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Germany’s National Football Team: Facts and History

As the World Cup Qatar 2022 approaches, it is appropriate to reflect on legendary teams and their histories, and the Germany National Football Team is unquestionably among them.

The German men’s national football team competes in an international men’s football tournament. The team is governed by the German Football Association (Deutscher Fußball-Bund), which was founded in 1900. The team is also subject to the global jurisdiction of the Federation of International Football Associations and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

While watching their debut in Qatar, learn more about this legendary national team.

Germany’s Early History and Foundation Football National Team

In 1900, representatives from 86 clubs formed the German Football Association (DFB). This contributed significantly to the consolidation of various German regional competitions into a single national league in 1902. The national team played its first official match in 1908, losing to Switzerland 3-5. They took part in the Olympic football tournament in 1912, which is remembered for Gottfried Fuchs’ ten goals in a 16-0 victory over Russia.

Until Otto Nerz was appointed national team coach in 1926, the DFB chose the players. After missing out on the inaugural World Cup due to a lack of funds to travel to Uruguay, Germany qualified for the 1934 World Cup. They went on to beat Belgium and Sweden before losing in the semi-finals to Czechoslovakia. They finished on a high note, defeating Austria in the third-place match.

Schism Following World War II

On the eve of WWII, Germany annexed Austria. The Austrian national team was disbanded quickly, with Nazi politicians forcing several of their players to join the German team. Germany then competed in the 1938 World Cup but did not make it past the first round in front of a hostile audience. Germany’s worst World Cup performance to date; they had previously reached the final eight in all four tournaments.

Germany was divided into three states following WWII: West Germany, East Germany, and Saarland. They were all barred from competing in international competitions until 1950, which prevented them from competing in the 1950 World Cup. Most of the country’s pre-war traditions and organizations, including the DFB, were taken over by West Germany. Following the World Cup, the DFB was accepted as a full FIFA member.

Bern’s Miraculous

Four years later, West Germany had little trouble qualifying for the 1954 World Cup. They were grouped with Hungary, Turkey, and South Korea. Coach Sepp Herberger decided to rest his best players for the Hungary match after a convincing 4-1 victory over Turkey in the first match. They lost 3-8, but qualified for the knockout stage by defeating Turkey 7-2.

The Germans then defeated Yugoslavia (2-0) and Austria (6-1) to set up a rematch with the Mighty Magyars in the finals. This Hungarian team is widely regarded as one of the best national teams in the sport’s history, led by the legendary Ferenc Puskás. At the time, they had not lost in 32 consecutive games. Given the rout in the first match, they were clear favorites to win the championship.

Hungary had already taken a 2-0 lead in the eighth minute. West Germany, on the other hand, responded with goals from Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn before the halftime break, tying the game. At that point, Hungary had complete control of the game, but it was Rahn who scored the game-winning goal in the 84th minute, propelling West Germany to their first World Cup title. This surprise, dubbed the Bern Miracle, was instrumental in the country regaining international recognition.

There Will Be Hard Losses

Both subsequent World Cups were relatively successful. They finished fourth in the 1958 tournament after losing semi-finally to Sweden and third-place match to France. West Germany took a step back in 1962, as Yugoslavia eliminated it in the quarterfinals. In response to these defeats, the DFB established the Bundesliga in 1963, ushering in professional football in Germany.

Germany reached the 1966 World Cup finals, where they faced hosts England. Despite leading 2-1 until the game’s final minutes, West Germany equalized through Wolfgang Weber, forcing the game into extra time. England took the lead after a controversial goal off the crossbar by George Hurst. Hurst added another goal as fans rushed the field in the game’s final moments, bringing the final score to 4-2.

Four years later, West Germany avenged itself by knocking England out in the quarterfinals. However, they suffered another heartbreaking defeat in the semi-finals against Italy. Germany tied the game again just before the final whistle in what became known as the “game of the century.” Gerd Müller scored two goals in extra time, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Italians, who scored three.

More Important Trophies

In 1972, West Germany competed in its first European Championship. In the qualifiers, they finished first in a group that included Poland, Turkey, and Albania. In the playoffs for the final four-team tournament, they defeated England 3-1 on aggregate. In the tournament, they defeated Belgium (2-1) and the Soviet Union (3-0), with Müller scoring four goals. It was their first major title in 18 years.

West Germany was the overwhelming favorite to win the 1974 World Cup because it was held on their home soil. West Germany was pitted against East Germany, Chile, and Australia in the first round. East Germany defeated West Germany 1-0, ensuring that both German teams advanced to the final round. West Germany changed their lineup and tactics as a result of this defeat, increasing its chances of winning the competition.

West Germany joined the Netherlands in the finals after advancing from the second group, including Poland, Sweden, and Yugoslavia. The Dutch team, led by Johan Cruyff, played enticing “total football,” making them a formidable opponent. Neeskens converted a penalty early in the game, giving them the lead. West Germany, on the other hand, rallied with goals from Breitner and Müller to win the game 2-1.

Future Achievement

West Germany was unable to defend its titles despite fielding strong teams in the next two major tournaments. They rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the Euro 1976 finals but were defeated on penalties. They were eliminated from the second group stage of the 1978 World Cup after losing the deciding match 1-2 to Austria. As a result, long-time assistant Jupp Derwall took over as head coach.

West Germany won another major title under Derwall in 1980. West Germany had to finish first in their group to advance to the finals in the first European Championship with eight teams. They did so by defeating Czechoslovakia (1-0) and the Netherlands (3-2), before being drawn against Greece in the final round. Horst Hrubesch’s brace was instrumental in their 2-1 victory over Belgium in the finals.

West Germany’s 1982 World Cup campaign began with a defeat to Algeria. They recovered, however, by defeating Chile and Austria. In the second round, they drew 0-0 with old rivals England before defeating Spain 2-1. The match against France in the semi-finals was a nail-biter, with West Germany winning on penalties. However, they needed more in the tank for the finals against Italy, who defeated them 3-1.

Beckenbauer’s Influence

The DFB turned to its former captain, Franz Beckenbauer, after a disappointing group stage exit at Euro 1984. Beckenbauer’s coaching qualities were similar to those he brought to the field. West Germany was almost always guaranteed to reach the tournament’s semi-finals when he was in charge.

At the 1986 World Cup, the German team battled through arid conditions to reach the finals. They were no match for Argentina’s Maradona-led team, however, losing the game 2-3. Two years later, they reached the Euro 1988 semi-finals, but the Netherlands were determined to avenge their 1974 World Cup defeat. West Germany was defeated 1-2 despite leading 1-0 for the majority of the second half.

West Germany won its third World Cup title in 1990, its third appearance in the finals in a row. This tournament will be remembered for the lack of goals and defensive strategies. On their way to the finals, the Germans defeated the Netherlands (2-1), Czechoslovakia (1-0), and England (4-3 on penalties). Andreas Brehme scored the game-winning goal against Argentina in the 85th minute.


After this victory, Beckenbauer retired from the national team, and Berti Vogts took his place. However, the fall of the Berlin Wall earlier that year had a greater impact on the team because it meant that West and East Germany would finally reunite. The East German Football Association (DFV) was officially absorbed into the DFB in October 1990. In its first official match, the unified German team faced Switzerland.

The Euro 1992 tournament was the first major tournament for new-look Germany. Germany won its group, defeating Sweden 3-2 en route to the finals, where surprise winner Denmark defeated them. The World Cup in 1994 appeared to be a chance for redemption, but Bulgaria eliminated them in the quarterfinals. Despite leading for the majority of the game, Germany was defeated 2-1 by their opponents.

The Euro 1996 tournament had 16 teams, and a win was worth three points (instead of the previous 2). Germany quickly adjusted to the new rules, progressing through their group and defeating Croatia and England on their way to the finals. They then defeated the Czech Republic 2-1, thanks to a brace from Oliver Bierhoff, which included the tournament’s first golden goal.

Years Spent Abroad

After winning its first trophy as a unified nation, Germany fell into one of its worst slumps in history. Croatia eliminated them in the quarterfinals of the 1998 World Cup. The fans were especially disappointed when they failed to advance from the group stage at the following two European Championships (2000 and 2004).

The Euro 2000 tournament was one of the team’s least successful, despite a difficult draw (England, Portugal, and Romania). They have only one point from three matches. Lothar Matthäus, one of the greatest players in national team history, played his final game at the age of 39. His career was cut short after a 0-3 loss to Portugal.

The 2002 World Cup did not inspire much confidence either, especially given Germany’s lack of qualification. Nonetheless, a string of 1-0 wins in the knockout stages propelled them to the finals, where they faced Brazil. However, their chances were hampered by the suspension of star midfielder Michael Ballack, and they were defeated 0-2.

Four years later, Germany found itself in a similar situation. They again outperformed expectations, winning three games in their group and defeating Sweden and Argentina in the knockout rounds. In a hard-fought semi-finals match against eventual champions Italy, they were eliminated by two quick goals at the end of extra time. They then defeated Portugal in the third-place match, with Miroslav Klose winning the Golden Boot.

A New Era for the German National Football Team

With the appointment of Joachim Löw as head coach in 2008, Germany’s strategy shifted from defensive to offensive. The first indications of this shift were seen in Euro 2008 when Germany battled their way to the finals against Spain. However, Germany lost the game 0-1, failing to respond to the Spanish “tiki-taka effectively.”

Germany also did well in the two subsequent European Championships. In 2012, they won all three group games and defeated Greece in the quarterfinals, setting a record of 15 wins in competitive matches, but they were defeated 1-2 by Italy. They also lost in the semi-finals in 2016; this time, they were unable to advance past France, who defeated Germany for the first time in 58 years.

Germany famously won the World Cup between these two appearances in 2014. They defeated Algeria (2-1) in the round of 16 and France (2-1) in the quarterfinals after advancing to the knockout stages (1-0). They defeated hosts Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals, scoring four goals in seven minutes in the first half. They won the finals against Messi’s Argentina thanks to a late Mario Götze goal.

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