The 1988 Seoul Olympic football tournament took place from September 17 to October 1, and in charge was U21 manager Hannes Löhr. He had selected a squad of 20 players where only four were 23 years or younger. The common denominator among the squad members were their relatively low number of caps. Only 30 year old Borussia Dortmund striker Frank Mill was in double figures with his 13. A total of eight out of the 20 had never been capped at full senior level. Olympic matches, whether it be qualification or tournament proper, were not considered full internationals in West Germany.
Seven players had featured for at full international level in the calendar year of 1988 prior to the Olympic tournament: Full-back Armin Görtz, libero Holger Fach, midfielders Wolfram Wuttke and Thomas Häßler, as well as forwards Jürgen Klinsmann, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Frank Mill. It was some arsenal of strikers Löhr could call upon. In addition, there was the uncapped Fritz Walter, a fine goalscorer at club level, currently plying his trade with Stuttgart.
With the 5-3-2/3-5-2 formations taking centre stage in West German football at the time, it is likely that even the Olympic team will have been utilizing a formation in this mould. Bayer Uerdingen’s Holger Fach had made his international bow at senior level in the recent World Cup qualifying win away to Finland, and though he will have been a fine candidate for the libero role in Seoul, it does appear that this honour had gone to Bayer Leverkusen defender Thomas Hörster. Experienced campaigners such as Michael Schulz (Kaiserslautern) and Wolfgang Funkel (Bayer Uerdingen) will have completed the defensive trio, with Roland Grahammer (Bayern Munich) and the fair haired Armin Görtz at right and left wing-back respectively. Fach’s role seems to have been as the holding midfielder, much like at club team level, with Wuttke and the enigmatic Häßler around him. Klinsmann and Mill had been Löhr’s prefered combination up front, with Riedle and Walter only sparingly used.
The West German team would eventually bow out of the Olympics after being defeated by losing finalists Brazil in a semi-final penalty shoot-out, finishing as the tournament’s highest scorers with 16 goals from six matches. The goals were spread around the team, with Klinsmann top scorer; he notched four. Several of these players would be in contention for the vital next qualifying match: Netherlands at home on October 19.
West Germany’s third and final group stage match, the 2-1 defeat against Sweden, was played on September 21, the same night as the full international team saw off the challenge of the Soviet Union in a friendly in Düsseldorf. Only 16 000 had turned up for the 1-0 win, where an own goal had settled the fixture. That was the second lowest attendance figure ever in a West German international on home soil.
Goalkeepers: 12 Uwe Kamps (24, Borussia Mönchengladbach) and 1 Oliver Reck (23, Werder Bremen)
Defenders: 2 Michael Schulz (27, Kaiserslautern), 4 Wolfgang Funkel (30, Bayer Uerdingen), 5 Thomas Hörster (31, Bayer Leverkusen), 18 Gerhard Kleppinger (30, Bayer Uerdingen), 20 Gunnar Sauer (24, Werder Bremen), 3 Armin Görtz (29, Köln), 13 Roland Grahammer (24, Bayern München)
Midfielders: 8 Holger Fach (26, Bayer Uerdingen), 10 Wolfram Wuttke (27, Kaiserslautern), 14 Thomas Häßler (22, Köln), 6 Olaf Janßen (21, Köln), 7 Rudi Bommer (31, Viktoria Aschaffenburg), 15 Christian Schreier (29, Bayer Leverkusen), 17 Ralf Sievers (26, Eintracht Frankfurt)
Forwards: 9 Jürgen Klinsmann (24, Stuttgart), 11 Frank Mill (30, Borussia Dortmund), 16 Fritz Walter (28, Stuttgart), 19 Karl-Heinz Riedle (23, Werder Bremen)
17.09.88 China 3-0 (Wuttke, Mill 2)
19.09.88 Tunisia 4-1 (Grahammer, Fach, Mill, Wuttke (pen.))
21.09.88 Sweden 1-2 (Walter)
25.09.88 quarter-final Zambia 4-0 (Funkel (pen.), Klinsmann 3)
27.09.88 semi-final Brazil 1-1, 2-3 after penalty shoot-out (Fach)
30.09.88 bronze final Italy 3-0 (Klinsmann, Kleppinger, Schreier)