Since our website is an avid enthusiast of Oktoberfest and all things German, it’s only fair that we hype you up appropriately for the World Cup. Soccer is as much part of German culture as Oktoberfest is and Germany is one of the most accomplished teams in World Cup history. The country boasts three world cup titles, seven finals appearances, and four third-places. Germany’s three titles trail only to Brazil (5) and Italy (4). Read on to learn about Germany’s unique World Cup history:
1930: Did Not Compete
The first World Cup was held in Uruguay and thirteen teams chose to participate. Only four European teams competed, as traveling to South America was pricey and difficult. Germany opted not to play.
1934: Debuting and Third Place
1934 was the first year that teams had to qualify for World Cup participation. Germany’s presence was felt immediately as they advanced to the bronze match to defeat Austria 3-2. Germany’s debut performance would mark the beginning of a long track record of success in the World Cup. However, this would come after Germany suffered great disappointment and political turmoil.
1938 – 1950: Early Exit and Ban
Germany’s 1938 appearance was their weakest performance to date. This was the only year that Germany did not make a quarterfinal appearance as they were defeated by Switzerland in the first round. The 1938 World Cup was also the last time that Germany would play in the tournament until 1952. Due to World War II, both the 1942 and 1946 World Cups would be canceled. When it resumed in 1950, Germany was still subjected to international sanctions and was not permitted to compete in the contest.
1954: Germany’s Revival and First Championship
Image Courtesy of Paul Townsend’s Flickr page
By 1954, German teams were unbanned and allowed to compete again. At this point, Germany was divided into East Germany and West Germany. While East Germany would not qualify to play until 1974, West Germany would compete in many successful World Cup campaigns.
Having not played the competition in 16 years, West Germany’s squad featured invigorated players who had never seen World Cup action. Germany advanced to the final round where they played the red-hot Hungary. Hungary had entered the tournament unbeaten in 32 games and had previously embarrassed West Germany with an 8-3 group play win. Even though Hungary was the favorite, West Germany defeated them 3-2 to win the first World Cup title for any German team. The win was dramatic as Helmut Rahn scored West Germany’s winning goal with only 6 minutes left in regulation. This game is still considered one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
1958: Lost in Bronze Match
The 1958 competition would be underwhelming for the defending champions. They would not only lose the semi-final to Sweden, but they would also lose the bronze match to France with a blow-out score of 3-6.
1962: Lost in Quarter-Final
Four years later, West Germany would take another step backwards as they lost the 1962 quarter-final to Yugoslavia with a 0-1 score.
1966: Bested by England in Second Finals Appearance
In 1966, West Germany would advance to the finals for the second time. They would play against England, who was also hosting that year’s Cup. Tied 2-2 by the end of regulation, the two teams would play an overtime period. England’s home advantages proved too much for West Germany as they fell 4-2 and England earned their first and only World Cup title. West Germany’s Helmut Haller would finish the tournament with 6 goals, the second-most for any player in that year’s tournament. 1
970: Third Place
The 1970 tournament resulted in West Germany winning bronze by defeating Uruguay 1-0. Still feeling the sting of their 1966 defeat, West Germany would look to turn things around when they hosted the tournament in 1974.
1974: Home Advantage and Second Championship
1974 would be a big year for German soccer. Not only did West Germany get to host the World Cup for the first time, but they would go on to win the world championship in front of their home crowd. West Germany powered through early rounds with relative ease as they held most of their opponents scoreless. They made it to the finals where they would face off against the Netherlands.
Just like West Germany in 1966, the Netherlands found that beating a host team for the championship is nearly impossible. West Germany would persevere, winning 2-1 for their second championship.
1978: Second-Round Exit
After advancing from the first round, West Germany would play two draw games against Italy and their 1974 nemesis, the Netherlands. In their third game of the second round, they finally lost 3-2 to Austria and were eliminated.
1982 - 1986: Back-to-Back Finals Defeats
The 1982 competition would see West Germany advancing back to the finals for the fourth time. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge would lead the team to compete against Paolo Rossi’s Italy. At the time, both teams held two championships and were seeking a third. Italy would be victorious as they defeated West Germany 3-1.
In 1986, West Germany would advance back to the finals with a chance for redemption after letting a third championship slip away. However, West Germany would find more difficulties as they faced Argentina and one of the greatest footballers of all-time: Diego Maradona. Although Maradona was held scoreless for the game, Argentina’s squad was too much for West Germany as they fell 3-2.
1990: Revenging Argentina for a Third Championship
In 1990, West Germany would advance to the finals for the third straight year to face off with Argentina for a second consecutive finals match. The 1986 match was a heated game and resulted in 6 yellow cards (a World Cup record until 2010). The 1990 rematch would be even more intense as it included the first two red cards ever pulled in finals history. Both red cards were against Argentine players, meaning Argentina would end the game with only 9 men on the field. Additionally, Argentina’s squad was already depleted as they entered the game with four suspended players. Germany would win the match 1-0 for their third world championship. This game marked the first time a European team defeated a non-European team in the finals.
1994 - 1998: Reunification and Consecutive Quarter-Final Eliminations
Although Germany’s three titles had been won by West Germany, the dissolution of the Soviet Empire would result in reunification of the entire country. For the first time since 1938, a single soccer team would represent Germany in the 1994 World Cup. However, no team has been able to win back-to-back World Cup titles since Brazil beat Czechoslovakia in 1962. Germany would fail to join these ranks, as both 1994 and 1998 World Cups would see Germany eliminated in the quarter-finals by Bulgaria and Croatia, respectively.
2002: Last Finals Appearance and Defeat
Germany advanced to the 2002 World Cup finals for its last time to play Brazil. This would be both Brazil and Germany’s seventh World Cup appearances: a number unmatched by any other team. Brazil walked into the game with 4 titles, Germany with 3. Germany looked to surpass Italy and tie with Brazil for the most titles in the world, but fate would have it a different way. Oliver Kahn’s German team would fall to Ronaldo’s Brazil with a score of 2-0. Brazil went on to win their record-holding fifth World Cup title.
2006-2010: A Couple of Bronzes and One More Hosting
In 2006, Germany hosted their second World Cup. They became only the third team to host the tournament twice after Italy and France (Brazil will be hosting their second World Cup this summer also). In 2006, Germany would defeat Portugal 3-1 to win third-place. In 2010, Germany would win third-place again by defeating Uruguay 3-2. By 2010, Germany had been 3-time World Cup champions, 4-time runners up, and 4-time third-placers.
2014: Highly-Ranked, but What’s to Come?
Germany plays its first 2014 World Cup game on June 16 when they face-off against Portugal. Germany’s first round group is Group G, which includes Portugal, United States, and Ghana. Group G is considered the most difficult group to be playing in, as Germany and Portugal are ranked number two and three respectively. Spain is ranked number 1 and is looking to defend its first championship from 2010.
Like many times before, Germany holds decent odds to win the World Cup. However, Spain is the favorite and Brazil will enjoy host-team advantages while being ranked fourth in the world. With all these fierce competitors, will Germany endure to win their fourth World Cup title? Only time will tell.