The worthy winners – Germany
Rome expected the Azzurri to clash in the finals of Italia 90, but to the astonishment of local fans and the rest of the world, probably, the worst team of the event advanced to the finals courtesy of Holy Water scandal in Turin and Sergio Goycochea’s heroics in Florence and Naples.
Otherwise, Argentina led by Diego Maradona played negative football throughout the tournament. Even though at Naples, they looked a tad better, still, the politics of Maradona and the physicality of his boys overshadowed that.
The final was the repeat of Mexico 1986 and with just six minutes remaining, the Mexican referee Edgardo Codesal awarded Germany a penalty as Roberto Sensini slide-tacked Rudi Voller who, dramatically dived inside the penalty area after receiving a razor-sharp pass from Lothar Matthaus.
Codesal was surrounded by a bunch of protesting losers, who displayed nothing but below-par football until that penalty was awarded.
Guido Buchwald, the big defender of Germany put Maradona in his pocket like Claudio Gentile did in Barcelona in 1982. With Maradona totally neutralized, and a couple of players suspended, Argentina decided to sit back and display bloody-mindedness – play ultra-defensively and take the match to a penalty shootout, where Argentina fared better against Yugoslavia and Italy.
The Germans showed few glimpses of the drive, pace, and power that had been the matter of joy in Italy. Little Thomas Hassler was the busiest player, always searching for space in the crowded areas near the Argentinean goal, and Matthaus’s contribution was solid rather than inspirational and for much of the game, the Germans relied on free-kicks and centers, especially when they were provided by Brehme, for their scoring chances.
Disgusted by the negativity of Argentina in the first half, the Germans decided to go for all-out-attack – created chances at the start of the second half.
Pierre Littbarski cut inside; dribbling past three South American defenders, but his shot from outside the box went just wide. Later, Thomas Berthold and Rudi Voller, respectively, failed to capitalize on dangerous free kicks taken by Brehme.
In the 58th minute, Goycochea appeared to take down Klaus Augenthaler inside the penalty area, but Mexican referee Edgardo Codesal refused to award a penalty kick.
Pedro Monzon had the distinction of being the first player to be sent off at a World Cup final, after being shown a straight red card for a reckless studs-up challenge on Jurgen Klinsmann; FIFA had warned its officials to enforce the rules and Monzon had raised his foot during the tackle, a foul that Klinsmann claims left a 15 centimeters gash on his shin.
In the 78th minute, after an incorrectly given corner kick, German team captain Lothar Matthaus lost the ball inside his own penalty area and then appeared to trip Gabriel Calderon. Codesal once again said to play on, amid penalty shouts from the Argentinean midfield.
Regular penalty taker Matthaus had been forced to replace his boots during the match and did not feel comfortable in the new ones, and thus, Andreas Brehme took his place and converted the spot-kick with a low right-footed shot to the goalkeeper’s right – Goycochea moved to the right side and missed the ball by the barest of margins.
Gustavo Dezotti, already cautioned in the first half, received a straight red card late in the match when he hauled down Jurgen Kohler with what The New York Times described as a “neck tackle right out of professional wrestling'” after Kohler refused to give up the ball in an alleged attempt to waste time.
After dismissing Dezotti, Codesal was surrounded and jostled by the rest of the Argentinean team. Maradona received a yellow card and the atmosphere turned chaotic.
After the final whistle, Maradona burst into tears, and then, he played the blame game by defaming FIFA and Codesal.
Maradona’s blame-game totally hid the brilliance of Germans throughout the tournament.
As a matter of fact, Germany were the worthy winners and the way they played since their tournament kicked-off, none even expected them to be so skillful and brilliant in Italy.
Rough qualifiers, but still a cracking start
Since Franz Beckenbauer, the legendary German defender and captain of Champion side 1974, he had been trying to nurture a team, which would give him glory and no hiccups.
In the previous decades, Germany reached the finals but failed to win, even though, none would put their money in favour of that side of 1982 and 1986, who were genuine strugglers, but reached the finals relying on individual brilliance rather than a touch of style and dashing football.
Even during the World Cup Qualifiers for Italia, they were at risk of reaching Italy and after the loss in the Euro 1988 at their own backyard, critics simply questioned the temperament of Beckebauer’s men. Again, the defeat against Brazil in the semifinals of Olympics 1988 was not taken lightly as well. It had the players, which would form the core of Germany’s Italia 90 mission.
Then on Nov. 9, 1989, the Socialists East German government unexpectedly announced that the border crossing points between the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the West would be opened with immediate effect.
The Berlin Wall came down!
Beckenbauer stated, “We were almost stopped by the Wall. It was my job to prepare the team for an important game, but suddenly the focus was gone”.
He was referring to the fact that only six days after the Wall fell, both German national teams needed a result from their final World Cup qualifying game. West Germany had to win at home against Wales to finish as one of the best runners-up, while East Germany only needed a draw in Vienna against Austria.
In Cologne, Malcolm Allen gave the crowd a mighty scare when he brought the Welsh ahead. However, Rudi Voller and Thomas Hassler managed to achieve a much-needed victory, even though, with two minutes left on the clock, Wales’ Colin Pascoe raced down the right-wing and whipped in a cross. Centre-forward Allen made good contact with the ball at the edge of the six-yard box but headed it over the bar – it was a scare, which Germany overcame.
At Vienna, East Germany were thrashed by Austria 3-0.
The West flew to Italy and in the endless summer of 1990, Beckenbauer and his men were the first teams to arrive in Italy. They did not receive a warm welcome like the Dutch, Irish, and Brazil; but were regarded as outsiders where the critics had been busy making this tournament a carnival of football, where the Azzurri, Netherlands, and Brazil were expected to lift the trophy.
Moreover, in their first match of the year, 1990 played in February, a defeat against the average French side, did Beckenbauer no good. It was a humiliation and the German press crucified Kaiser and co.
The first match was against Yugoslavia at San Siro Milan.
The Yugoslav were a brilliant side and regarded one of the teams to watch, which had the potential to go a long way.
The Germans, led by Matthaus entered the stadium with a tense look, but as soon as the match started, Germany seemed to have the upper-hand – Matthaus gave the lead with a right-footed kick and then Klinsmann made it 2-0 with a header. In the second half, Matthaus scripted an individual brilliance by beating the Yugoslav markers aided by the smart body movement of Klinsmann and Voller, who created space by attracting the defenders towards them – Matthaus blasted one from outside the box. In the dying moments, Voller gave the finishing touch by flying towards a cross.
1 man in World Cup history has managed the wondrous feat of scoring a goal with each foot from outside the box in the same game – Matthaus, which came in this match.
A formidable Yugoslavia were thrashed by 4-1!
After a long time, the Germans started the World Cup in such a dominating manner.
In the second game, UAE were taken to the cleaners and despite the draw against Colombia, in the ill-tempered encounter against the Dutch, the spirit and dominance of Germany was evident.
They scored some of the most breathtaking goals in the group stages and round of 16; which was an indication of their focus and hunger for goals.
The German Giants
Beckenbauer gave Matthaus the role of a playmaker and free-role rather than a sweeper and marker, which was a masterstroke.
He built a team with three tough nuts at the back – Buchwald, Kohler, and Augenthaler- who was written off by many. The wing-backs, Brehme and Berthold played in the midfield and at the center of the park; Littbarski, Hassler, and Matthaus ran the show with Matthaus ran tirelessly on the pitch throughout the event.
Hassler stayed just behind the two dangerous strikers of the world at that time – Klinsmann and Voller and linked up with Matthaus and Littbarski. But it was Matthaus who provided the creativity and solidity more – a crucial role, which gave the Germans the fuel to attack.
Matthaus kept the midfield moving, while Brehme and Berthold occupied the flanks and the sweeping role of Buchwald added the dash on the German line-up.
They attacked, counterattacked, and attacked again.
Germany netted 10 goals in the group phase. Of the 12 sides to have scored double-digits in their first-phase pool, only one other has gone on to lift the Trophy – Brazil in 2002.
25 minutes: that was the earliest West Germany scored one of their 15 goals in Italia 90.
The same country had netted seven of their goals by the 25th minute at Switzerland 1954.
Only one other World Cup-winning team took longer to net a goal than Germany in 1990 – Brazil four years later, albeit by merely a minute.
6 goals and assists combined was the total Brehme got in Italia 90. It was the second-highest return behind Italy striker Salvatore Schillaci, who got seven (six goals, one assist), and is comfortably a record for a defender at one World Cup.
5 games are what it took West Germany to keep a clean sheet. Italy of 1938 are the only other World Cup-winning team to fail to keep a shutout in their first four outings. Ironically, Illgner became the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in its Final – something he didn’t realize until a reporter asked him about it in Illinois during the USA 1994!
30% of the votes is what won Klinsmann the best individual performance of Italy 1990 for his exhibition against the Netherlands in the Round of 16. After his strike partner Voller was sent off in the first quarter of the game, “Klinsmann played for them both in a brilliant, almost perfect performance,” according to Suddeutsche Zeitung.
On July 1, 1990, a major step towards the reunification of East and West Germany were underway and at this backdrop, Beckenbauer’s men met the Czechs in Milan.
A Matthaus penalty won a game that made Beckenbauer lose his cool!
As Uli Hesse wrote, “Most observers agree that a key factor in Germany’s triumph was a great team spirit that partly came about because of a sea change in Beckenbauer’s attitude. Four years earlier, during the World Cup in Mexico, he had been, in the words of the journalist Karlheinz Wild, ‘highly tense, cantankerous, and grumpy’.
“But in Italy, he was the total opposite. As goalkeeper Bodo Illgner told Kicker, the national coach was “totally confident and relaxed”.
“But after the quarterfinal, Beckenbauer was livid. He had become convinced the World Cup was West Germany’s for the taking his side was clearly the best team in Italy and the players had almost blown it by not sticking to the game plan”.
“A few days later, his team came even closer to being knocked out, but this time Beckenbauer was utterly serene. His players had done everything he’d asked them to do; it just so happened that the other team was having a very fine day, too. What Andreas Brehme today calls the best game of the World Cup, the semifinal between West Germany and England went to penalties”.
“Only a few hours after Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missed their spot-kicks and Beckenbauer’s men reached the final, the 10th NATO summit began in, of all places, London. It has been called ‘a seminal moment in Alliance history’ because the dramatic upheavals that had begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall eight months earlier were changing the political landscape”.
“The London Declaration began with the words, ‘Europe has entered a new, promising era’ and said: ‘The unification of Germany means that the division of Europe is also being overcome’.
“Another day later, on July 6, 1990, the two German governments began negotiations about the second State Treaty between West and East – the arrangement that came to be known as the Unification Agreement. While the politicians met in East Berlin and Lothar de Maiziere, the GDR’s prime minister, opened the first round of talks by suggesting a new national anthem, Beckenbauer’s squad left the team’s hotel and traveled to Rome to play Argentina in the final of Italia 90”.
The final was decided by a soft spot-kick.
The penalty was questionable, but one thing it did and which was, that Codesal decision halted the worst team from lifting the World Cup.
Had Argentina lifted the cup, it would have been an injustice to the brilliance of teams like Brazil, Yugoslavia, and Italy, who were a cruel victim of treachery and luck.
Maradona tasted his own medicine in the final, which he applied to others.
Glory to Germany!