West Germany


One of the all-time greats in World Cup history, West Germany had recently not quite lived up to their sky high expectations. They had been losing finalists in the two previous World Cup tournaments, and had crashed out to Netherlands in the semi-final of the 1988 Euros at home soil. The draw for the 1990 World Cup had not been a benign one, as they faced recently crowned European Champions Netherlands, with only one team guaranteed to qualify for the tournament from Group 4. Surely the small decline wouldn’t end up with West Germany failing to qualify for a World Cup? Read more . . .


Qualifier 1: Finland 0-4 West Germany
31.08.1988, Olympiastadion (Helsinki)
Goals: Völler 2, Matthäus, Riedle.
Line-up (5-3-2): Illgner – Brehme, Kohler, Fach, Buchwald (Rolff 27), Görtz – Matthäus (c), Littbarski, Häßler – Völler, Eckstein (Riedle 76).
Unused subs: Immel, Hermann, Thon.

Olympics: West Germany at the Seoul Olympics

Friendly: West Germany 1-0 Soviet Union
Goal: Shmatovalenko (own goal)
Line-up (5-3-2): Illgner – Reuter, Kohler (Buchwald 62), Herget, Pflügler (K Reinhardt h-t), Hermann – Möller, Rolff, Littbarski (c) – T Allofs, Waas
Amidst periods of uninspired play, the game between two second string selects saw enterprising moments. Both were hampered by a number of absentees, also due to the ongoing Olympic tournament in Seoul, but West Germany probably deserved their win on background of a greater amount of chances created. Andreas Möller certainly with an exciting debut. Buchwald had a headed goal disallowed after replacing the injured Kohler as Protasov’s marker.

Qualifier 2: West Germany 0-0 Netherlands
19.10.1988, Olympiastadion (Munich)
Line-up (5-3-2): Illgner – Berthold, Kohler, Fach, Buchwald, Brehme – Thon, Matthäus (c), Häßler – Völler, Klinsmann (Mill 67)
The two group favourites came head to head only a few months after their semi-final clash in the European Championships, and the West Germans were yearning for revenge. They were on top for large spells in a fine, scoreless game, and they showed their midfield superiority particularly before the break, when the enigmatic duo of Thon and Häßler really ran the Dutch ragged. However, they struggled to create clear cut opportunities, and van Breukelen remained largely untroubled. Fach probably had the pick of the bunch in the first half with a close range effort, whereas Thon struck the crossbar a few minutes into the second half.

Friendly: Bulgaria 1-2 West Germany
22.03.1989, Vasil Levski (Sofia)
Goals: Völler, Littbarski
Line-up (4-4-2): Illgner – Berthold, Buchwald, Kohler, Brehme – Fach (Littbarski h-t), Möller, Matthäus (c), Häßler – Riedle, Völler
Strong fight-back by the West Germans having gone a goal down in hostile surroundings.

Qualifier 3: Netherlands 1-1 West Germany
26.04.1989, De Kuip (Rotterdam)
Goal: Riedle
Line-up (5-3-2): Illgner – Reuter, Kohler (Rolff 75), Berthold, Buchwald, Brehme – Häßler, Matthäus (c), Möller – Riedle, Völler (Klinsmann 34).

Qualifier 4: Wales 0-0 West Germany
31.05.1989, Cardiff Arms Park (Cardiff)
Line-up (5-3-2): Illgner – Reuter, Reinhardt, Berthold, Buchwald, Brehme – Häßler, Fach, Möller – Riedle (Klinsmann 78), Völler (c).
It is a third West Germany draw from four matches, but they came through a difficult fixture with a vital point. Two home wins to conclude their qualification campaign should see them through to Italia ’90. Illgner saved from Rush late on in the first half, whereas the impressive Häßler probably had the visitors’ best effort when he tested Southall from distance inside the final quarter of an hour. Reinhardt with a sound debut as Rush’ marker, but he had to endure a nasty two-footed challenge from Welshman Horne, who was not even booked.

Friendly: Republic of Ireland 1-1 West Germany
06.09.1989, Lansdowne Road (Dublin)
Goal: Dorfner
Line-up (4-5-1): Illgner (Aumann h-t) – Reuter, Augenthaler, Buchwald (A Reinhardt h-t), Pflügler – Häßler, Möller, Dorfner (Fach 85), Littbarski (c), Thon – Wohlfarth 
Both teams without key players; none of the Italian based boys were in action for West Germany. Draw eventually a fair result.

Qualifier 5: West Germany 6-1 Finland
04.10.1989, Westfalenstadion (Dortmund)
Goals: Möller 2, Littbarski, Klinsmann, Völler, Matthäus (pen.)
Line-up (4-4-2): Illgner – Reuter, Augenthaler, Buchwald, Brehme – Häßler (Bein h-t), Matthäus (c), Möller (Mill 81), Littbarski – Völler, Klinsmann
After a sluggish first half, where pace is low enough for the visitors to keep up, West Germany turn on the style in the second half, and they could easily have scored more times than they did. They simply overpowered the Finns in midfield, and the front two linked up well. Möller’s first two goals at international level in front of his home crowd.

Qualifier 6: West Germany 2-1 Wales
15.11.1989, Müngersdorfer Stadion (Cologne)
Goals: Völler, Häßler
Line-up (4-4-2): Illgner – Reuter, Augenthaler (A Reinhardt h-t), Buchwald, Brehme – Häßler, Dorfner, Möller (Bein 82), Littbarski (c) – Völler, Klinsmann


Jubilation and relief on the final day of the qualifiers, as West Germany qualified for Italia’90 with a 2-1 win against Wales. It is a baffling thought that a mere goal against in the dying minutes of that match would have spelled exit from the tournament, but such were the draconic criteria for the teams ending as runner-ups in group 1, 2 and 4 in the 1990 qualification.

By comparison, there wasn’t too much that distinguished the Netherlands and West Germany in group 4. The Netherlands in general didn’t quite look the force they had been when they were crowned European Champions, and a certain ascendancy could be witnessed in their German counterparts. On the strength of their two encounters in autumn 1988 and spring 1989, West Germany probably delivered the better performance.

A crop of new and exciting midfielders were emerging in West German football in the late 80s. There was now not only Olaf Thon, but also Thomas Häßler and Andreas Möller. Adding to this the experienced Littbarski and the ever more influential Matthäus as a holding midfielder, the team combined a level of fluidity and tempo on the ball rarely anywhere else in the footballing world. This contributed to an overall more exciting West German side than the one we had seen in Mexico 1986.

Regarding the team’s formation, Beckenbauer admitted toward the end of the qualification campaign that he hadn’t yet decided about whether to field a back four or a back five. He started the qualification with a 5-3-2, but appears (for the time) to have converted to a 4-4-2 toward the end. All evidence suggests that the team was familiar with both formations, and that Beckenbauer would be able to switch according to his needs.

Final position: 2 (out of 4 – qualified as one of two second placed teams from the three groups of four)
Total record: 6 3 3 0 13-3 9
Home record: 3 2 1 0 8-2 5
Away record: 3 1 2 0 5-1 4

Player statistics

Number of players used: 22
Number of players including unused substitutes: 27
Ever-presents (540 mins): 2 (Illgner and Brehme)
Leading goalscorer: Rudi Völler (4)
Yellow/red cards: 7/0

 – overview

Augenthaler, Klaus22135
Aumann, Raimond4
Bein, Uwe2253
Berthold, Thomas3322701/0
Brehme, Andreas665401/0
Buchwald, Guido664771/0
Eckstein, Dieter1176
Fach, Holger33270
Görtz, Armin1190
Herget, Matthias1
Hermann, Günter3
Häßler, Thomas664951
Illgner, Bodo66540
Immel, Eike1
Klinsmann, Jürgen5323151
Kohler, Jürgen33255
Köpke, Andreas1
Littbarski, Pierre3332701
Matthäus, Lothar443602(1p)2/0
Mill, Frank2232
Möller, Andreas443432
Reinhardt, Alois211135
Reuter, Stefan443601/0
Riedle, Karl-Heinz32111822
Rolff, Wolfgang22278
Thon, Olaf112901/0
Völler, Rudi664844

  – game by game

NameFin (a)Ned (h)Ned (a)Wal (a)Fin (h)Wal (h)AppsMins

  – ratings

PosPlayerAverage ratingNumber of rated games
5Häßler 7,136
Explanation to table: Maximum number of rated games: 6. Player must have been rated in half or more of the games in order to appear on the list.


28.02.1990 France 2-1 West Germany
Goal: Möller
Line-up: Illgner – Berthold, Augenthaler, A Reinhardt, Brehme – Häßler, Matthäus (c), Möller, Bein – Klinsmann, Riedle (Littbaski 66)

25.04.1990 West Germany 3-3 Uruguay
Goals: Matthäus, Völler, Klinsmann
Line-up: Illgner (Aumann h-t) – Berthold, Buchwald, Kohler, Brehme – Häßler, Matthäus (c), Littbarski, Bein (Thon 68) – Klinsmann, Völler

26.05.1990 West Germany 1-0 Czechoslovakia
Goal: Bein
Line-up: Illgner – Kohler, Augenthaler, Buchwald – Häßler (Thon 76), Littbarski (Möller 69), Matthäus (c), Bein (Berthold 76), Brehme – Klinsmann (Mill 76), Völler

30.05.1990 West Germany 1-0 Denmark
Goal: Völler
Line-up: Aumann (Köpke h-t) – Kohler (Reuter 77), Augenthaler (Steiner h-t), Buchwald – Häßler (Hermann 81), Littbarski (Berthold h-t), Matthäus (c) (Thon 67), Bein (Möller 67), Brehme (Pflügler h-t) – Klinsmann (Mill 67), Völler (Riedle 67).

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