Swedish defence. There would be nothing spared in the challenges either, though Signore Lanese was quick to lay down the law when Effenberg was booked for a late and somewhat unnecessary challenge on Swedish skipper Jonas Thern with just three minutes on the clock.
Germany attempted to stamp their authority on the game from the start, and little Thomas Häßler was once again showing the form that had impressed many during the entire tournament. He was quickly able to get into his stride, and with five minutes gone he played a wonderful one-two with Effenberg, finding Sammer whose rolled a delightful first-time ball into the path of the marauding Klinsmann. The blond striker’s right-foot shot was firm and on target, but was well parried by Swedish ‘keeper Thomas Ravelli who probably had the feeling that he would be in for a busy evening.
With ten minutes gone Riedle was clumsily bundled over by Jan Eriksson just outside the penalty area, leaving things perfectly situated for another Thomas Häßler special. The little man didn’t disappoint, providing a neat variation of the trick he had pulled off against the CIS by curling the ball with his right foot over the wall and into the left side of the net with ‘keeper Ravelli rooted to the spot. It was yet another superb execution, followed by that now familiar charge towards the touchline and fist-pumping celebration.
The onus was now on the home side to chase, knowing that at the same time that they had to remain patient and avoid being punished on the break. Germany were retaining possession brilliantly, adding to the frustration of the home crowd, and try as they might the Swedes were finding it difficult to get a hold of the ball. Riedle was booked was a mistimed challenge on Roland Nilsson, but as the half hour approached the visitors had quickly established almost complete control with their patient passing game. The Swedes could hardly get a sniff of the ball, and when they did they either gave it away through their impatience or were quickly closed down.
The patient build-up play by Berti Vogts’ side in inself created a constant danger for the Swedes, for at any moment it would take just one killer pass to engineer a swift and concerted move forward. Just after the half-hour mark Effenberg played a fine ball towards the Swedish box which was neatly backheeled by Riedle, leaving it in the path of Sammer who had made a swift and silent break down the left. The flame-haired midfielder ran through on goal, and his deft flick with the outside of his right boot was well blocked by the alert Ravelli.
Ten minutes from half-time Buchwald received a yellow card when he clattered into the back of Brolin, becoming the third German player to go into the referee’s notebook. This indiscipline – all of the bookings could very easily have been avoided – was probably the only downside of what had been a highly satisfactory performance. Things might might have been even better some seven minutes before the break, as Brehme – or, according to co-commentator Ron Atkinson, Bremner – lashed a ferocious left-footed free-kick from all of thirty yards that cannoned off the crossbar with the hapless Ravelli left pawing and flapping at thin air. The Mannschaft’s confidence and dominance was such that even fullback Jürgen Kohler was finding himself in a position to shoot at goal.
With minutes to go before the break Reuter became the fourth German player to be booked, though on this occasion the Italian official clearly got it wrong. Reuter had clearly won the ball, but Joakim Nilsson’s less than elegant fall was convincing enough to make the ref reach for his pocket. Sweden finally put together a decent move in the dying moments of the half as Thern’s well-timed pass found Martin Dahlin who was excellently challenged by Kohler, but even then there was enough time for a chance to be made at the other end as another Brehme free-kick, this time struck hard and low to the right, was just about held by Ravelli.
Germany’s single-goal lead at the break flattered the home side, who on another day could very easily have been two or three goals down. It has been the Mannschaft’s most effective performance in the tournament thus far, with the possible exception of the first twenty-five minutes of the second half against the Dutch. Forty-five more minutes of the same, and they would be in their fourth European Championship final.
The second half started with no changes to either side, and the home side started brightly. After Brolin had been fouled just outside the German box Kennet Andersson tried to match Häßler by striking a firm right-footed shot, but Bodo Illgner in the German goal was more than equal to it as he tipped the ball over the bar. This early scare only served to goad the Germans back into action, but unlike the first half the play was far more evenly balanced as the home side continue to push men forward in search of an equaliser.
Just as the Swedes looked to have established a foothold on the game, the energetic Häßler once more took it upon himself to take on on the opposition just short of the hour mark. Having disposessed Jonas Thern just inside the Swedish half, Häßler played a neat one-two with Sammer and charged down the left. Sammer continued his run forward and received the ball again just outside the opposition box some ten yards from the byline, before cutting a perfect ball back for the unmarked Riedle who stabbed it across Ravelli and into the right-hand side of the net.
Having conceded the second goal the home side had no choice but to throw everything forward, and on sixty-four minutes were provided with the perfect lifeline by the Italian referee. Klas Ingesson had charged into the German box and was making his way towards nowhere in particular, but Thomas Helmer slid in perfectly and took the ball away with a superbly-timed challenge. As the rather ghostly-looking Ingesson collapsed like a rather heavy sack of uncooked Swedish meatballs the referee should have signalled for a corner, but instead pointed to the penalty spot.
The unfortunate Helmer was clearly perplexed and skipper Brehme made his feelings known to the official, but there was little they could do as Tomas Brolin prepared himself to take the kick. Brolin sent his shot low to left as Illgner dived the wrong way, and marked his success with his famous pirouette and fist in the air celebration. Out of nowhere, Sweden were somehow back in the match.
As Sweden continued to press Germany responded by trying to slow the pace of the game down, resulting in a rather scrappy period of play that saw Martin Dahlin get a booking from the fussy Mr. Lanese only then to avoid further punishment for what looked like a dangerously high boot against Jürgen Kohler. Neither side could get a decent shot on goal until well inside the final ten minutes, when another well-worked German move saw Klinsmann’s attempt the place the ball into the low right-hand corner superbly saved by Ravelli.
With two minutes to go Thomas Helmer picked the ball up halfway inside the Swedish half, beating his man before making his way out towards the right touchline. Cutting back inside, he then delivered a perfectly-weighted ball into the penalty area that was quickly seized upon by Riedle, who ran between two defenders to reach the ball and guide it past Ravelli from the right corner of the six-yard box.
With the score at 3-1 and with less than two minutes to go Berti Vogts’ side had clearly done enough to book their place in the final, but no sooner had they reestablished their two-goal cushion everybody in a white shirt seemed to fall asleep. When Ingesson hit a high looping ball into the German box more in desperate hope than with any real ambition, Kennet Andersson was able to float behind the inattentive German defence and almost casually beat Illgner’s rather sleepy challenge.
It had been an extremely sloppy goal to concede, but the remaining minutes passed without any further danger for Berti Vogts’ side. They had been by far the better side over the course of the ninety minutes, and it was fair to say that the deceptively close 3-2 final scoreline more than flattered their Swedish hosts who could very easily have conceded four or five.
When the final whistle blew Germany had made their way into a record fourth European Championship final, where they expected to be facing their old adversaries from the Netherlands. However when the second semi-final took place the following evening, it would throw up the mother of all surprises. Following a dramatic 2-2 draw that had seen the defending champions and tournament favourites twice come from behind, the Danes would prevail in a high-tension penalty shootout. After the hero of 1988 Marco van Basten had missed his side’s second kick, it was left up to Danish defender Kim Christofte to seal theOranje’s fate.
The Danes had not even expected to be at the tournament, and yet somehow they had made it all the way through the to final itself.
Germany: Illgner – Helmer – Kohler, Buchwald – Reuter, Häßler, Effenberg, Sammer, Brehme (c) – Klinsmann (90. Doll), Riedle
Sweden: Ravelli – R. Nilsson, J. Eriksson, Björklund, Ljung – K. Andersson, Thern, Ingesson, J. Nilsson (60. Limpar) – Brolin, Dahlin (73. Ekström)
Final Score: 3-2 (1-0)
Goal Scorers: Häßler 11., Riedle 59., 88. / Brolin pen 64., K. Andersson 89.
Assistants: Domenico Ramicone (Italy), Maurizio Padovan (Italy)
Fourth Official: Pierluigi Pairetto (Italy)
Yellow Cards: Effenberg, Riedle, Buchwald, Reuter / Ljung, Dahlin
Red Cards: – / –
Check out more match reports like this at Schwarz und Weiss, a comprehensive history of the German National Team
Header courtesy of dfb.de
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