The 1990s began on a high and ended in a deep deep trauma. Where did it all go wrong for German football in the 1990s? An influx of Eastern talent could have helped to make the national team ‘invincible for years to come.’ As it turns out, Italia 90 and Euro 96 were the last hooray for Germany for more than a decade. This post will look at the changes in German football during the 1990s.
Beckenbauer: Invincible for years to come
The 1990s started with a huge success. After two final appearances in 1982 and 1986, Germany reached a third World Cup final in a row in 1990; this time winning 1-0 thanks to an Andreas Brehme penalty six minutes from the final whistle. It also proved to be the last triumph on the world stage. With unification looming on the horizon however, things looked certainly positive for Germany as East Germany provided an unknown pool of great talent. The likes of Thomas Doll, Matthias Sammer, Steffen Freund, Frank Rost, Ulf Kirsten, Andreas Thom all played for West German clubs by the time East and West Germany merged into 1 Germany on October 3, 1990. And yet it proved to be a false dawn as none of these players really had an impact on the national team during the 1990s. Except Matthias Sammer. He was the key man to success in 1996, when Germany won its first and so far only trophy as a united country. Beckenbauer’s remark proved to be a millstone for the Nationalmannschaft.
Default System: Libero and Man markers
The fault appeared not to be the players, rather the system was at fault. The system that saw Germany become a world force in football became outdated by the mid-1990s. This point was made painfully clear to the football public in 1998 and 2000. Man-marking was the default system from the youth teams up to the senior team. Christoph Biermann and Uwe Fuchs have summarized this debate in the late 1990s in their book ‘The ball is rond that the game can change its direction.’
After the defeat against Croatia at the 1998 World Cup in France, football Germany woke up and realized it has been left behind. No longer was the talk of German characteristics that gave them the edge. Their deficiencies became clear by the fact that all other teams were playing with a back four instead of a libero system. This is interesting as several clubs in Germany used a back four in the league, Borussia M