Germany are one of the most successful countries in the history of the World Cup.
They have competed at all but two World Cups over the last 92 years, opting out of the very first tournament in 1930 like most European nations. They were later banned from competing in the qualifiers for the 1950 finals in the wake of the Second World War.
Following the split between west and east after the conflict and the formation of East Germany, the German national team was commonly referred to as West Germany.
It was under that informal name that Germany won a first World Cup title in 1954, following it up with a second in 1974. In 1990, Franz Beckenbauer became one of the few people to win a World Cup as a player and manager when he led Die Mannschaft to another title.
Political reunification happened in the autumn of 1990, although it was 2014 before a reunited Germany national team won a World Cup for the first time.
German consistency at the World Cup over the decades has become legendary. From 1966 until 1990, they reached at least the semi-finals at six out of seven tournaments and played in five finals. Again between 2002 and 2014, they got to the last four or better every time.
But things haven’t exactly been plain sailing for Germany more recently. Their 2018 tournament as a defending champions was a disaster and 2022 began in similarly disappointing fashion.
Germany won their first ever World Cup game in 1934, comfortably beating Belgium 5-2 in the first round of what was then a straight knockout bracket. They were eliminated in the first round in 1938, but technically drew their opening game against Switzerland and only lost a subsequent replay.
After the Second World War, the Germans beat Turkey in their first game in 1954, followed by Argentina in their opening game in 1958. They were held to a 0-0 draw by Italy to begin 1962, before consecutive wins over Switerland and Morocco in 1966 and 1970 respectively, before kicking off their first World Cup as hosts with victory over Chile in 1974.
Germany drew four of their six games at the 1978 World Cup, easily one of their worst of the 20th century, including their opening match against Poland. They reached the final in 1982 but actually began with one of the all-time World Cup shocks, losing 2-1 to first-time qualifiers Algeria.
Germany didn’t lose another World Cup opener until 2018. In the intervening years, they had enjoyed many big wins at the start of tournaments, including an 8-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia in 2002 and 4-0 victories over Australia and Portugal in 2010 and 2014 respectively.
The 2018 tournament was a disaster for Germany, kicking off with a 1-0 defeat to Mexico – Hirving Lozano scored the only goal of the game in the 35th minute. That set the tone because defeat to South Korea at the end of the group stage sent them home early.
2022 didn’t begin any better, losing to Japan. Germany had scored first through Ilkay Gundogan from the penalty spot, but two Japanese goals without reply deep into the second turned the game around and condemned Die Mannschaft to a 2-1 defeat.
In total, Germany have lost three of their 20 opening World Cup games, still a remarkable record.
Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders, Grizz Khan and Jack Gallagher to look back on France ’98 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!
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