All-Time Germany World Cup XI

The flow of information during this World Cup has been phenomenal. There has never been more information, apps or websites available to football fanatics who want to follow the beautiful game. One of those sites allows its users to create their ultimate XI for the English national team. Creating such a team does entail a lot of history and it makes the user aware of the historic importance of the current tournament. Today history might be in the making as Germany takes on Portugal. Let’s take a closer look at the German World Cup history, and the best players throughout the long and illustrious German World Cup history.

Goalkeeper – Oliver Kahn

Some players are simply born at the wrong time. Oliver Kahn was one of a kind and probably the best goalkeeper we have seen in the Bundesliga over the years. However, the generation of German players who were playing with him in the national team after he had taken over as Germany number 1 weren’t of the same quality as Kahn. The dire displays at the Euros in 2000 and 2004 came as a consequence of too little quality available. The World Cup wedged in between those two dreadful tournaments was a memorable one, because of the Germany national team’s tragic hero Oliver Kahn.

In the first six matches of the World Cup in Japan and South Korea Kahn showed the entire world why his nickname was ‘Titan’. One great save was followed by an even better one, slowly but surely the world started to wonder if Kahn was unbeatable between the sticks. It’s fair to say that Kahn probably was in the form of his life at the time. Unfortunately there was no happy end to this story, as it was Kahn’s mistake in the final against Brazil which allowed Ronaldo to grab a goal.

Right back – Berti Vogts

A career in the national team which strecthed over 11 years, 96 caps and 1 goal, winning the EUROs with Germany as a coach, but there is one thing that Berti Vogts is famous more than anything else: He was the man who had to face the Dutch midfield maestro Johan Cruyff in the 1974 World Cup final.

The game got off to the worst possible start, as Cruyff broke through and was fouled in the box after two minutes. Neeskens gave the Netherlands the lead from the spot and Germany was on the back foot from the start of the match. Vogts had been advised by national team Helmut Schön that he should start waging battle with Cruyff 30 meters in front of the goal. The Gladbach player himself thought that the idea was madness, but proceeded as his coach wanted at that the start of the match. The first period of the match saw the Dutch national team controlling the match entirely, which prompted Vogts to go the sideline telling his coach:

I’ll do it my way now!

Despite his coach’s objections Vogts did just that, and as the game progressed Cruyff started to become more and more unhappy with himself and his team’s performance. Vogts, who was also known as “The terrier” during his playing days, states these days that it a team performance which secured Germany the title. However, there’s little doubt that his performance against one of the greatest players that the game has ever seen was amongst the key factors in that win.

Centre back – Jürgen Kohler

His football boots may have had three stripes, but as a kid Kohler did have to put on third stripe himself, because his mother couldn’t afford proper Adidas shoes. His mother had to provide for herself and her kids, because her husband and Kohler’s father had died. Having grown up with modest means instilled a few very important values within Kohler. He has always known the value of hard work and he has certainly shown that on the pitch. Few players have been as committed on the pitch as the former Bayern, Dortmund and Juve player.

Kohler played all of the matches in the knock out stages of the 1990 World Cup, which saw Germany concede 2 goals in four matches. His stellar performances were amongst the keys for Germany’s last triumph in this tournament. Kohler featured in three World Cups and played a total of 105 matches for the German national team.

Centre back(Libero) – Franz Beckenbauer

The fact that Beckenbauer has won the European Championship and the World Cup as a player and as a coach, are in itself good enough reasons to make him one of the candidates for the all time Germany World Cup XI. However, one shouldn’t underestimate the impact Beckenbauer had on German football and the game of the German national team.

In his time as a player Beckenbauer re-invented the sweeper role, which basically saw a player sweeping up behind his defenders, to something entirely new. The Bayern legend didn’t stick to defending alone, he also roamed forward creating moments of uncertainty in amongst the opponents defenders. He was given that role for the German national team during the World Cup in 1974 as well, and he turned out to be the team’s leading figure on their way to win the World Cup for a second a time.

The way Beckenbauer interpreted his role was revolutionary, and it made him one of the best footballers of his time and an all time European football great. Besides winning both the World Cup and the EUROs, Beckenbauer also won the Bundesliga on 4 occasions and the European Cup three times. The 68-year-old was an instrumental part on all those occasions, which possibly makes him the greatest player German football has ever seen.

Left back – Paul Breitner

The former Bayern and Real Madrid player has been of the best players in the history of German football. It is, however, difficult, to find out where one should place him in this side. Breitner has both had spells on the left back and in midfield. It is, however, the World Cup of 1974 where he made the biggest impact. The Bayern player scored a brilliant goal in the 1-0 win in the opening match against Chile.

After the embarrassing loss against the GDR the fullback and the rest of the team picked up their game, and Breitner was amongst the leading figures in the team. Furthermore, at the young age of 22 Breitner showed his leadership qualities in the final against the Netherlands when he stepped up to the mark to convert the penalty which brought Germany back into the game.

However, Breitner was known as a football rebel throughout most of his career. Helmut Schön put a big portion of the blame for the players almost going on strike ahead of the 1974 on the left back. Schön even went as far as saying that he didn’t want “this Maoist” anywhere near him. After the World Cup in 1974 Breitner and the DFB were at a constant conflict, and the the talented player didn’t make a full return to the team until 1982.

Right midfielder – Helmut Rahn

He was simply known by the nickname ‘Der Boss’, which probably tells you all you need to know already. National team coach Sepp Herberger appreciated Rahn’s ability to keep up the mood within the team. Back in 1954 Rahn didn’t make the team during the first two group matches, but he was given the chance in Germany’s 3-8 loss to Hungary. The Essen born player scored a goal and was one of the better players on the pitch. From there on out Rahn kept his place in the team. He repaid Sepp Herberger by scoring one more goal on the road to the final.

Rahn stood for one of German football history’s most legendary moments in the final against Hungary. After the heavy defeat against in the group stages, Germany were outsiders in the final. Surprisingly Germany did manage to get back from a 2 goal deficit and was towards the end chasing a third goal. Der Boss had scored the 2-2 equaliser in the 18th minute of the match. A moment of pure magic and history occured in the 84th minute, when Rahn managed to snatch up the ball outside the area, took it in his stride, taking it into the area and scoring the 3-2 winner from 13 yards.

The German broadcaster Herbert Zimmermann brought that moment into million of German homes, and his radio commentary of that goal is still legendary to this very day. This is how Zimmermann commented on that moment:

Header – cleared – from the back Rahn should go for a shot – Rahn shoots – Goooooooal, Gooooooal, Gooooal!

In the following World Cup Germany finished 4th, and Rahn was as prolific as ever, scoring 6 goals during the tournament. After the tournament in Sweden Rahn came in second in the vote for the title of European footballer of the year.

Central midfielder – Lothar Matthäus

If only Matthäus could be as wise in his word selection and his selection of life partners as he was in his selection of passes and his positioning on the pitch. He probably would have been the smartest MENSA member alive by now. His long and ilusterious career in the German national team stretched from 1980 to 2000, making the midfielder and libero the only German player to have competed in five World Cups. Matthäus has played a total of 150 matches for Die Nationalmannschaft and scored 23 goals.

His best performances during those 20 years came at World Cups. Back in 1986 Matthäus ruled the midfield together with the experienced Felix Magath, and the two of them were key components in the team’s run which was put to an end by Argentinia in the final. Matthäus’s goal in the round of the last 16 against Marocco were amongst the highlights from the tournament.

Four years later the German national team reached the World Cup for final for the third consecutive time. Matthäus had once again been one of the leading figures in the German midfield, scoring four goals on the way to the final. One of German football’s most legendary moments occured in the final against Argentine when Germany was awarded a penalty. Matthäus was the designated penalty taker, but chose to leave the penalty to Andreas Brehme instead, who converted the spot kick which remained the only goal of the match.

Left midfielder – Fritz Walter

“Fritz, it’s your weather”, Sepp Herberger told his captain on the way to the final in Bern back in 1954. Walter was one of the players who thrieved in the rain. The legendary Germany coach Herberger saw upon Walter as his extended arm on the pitch, whilst Walter respectfully called Herberg “Chef”. Walter had been the brain behind the success Kaiserslautern were celebrating in the 50s, and Walter chose to include five players from that team in his squad. The then 33-year-old Walter was their leader on and off the pitch.

The match in Bern was turned around, despite Hungary taking an early 2-0 lead, partly also because of Walter’s efforts on the pitch. Rahn’s 2-2 equaliser came after a corner kick from none other than Fritz Walter. Four years later on when Germany were embarking on their defence of the title Herberger managed to convince Walter to join his team in Sweden. Walter was 37 years old at that point, but he could still dominate a game much to the surprise of the German public. Germany made it all the way to the semi finals also in part of Walter’s valiant efforts on the pitch.

Walter ended his career after the World Cup in Sweden. The Kaiserslautern legend has played 61 games and scored 33 goals for Germany, in a career as an international which lasted 18 years(only Matthäus has been part of the national team for a longer period of time). Herberger even tried to convince the then 41-year-old Walter to join him and his team in Chile in 1962. Walter declined his mentor’s request, because he had ended his career three years earlier. Walter had scored 327 goals in 384 matches during his 21 years at Kaiserslautern, which is a very impressive record for a midfielder.

Striker – Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

“Mon dieu, Rummenigge”, French president Francois Mitterrand exclaimed when the Bayern player was subbed onto the pitch during the semi final of the 1982 World Cup. France had taken a 2-1 lead and Germany were chasing the game in extra time. Rummenigge had made a surprisingly quick recovery from what seemingly was a torn muscle fibre. Derwall‘s last stitch effort seemed to backfire as France managed to get their third goal, however, Rummenigge managed to get on the score sheet 7 minutes from time and Klaus Fischer pulled the sides back to a 3-3 draw. Germany went in the end through to the final after a penalty shoot out.

Rummenigge competed in a total of three World Cups, in the last two of them he struggled with injuries, but despite that he managed to total 9 goals during his World Cup appearances. Furthermore, his performances inspired two English artists to record a song about him.

Striker – Gerd Müller

Miroslav Klose has now become all-time Germany’s top scorer, but the Lazio man himself is the first one to admit that he does fall short of Gerd Müller’s accomplishments. The career of Gerd Müller got off to a somewhat bumpy start, his first coach at Bayern ‘Tschik’ Cajkovski wasn’t all that convinced that he was a great player, asking the question what he was supposed to do with a small fat man.

Müller should soon prove to be one of a kind, there has probably never been a player with such a keen goal instinct before or since. In his 15 years at Bayern Müller scored a whopping total of 398 goals in 453 matches, making ‘Der Bomber der Nation’ the most successful goal scorer in the Bundesliga’s history(by a margin of 97 goals).

It’s hard to top that, but Müller’s record in the national team is even better than in the Bundesliga. He has scored 68 goals in 62 appearances and has scored 14 goals during the World Cups in 1970 and 1974. In the tournament in Mexico Müller scored 1o goals and later won the title of European footballer of the year. His last goal at a World Cup was the 2-1 winner in the final against the Netherlands.

Below you can see all of Müller’s goals during the 1970 and 1974 World Cup.

Striker – Uwe Seeler

The HSV legend is one of the few players who have competed for Germany in four World Cups. Back in 1965 Seeler caught an achilles injury which usually would have ended most players careers, but Seeler fought back and competed in two more World Cups for the German national team. In the end Seeler ended up playing a total of 21 matches in the World Cup, scoring 9 goals and assisting 3 goals in the process. At the end of his career in the national team Seeler had scored 43 goals in 72 matches, making him the player with the best goal to match ratio amongst the players who have competed 70 or more times for the German national team.

Furthermore, what made Seeler an entertaining and great player to watch was the fact that he was capable of pulling off goals that on the onset were seemingly impossible to score. One of these goals came in the quarter final match against England in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Germany were down by 2-1 and were chasing the equaliser against the team which had defeated them in the final four years earlier. A long cross came into the area, and Seeler with the back to the goal, managed to somehow get off a header with the back of his head which flew over the keeper and into the goal, giving Germany the vital 2-2 goal.

The player who was nicknamed ‘The fat man’ was chased by several teams from abroad, many of whom offered him big salaries. He always decided to stay in Hamburg. In his long lasting career Seeler managed to score 404 goals in 476 matches for HSV. That in itself would be enough to make him a German football legend, however if one adds Seeler’s accomplishments for the national team into the mix there’s little doubt that he is one of the all time greats of the sport.

Who would be in your all time Germany XI? Tell us in the comment section below!

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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