Deutschland / Germany
- Capital: Berlin
- Official Languages: German
- Nicknames: Nationalelf (National Eleven); DFB-Elf (DFB Eleven); Die Mannschaft (The Team)
- Association: Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB)
- FIFA Code: GER
- Best World Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): WINNERS (2003, 2007)
- Best Euros Result (Men): WINNERS (1972, 1980, 1996)
- Best Euros Result (Women): WINNERS (8 times)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 1st (Various)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 1st (Various)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 22nd (March 2006)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 3rd (March 2018)
- Most Capped Player: Birgit Prinz – 214 caps
- Top Scorer: Birgit Prinz – 128 goals
Germany, officially known as the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is one of the powerhouses of European and world football, located within the heart of the European continent, and they are the only country to have won a World Cup in both men’s and women’s football. The Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) was founded in 1900, making it one of the older football associations in Europe although it wouldn’t be until 1908 when the German Empire team made its international debut, appearing in 5-3 loss to Switzerland. The German side would be one of the stronger sides within European football throughout the early part of the 20th century, albeit usually overshadowed by its neighbours, Austria. Nonetheless, the Germans finished third in the 1934 World Cup, finally beating their southern neighbours 3-2 in Napoli. They were expected to do well in the 1938 World Cup, especially after the Austrian ‘Wunderteam’ was combined with the ‘Breslau Elf’ as a result of the Anschluss, but they lost to the Swiss team in the first round.
After the Second World War, there were initially three German teams competing within international football; the federal democratic West Germany, the communist state of East Germany and French protectorate of Saarland, albeit the latter would join West Germany in 1957. West Germany would qualify for their first World Cup in 1954 and would create one of international football’s greatest shocks, when in sodden and muddy conditions in the final, they defeated the overwhelming favourites, Hungary, to win their first World Cup 3-2 in what is described as “The Miracle of Bern”. An incredible achievement from a country who were still recovering and improving their reputation after the war. This would be the start of the West Germans rise to become one of the world’s superpowers in football. They achieved a fourth place finish in 1958, quarter-finals in 1962, and reached the final in 1966 (being on the wrong side of a dodgy goal) and finished in third place in the 1970 World Cup.
The 1974 World Cup was a significant one for German football. Not only were West Germany hosting the tournament and were the defending European champions having won their first Euro title in 1972 (beating the Soviet Union 3-0), but East Germany had also qualified for their first (and only) major tournament, and were drawn in the same group as the hosts. In the final group game, it would be the DDR who would come out on top and ultimately win the group, winning the Bruderduell 1-0 in Hamburg through an iconic Jürgen Sparwasser goal. Alas the DDR would fail to progress in the next round, whilst the hosts progressed to the final and beat a star-laden Dutch side 2-1 in München to claim their second World Cup on home soil. The East Germans would have to be content with winning the gold medal in the 1976 Olympics, whilst their western brothers finished as finalists in the 1976 Euros.
The West Germans were relentless throughout the 1980s, firstly winning Euro 1980, and then reaching the World Cup finals in both 1982 and 1986, losing to Italy and Argentina respectively. It wouldn’t be until the 1990 World Cup when West Germany claimed their third trophy in their third consecutive final, defeating the defending champions Argentina 1-0 at Rome. That would be the final trophy the West Germans would win before the reunification of Germany towards the end of 1990.
Alas trophies have been less forthsome during the reunified era. The Germans won their first trophy as a reunified country when they won Euro 1996, but have subsequently been ‘nearly men’. After a disastrous Euro 2000 which saw them finish bottom of the group, a massive re-education coaching program took place in Germany to produce technically stronger players. Despite this, they still reached the final of the 2002 World Cup (losing 2-0 to a Ronaldo-inspired Brazil) as well as finishing third in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups (the 2006 finish being more disappointing considering they were the hosts). It wouldn’t be until the 2014 World Cup when their ambitious coaching program bore fruit. After demolishing the hosts Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals, the team triumphed against old foes Argentina in the final through a Mario Götze 113th minute winner – the first men’s World Cup for the reunified Germany! However the first reunified German World Cup was won by the women’s team, who continue to be one of the strongest teams in women’s football. They won their first World Cup in 2003 when they defeated Sweden 2-1 after extra time, and then successfully defended it four years later by beating Brazil 2-0. In addition, they have dominated the European Championships winning six consecutive Euros between 1995 and 2013, and having won eight of the last 10 editions of the competition!
Alas German football seems to be experiencing a dip in form currently. The men’s side embarrassingly failed to progress beyond the group stage of the 2018 World Cup (the first time they had failed to progress beyond the first round since 1938), and have struggled in the various editions of the UEFA Nations League, most recently suffering a 0-6 defeat to Spain in November 2020. Although they have progressed to Euro 2020/21, they have been placed in the ‘group of death’ alongside the defending European champions Portugal and the current world champions France. In addition, their long-time coach, Joachim Löw, has announced he will leave the post of German manager after the tournament. It will be interesting to see how die Mannschaft will progress during this summer, and for the next few years to come…
Talking about the multiple world and European champions in both men’s and women’s football, we interviewed the excellent Tom Weber. Tom is a German-based football writer who also writes articles on German football, as well as articles for his own superb blogsite ‘Football, Soccer And Everything In Between‘ (FSAEIB). To find their social media accounts and superb blogsite, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
Men’s NT Player & Coach: Franz Beckenbauer. “Der Kaiser” won the World Cup both as a player (1974) and coach (1990) and he was also just an incredible footballer.
Women’s NT Coach: Silvia Neid. Under her stewardship, Germany won the 2007 World Cup, gold at the 2016 Olympics, and two Euros (2009 and 2013).
Women’s NT Player: Nadine Angerer. Perhaps the single most iconic goalkeeper in women’s football history. Her 24-year-career saw her win two World Cups and five European Championships. She even won FIFA’s version of the Ballon d’Or in 2013.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
MNT: In the past, definitely Miroslav Klose – his celebration is iconic and the fact that he’s the record goalscorer in men’s World Cup history [with 16 goals] just adds to the appeal.
WNT: Birgit Prinz. She was one of the deadliest strikers in the history of women’s football.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Germany currently?
MNT: FC Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich. Extremely versatile and rarely puts in a below par performance.
WNT: Sara Däbritz [currently at Paris Saint-Germain] or Melanie Leupolz [currently at Chelsea]. Both are equally important midfield dynamos; the former is vitally important in the attacking build-up with the latter being the glue that connects the defense with the attack.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
MNT: Dire. The men’s national team environment has been extremely toxic for a few years now and the performances have reflected that.
WNT: Promising. The women’s national team has struggled to live up to its huge reputation in recent years, but with a new batch of exciting young players coming through, things are beginning to look up.
Q. Are there any German players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
MNT: Armel Bella-Kotchap [19 year-old centre-back currently playing at VfL Bochum] and Jamal Musiala [18 year-old attacking midfielder at FC Bayern, who recently confirmed he will play for Germany rather than either England or Nigeria] are massive talents who could become senior national team players in the near future.
WNT: Klara Bühl [20 year-old forward at FC Bayern] or Lena Oberdorf [19 year-old midfielder playing for VfL Wolfsburg]. Oberdorf has already been recognized by Goal as Europe’s best young talent so she needs no introduction, but Bühl, in my opinion, has the higher ceiling. If she can be more prolific in front of goal, she has the potential to become a top 5 player in the world.
Q. Looking at Germany’s long and successful international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
MNT: I think it’s that incredible 7-1 against Brazil in 2014.
WNT: I genuinely don’t know, there’s simply too many to chose from. Germany was the best country in Europe for almost two decades so to pick out just one performance is nigh on impossible. Perhaps one of the World Cup finals.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
MNT: In recent history, it’s definitely the 0-2 game against South Korea at the 2018 World Cup which sealed Germany’s group stage exit. The 6-0 loss to the USA (1996) and the 0-0 with Latvia at the 2004 Euros are definitely up there also.
WNT: Getting knocked out by relative minnows Italy at the 1993 Euros was pretty bad. The quarter-final loss to Denmark at the 2017 Euros and getting knocked out by Sweden at the 2019 World Cup and missing out on the Olympics as a result also deserve a shout.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the German national team?
MNT: I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the national team, certainly not of the men’s national team, but I think most fans are certainly not happy with the current management. Best thing? I think most people might perhaps say the sense of comraderie as Bundesliga rivalries are put on hold when the national team plays.
WNT: The worst thing is that the WNT still doesn’t get the respect and media coverage it deserves. The best thing is that it’s a more welcoming environment than in men’s football.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Not that I’m aware of other than perhaps the very generic “Auf geht’s schieß ein Tor” (“Let’s go, score a goal“) chant.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
Unquestionably the Italia ’90 kit. It’s one of the most iconic kits in all of football.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the German national team?
I hope that both national teams can establish themselves as true powerhouses again.
A massive danke schön to Tom for answering our questions on Die Nationalelfen. Remember you can find their social media accounts and blogsite in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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