As the Cold War fizzled out at the turn of the 1990’s, West German political, cultural and sporting events began to reach a tumultuous conclusion as Italia ’90 hoved into view.
As David Hasselhoff’s delicious soft-rock offerings singlehandedly dismantled the Berlin Wall and reunited a nation after decades of ideological division, Franz Beckenbauer’s Nationalelf aimed to go one better than their defeat in the final of Mexico ’86 and their semi-final elimination in Euro ’88 on home soil.
Sporting the now-iconic Adidas shirt with the famous black, red and yellow pattern across the chest, Pierre Littbarksi, Andreas Brehme, Jurgen Klinsmann and Lothar Matthaus were just some of the superstars that made up one of the most gifted and powerful squads ever to pitch up at a World Cup.
Having waltzed their way through a group that included the United Arab Emirates, Yugoslavia and Colombia, player of the tournament Matthaus and his colleagues faced old rivals Holland in the San Siro in the round of 16. The game itself was a tense affair remembered predominately for the infamous spitting incident between Dutch defender Frank Rijkaard and curly-mulletted striker Rudi Voeller.
A quarter-final win over Czechoslovakia set up the mouthwatering clash with plucky England, who had somehow stumbled into the semi-finals and put themselves on the verge of monumental. Playing in their change strip of green, ze Germans proceeded to break English hearts (and Gazza’s tear ducts) in a penalty shoot out and give them an opportunity for revenge over Diego Maradona’s cynical defending champions Argentina – the team that had denied them glory four years earlier.
Argentina hacked and spoiled in an attempt to overcome the superior West Germans. Klinsmann gave a masterclass in the art of aerial gymnastics. Eventually, the holders succumbed in Rome’s Olympic Stadium to a late Andy Brehme penalty to send a new, optimistic, reuniting Germany home with a much deserved third World Cup crown in a kit that remains one the greatest ever seen on a football field.
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