Germany have won four men’s FIFA World Cup titles, with those coming between 1954 and 2014 – only Brazil have won more (five). We look back at each of their four World Cup wins by analysing the data behind each tournament.
The Maiden World Cup Title
Germany (then West Germany) won their first ever World Cup in the 1954 tournament in Switzerland, defeating Hungary 3-2 in what is widely considered as one of the best finals in World Cup history.
Hungary came into the final as arguably the best team in the world and the favourites to be World Cup winners. Their ‘Golden Team’ – often referred to as the ‘Mighty Magyars’ – were unbeaten in 31 official international matches on the eve of the 1954 final and their squad boasted players such as Sándor Kocsis and Ferenc Puskás.
Hungary had already taught the West Germans a footballing lesson earlier in the tournament, defeating them 8-3 in the group stage – many expected a similar result in the final.
After racing into a 2-0 lead inside eight minutes, Hungary found themselves pegged back to 2-2 only 10 minutes later following goals from Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn, before an 84th-minute winner from Rahn meant the Germans did the unthinkable and completed the turnaround against the great Hungarian side.
The West German players became instantaneously famous in Germany as the Heroes of Bern following the final and were immortalised in German football history.
Winning on Home Soil
Hosting the World Cup for the very first time, Germany (then West Germany) became the fourth tournament hosts to win the competition, after Uruguay in 1930, Italy in 1934 and England in 1966.
West Germany actually lost to East Germany in the first group stage, a defeat that meant the West Germans finished in second place behind their neighbours in the group, but they were to make no such error in the second group stage – winning all three of their matches and reaching the final against the Netherlands.
Germany won the final at the Olympiastadion despite falling 1-0 behind in the second minute. Indeed, Johan Neeskens’ penalty, scored after 86 seconds, remains the earliest goal ever scored from the start of a World Cup final. Germany coming from behind to win meant that seven of the first nine World Cup final winners (excluding 1950 which had no official final) had done so despite going behind in that final, a feat that has only been achieved once since (Italy in 2006).
Gerd Müller scored the winning goal in the final – one of four that he scored at the 1974 tournament and 14 overall in World Cup finals.
Revenge for 1986
West Germany won the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. Unlike 1982 and 1986, the Germans didn’t finish runners-up and became the first team to reach the World Cup final in three successive tournaments, and following in Brazil and Italy’s footsteps as the nations to win the trophy on three occasions.
Captain Lothar Matthäus played every minute of Germany’s successful campaign, putting him on his way to becoming the player with the most appearances in the history of the competition (25). He would also finish as the Germans’ top scorer at the tournament with four goals.
The 1990 World Cup final against Argentina came after the German side broke English hearts in the semi-final following a penalty-shootout victory. The game against Argentina was the first rematch of a World Cup final and the only back-to-back rematch, following Argentina’s Maradona-powered 1986 final victory over Germany (3-2).
West Germany became the first team to keep a clean sheet in a men’s World Cup final, while it was the first time that a European team had defeated a South American side in the final match (the previous two such meetings were won by teams from the CONMEBOL federation). Argentina saw two men sent off in the final, with Pedro Monzón (65 minutes) and Gustavo Dezotti (87 minutes) becoming the first players to ever be sent off in the showpiece event.
Their 1-0 victory was the final game for the West German team in the World Cup – they played three more games overall before a unified German national team was formed later in 1990, following the reunification of the country after more than 40 years.
Winning in Style
Germany’s fourth men’s FIFA World Cup title came in Brazil in 2014. Arguably one of the most impressive World Cup wins in the modern era, Joachim Löw’s team started their campaign with a 4-0 win over Portugal – who exited at the group stage – before knocking out Algeria, France and Brazil before beating Argentina in the final.
The semi-final win over Brazil, in particular, was spectacular. The 7-1 rout in Belo Horizonte will go down as one of the craziest games in World Cup history, while that win also saw Miroslav Klose overtake Ronaldo to become the leading men’s World Cup goalscorer of all time.
Die Mannschaft’s 1-0 win over Argentina in the final – a repeat of the 1990 final – came via an extra-time goal from substitute midfielder Mario Götze, who became just the fourth substitute to score in a men’s World Cup final and the first since striker Rudi Völler in 1986, also for Germany against Argentina, but this time it led to a happier ending for the Germans. Götze became the youngest scorer of a goal in a World Cup final since Wolfgang Weber in 1966 (22 years, 33 days), while his goal was Germany’s 18th in this tournament – the most by a team in a World Cup tournament since Brazil in 2002 (18).
In winning the 2014 World Cup, Germany became the first team from Europe to win a World Cup in the Americas. It was also their first World Cup title following the reunification of Germany in 1990.
Unfortunately for Germany, they failed to defend their crown four years later in Russia. The 2018 World Cup saw the Germans put in a poor display, narrowly beating fellow UEFA side Sweden in the middle of losing to both Mexico and South Korea, subsequently becoming the third successive World Cup holders to be eliminated in the group stage.
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