Germany Profile

Major Honours World Cup (4), European Championship (3), Confederations Cup (1)
Year Founded 1899

Germany’s men’s national team, otherwise known as Die Mannschaft (The Team), is one of the most successful in world soccer. They are governed by the DFB (German FA).

Germany were world champions in 1954, 1974, 1990, and 2014, making them the second-most successful team on the global stage behind Brazil, who hold five World Cup titles. Die Mannschaft also won the European Championships in 1972, 1980 and 1996 and the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017. They are also the only nation to win the men's and women's World Cup tournaments.

East Germany won the Olympic gold medal in 1976. They used to compete separately to West Germany.

The origins of Die Mannschaft

An early photo of the Germany soccer team in the 1930s

The first official German national team match was a 5-3 defeat to Switzerland on April 5, 1908. In their first international matches, the squad was selected by the DFB themselves as the team did not have an official coach or manager at the time.

Gottfried Fuchs scored 10 goals for Germany in a 16-0 win over Russia at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. This was a world record until 2001, but because Fuchs was Jewish, all mention of him was erased from the history books from 1933 to 1945. His records have since rightly been reinstated and he still holds the record for number of goals by a single player in a match for Germany.

Germany could not afford to travel to the first official World Cup in 1930, which was during the Great Depression, but they finished third in the 1934 tournament. In 1938, they failed to progress past the first round. Former international players of Austria were integrated into the team around that time due to the country becoming a part of Germany, but their first-round exit remains Germany's worst ever performance at a World Cup.

West Germany and East Germany

East Germany line up before a match at the World Cup in 1974

After World War II, none of the three German states - West Germany, East Germany or Saarland - participated in 1950 World Cup qualifiers due to the nation being banned from most sporting competitions for several years.

The Saarland sent their own team to 1954 World Cup qualifiers, but then became a state in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) in 1957. West Germany, for their part, went on to win the 1954 World Cup.

Structural changes in Germany meant professionalism was introduced in the country and the best teams from around the country were placed into the newly formed Bundesliga, leading to benefits for the national team.

West Germany would reach another World Cup final in 1966. However, England controversially won 4-2 in extra time due to what's still known in Germany as 'Wembley-Tor' (Wembley Goal), Geoff Hurst's controversial extra-time goal which may or may not have crossed the line.

West Germany would carry on their success by winning the 1974 World Cup after winning the 1972 European Championship, spearheaded by talisman Franz Beckenbauer.

The communist East Germany, meanwhile, beat the 1974 West German World Cup-winning side in the only clash between the two teams and the East Germans won the 1976 Olympic gold medal, but West Germany enjoyed more success prior to reunification in 1990.

West Germany and the 1954 World Cup

West Germany players celebrate winning the 1954 World Cup

A West Germany side captained by Fritz Walter was beaten 8-3 in the group stage of the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland by a legendary Hungary side. The Mighty Magyars were hot favourites to win the whole tournament and were in the process of compiling a 32-game unbeaten run.

After West Germany's drubbing in the group stages, it seemed unfathomable that they would meet Hungary again in the final and win, but that is precisely what happened.

Despite the drubbing, West Germany qualified from their group before knocking out Yugoslavia to set up a semi-final with Austria who they thrashed 6-1.

The win set up a rematch with Hungary in the final and the game looked to be going according to the script when Ferenc Puskas and Zoltan Czibor put Hungary 2-0 up inside eight minutes. However, in what became known as 'The Miracle of Bern', West Germany pulled one back two minutes later through Maximilian Morlock before Helmut Rahn levelled the scores in the 18th minute. Chances continued to fall for both sides but it wasn't until the 84th minute that a further goal was added, with Rahn adding his second to seal a famous 3-2 victory for Germany.

West Germany and the Helmut Schon era

Helmut Schon and Franz Beckenbauer celebrate winning the 1974 World Cup

Helmut Schon took over as head coach of West Germany in 1964. Within two years, he guided them to the FIFA World Cup final, where they were beaten 4-2 by England thanks in part to a controversial third goal from Geoff Hurst in which the whole of the ball did not appear to cross the whole of the line.

After finishing third in the 1970 World Cup, West Germany won the 1972 European Championships, beating the Soviet Union 3-0 in the final.

In 1974, West Germany followed that up with World Cup victory, beating the Netherlands 2-1 in the final. However, at the 1976 European Championships, they lost to Czechoslovakia in the final on penalties. In all, Schon's tenure as manager lasted for 14 years and he proved to be a seminal manager in German soccer history.

East Germany and Olympic gold

East Germany are presented with their Gold Medals for soccer at the 1976 Olympics

The East Germany national team existed from 1952 until Germany was reunified in 1990. They struggled to match West Germany's success, but they generally picked strong teams for the Olympics at what was supposed to be an amateur tournament.

After bronze medals in 1964 and 1972, East Germany picked up the gold medal at the 1976 Olympic soccer tournament in Montreal. After drawing with Brazil in the first round, East Germany went on to beat Spain, France, the Soviet Union and then Poland in the final to bring gold back to the Communist nation. Four years later, in Moscow, they picked up silver.

Germany and the 1990s

Germany and their fans celebrate with the World Cup trophy in 1990

West Germany were coached by Franz Beckenbauer from 1984 to 1990. In 1986, he led them to the World Cup final, where they lost to a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina. In 1988, they lost on home soil to the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the European Championships.

However, in 1990, Beckenbauer finally led West Germany to World Cup glory. Andreas Brehme's penalty was the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Argentina in Rome. Beckenbauer became the first person to win the World Cup as captain and coach, having triumphed as a player in 1974.

Berti Vogts took over from Beckenbauer and West and East Germany united as a soccer nation for the 1992 European Championship qualifying.

At the tournament, Germany made the final, but suffered a shock defeat to a Peter Schmeichel-inspired Denmark. Then, in 1994, they lost 2-1 to Bulgaria in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Vogts led Germany to Euro 1996 glory as they beat hosts England in the semi-finals and the Czech Republic 2-1 in the final via a golden goal.

Germany were eliminated 3-0 by Croatia in the 1998 World Cup as France stormed to the title.

Germany and Joachim Low

Joachim Low and Bastian Schweinsteiger emotionally celebrate after the 2014 World Cup final

Erich Ribbeck had an unsuccessful stint as coach from 1998 to 2000 following the departure of Vogts. Germany were eliminated from the group stage of the European Championships.

Rudi Voller took over and inspired a revival as Germany made the final of the 2002 World Cup, losing 2-0 to Brazil. Michael Ballack famously scored the goal which sent Germany to the final despite knowing he would not be playing in it due to suspension.

In 2004, after another group stage exit from the European Championships, Jurgen Klinsmann took over and he led Germany to third place at the 2006 World Cup on home soil.

His assistant, Joachim Low, took over thereafter. He steered Germany to the final of Euro 2008, where they lost 1-0 to Spain. They thrashed Argentina 4-0 in the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but then lost 1-0 in the semi-finals to Spain. Germany finished third again, beating Uruguay in the play-off.

In 2012, Germany were eliminated from the semi-finals of the European Championships. However, in 2014, they finally got their reward after years of near misses, beating Argentina 1-0 after extra time in the World Cup final in Brazil thanks to Mario Gotze's winner.

Low also led Germany to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and victory in the Confederations Cup the following year, but their World Cup defence in Russia was disastrous and ended in a group-stage exit.

Low was replaced by Hansi Flick in the summer of 2021 following Germany's Euro 2020 exit at the hands of England, having  announced his intention to leave the role three months earlier. 

Germany's legends

West Germany players pose with the World Cup trophy in 1974

Lothar Matthaus is the most-capped German national team player ever with 150. Miroslav Klose is their top goalscorer with 71 and is also the record all-time goalscorer in the history of the FIFA World Cup.

Franz Beckenbauer is also held in the highest regard among German soccer fans, having made more than 100 appearances for West Germany and inspiring the team to winning the 1972 European Championships and the 1974 World Cup, as well as going on to manage his country to victory in the 1990 World Cup.

In the modern era, legendary player Oliver Kahn became the first goalkeeper to ever win the Golden Ball for the award of best player of the tournament at the 2002 World Cup. Kahn formed the spine of the German team with Michael Ballack, who was widely heralded as one of the world's best central midfielders during his playing days.

Philipp Lahm also holds legendary status for his national team, with the ever-present full-back playing 113 times for Germany prior to his retirement from the game.

Germany's biggest rivals

England have a fierce rivalry with Germany, which has been stoked by important meetings in major tournaments. West Germany felt aggrieved for their 1966 World Cup final defeat, but so did England when they lost 4-1 to Germany in the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup with Frank Lampard seeing a goal ruled out which clearly crossed the line.

Germany also have a long-running rivalry with Italy, who like them have won four FIFA World Cup titles. The only country to have won more is Brazil with five.

There are also rivalries with France and the Netherlands, who have enjoyed periods of success where they have threatened Germany and Italy.

Germany's fanbase

Germany have struggled to fill their stadiums in recent times, with Mannschaft supporters citing unhappiness with the DFB's marketing strategy as a key reason. In a DW article, one supporter complained about the price of a €130 DFB jersey.

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