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?
The 1988 Euros hadn’t given West Germany a necessary lift. The team gave an underwhelming impression, and domestic football was also seeing declining attendences and widespread complaints of few goals and dull games. Beckenbauer, the Team Chef, had more or less given a promise of more attacking-minded football after the 1986 World Cup, where his team had looked somewhat devoid of imagination. Beckenbauer was now believed to cogitate on changes to the team in the wake of the 1988 Euros, as also was expected by the public at large. Hermann Neuberger, the president of the German Football Federation (DFB), had openly spoken of the need to rebuild a team with a view to the 1990 World Cup, and it was thought that Beckenbauer would give a chance to new and younger players at the start of the qualification.
A number of promising players had already emerged after Beckenbauer started rejuvenating the squad after Mexico’86. Jürgen Klinsmann, Olaf Thon and Jürgen Kohler were no doubt prospects of the highest calibre. In addition there were also players like Rudi Völler, Andreas Brehme and Lothar Matthäus, who now were the most experienced heads and expected to be leaders in the squad.
West Germany didn’t arrange any friendlies before their campaign for Italia’90 started in late August, and there would be many questions around what the team would look like when kicking off against Finland. There was no space in the calendar for any friendlies as the domestic season started up already in late July, due to West Germany fielding a team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul (in September), to which many Bundesliga clubs would provide players.
West Germany team selection August 1988