Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Germany conquers the world

It is 60 years since their greatness as a footballing nation was born on a wet day in Bern

The forecast for Rio de Janeiro on the morning of the World Cup final is for rain; something Germans of a certain age still call “Fritz Walter weather”. It was sheeting down on the morning of what became known as “The Miracle of Bern”, a match that saw the emergence of the greatest nation in the history of the tournament.

Read more: Lionel Messi watches and waits for final chance to be a legend like El Diego
Philipp Lahm banks on German experience
A cup of shocks, shame and lots of acclaim

Walter was captain of the first West Germany side to enter the World Cup and in the 1954 final they faced Hungary, the shortest-odds favourites ever to compete for the trophy.

When the two teams met in the group stages in Switzerland, Hungary had scored eight. Before the final was 10 minutes old, Ferenc Puskas’s side were 2-0 up.

Puskas, however, should not have been on the pitch; he was carrying an ankle injury and was playing on his reputation alone. The Germans were managed by Sepp Herberger, whose most famous observation on football was: “The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes, everything else is theory.” His team were no respecter of reputations. The Hungarian midfield was probed and prodded until it collapsed.

The game ended with a piece of commentary that has become woven into the nation’s fabric much as Kenneth Wolstenholme’s observation that “there are some people on the pitch, they think it’s all over” was to do in England. Commentating for German radio, Herbert Zimmermann, who had begun his broadcast hoping the Germans might keep the score down, shouted: “Germany lead 3-2. Call me mad, call me crazy.” Walter was presented with the Jules Rimet trophy in the rain.

In the 60 years since the Miracle of Bern, a German team has reached 10 World Cup semi-finals and gone on to six finals. England, which until the Football Association signed its own death warrant by sanctioning what was to become a foreign-dominated Premier League, possessed far greater  resources. It has featured in two semis and one World Cup final and none of either since the Premier League came into being in 1992.

There are some clichés as to why the Germans dominate World Cups and some of them are true. They are better at penalties than any other nation. Curiously, English clubs have a better record at penalty shoot-outs than German teams – a conversion rate of 82 per cent to 75 per cent. However, at national level, while the Germans convert 93 per cent of their spot-kicks, England’s rate is 66 per cent.

Many attributed the 1954 triumph to “The Spirit of Spiez” after the lake-side town where West Germany based themselves. More than half the German side that annihilated Brazil in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday were graduates of the team that won the 2009 Under-21 title. Team spirit is very real and it shows itself on the penalty spot.

Before they played the 1954 World Cup final, Herberger made his team watch a film of Hungary’s 6-3 demolition of England at Wembley. That in itself was rare for the time but Herberger played it twice – the second time to point out the weaknesses in this unbeatable team. He was also close to the founder of Adidas, Adi Dassler, and ensured his players had removable studs. If it rained, as it was to do so famously in Bern, his players would screw in longer ones.

Sixty years later, Germany was virtually the only nation to anticipate Andrea Pirlo’s comment that there would be “two World Cups; one in the north, the other in the south”. The German Team celebrate after they won the FIFA World Cup 1954 final match between Hungary and Germany on July 4, 1954 in Bern, Switzerland The West German team celebrate after they win the 1954 World Cup against Hungary

Italy, like nearly every other nation, based themselves in the south of Brazil. Their training camp at Mangaratiba was 1,770 miles from their first group match in Manaus, 1,165 miles from their second in Recife and 1,220 from their last in Natal. The Italians complained constantly about the heat and humidity of the north without doing anything to prepare for it.

Germany were the only major nation to base themselves in the north of Brazil, where, curiously, all their group games were. They constructed their own training complex that contained 14 villas, a spa, a pool, a fitness centre and pitches. It was the only piece of building work for the World Cup that was completed on time.

When West Germany won their second World Cup in 1974 they were based in what seemed like a prison camp an hour’s drive north of Hamburg. “Many of the team would have packed the whole thing in and gone home, such was the unmitigated pressure on us,” Berti Vogts was to recall later. “We slept three to a room; there was one  telephone on the corridor and policemen everywhere.”

It was in that atmosphere that they lost was to become known as “Das Deutsche Duell” with East Germany, a result that sent the squad into meltdown and their manager, Helmut Schön, towards a breakdown. Franz Beckenbauer (below) effectively took over the team, shook it into shape, and led it to the World Cup.

In different circumstances, Michael Ballack would do the same 28 years later to a limited, unimpressive German side that had been humiliated  5-1 by England in Munich the year before and drag them to the 2002 World Cup final. “Anything can happen in football,” said his manager, Rudi Völler, “Except for Ballack getting injured.” Germany would probably have lost the 2002 final to Brazil had Ballack not been suspended. Without him they had no chance. Franz Beckenbauer and the winning West German team of 1974 Franz Beckenbauer and the winning West German team of 1974

The Germans learned the lesson of 1974. In South Africa four years ago, Joachim Löw would take his young squad on safari or to visit Nelson Mandela’s old prison cell on Robben Island. Sometimes, they could be completely undisciplined.In his autobiography, Germany’s most infamous goalkeeper, Toni Schumacher, described a gambling and sex culture during the 1982 tournament in Spain that saw the team “come into training like a piece of wet cloth”.

It was that World Cup which was to colour views of German football for a generation. You could take your pick from Schumacher’s arrogant assertion that “we will probably beat Algeria by eight goals just to warm up” – they lost 1-0; the contrived game against Austria designed to send both teams through; or Schumacher’s taking out of France’s Patrick Battiston in the semi-final, for which he showed not the slightest remorse.

It took first Jürgen Klinsmann and then Löw to expunge the putrid images with a stream of young, highly-educated (in football and academic terms) players and a philosophy of one-touch football. And yet before the 2006 World Cup that was to begin the revolution, only three per cent of Germany’s population thought they had a chance of winning it – they were to lose an epic semi-final to Italy in Dortmund. <b>61. LOTHAR MATTHAUS</b><br/>
The German midfielder Lothar Matthaus holds the record for the most appearances in the World Cup. In total, the former Inter Milan and Bayern Munich general played 25 matches in the tournament. His crowning moment came in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, where he spurred his side to victory. As captain of the side, he personally scored four goals before lifting the trophy after victory over Argentina in the final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
<br/><br/>
<a href=CLICK HERE TO WATCH MATTHAUS IN ACTION" title="Lothar Matthaus lifts the World Cup at Italia 90" /> Lothar Matthaus lifts the World Cup at Italia 90

Klinsmann’s hiring of psychologists, experts from American sports and Germany’s hockey coach, Bernhard Peters, were seen as ridiculous gimmicks by Beckenbauer and the country’s most powerful newspaper, Bild, which in the face of dreadful pre-tournament results argued that if Germany could not withdraw from its own World Cup, then it should hire Ottmar Hitzfeld to manage the team.

The paranoia ended in a triumphant celebration by the Brandenburg Gate a victory over Portugal in the third-place play-off. The foundations were, however, laid down six decades ago and, when the first drops of rain fall on the Maracana tomorrow, Germans should look up to the skies and remember where it all began.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness