Lothar Matthaus on 1990 glory

FFT’S colum­nist is un­doubt­edly a World Cup icon – he ex­plains how he led Ger­many to vic­tory in 1990 and why Eng­land prob­a­bly would have lifted the tro­phy had they tri­umphed in that fate­ful penalty shootout

FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS -

At De­cem­ber’s World Cup draw, I met up with leg­ends like Pele, Ron­aldo and Diego Maradona – I see them of­ten and it’s al­ways a plea­sure. I met Gor­don Banks for the first time, which made me very happy. It’s es­pe­cially nice to see the play­ers from my era, like Diego and Gary Lineker. It’s like a school re­union!

Peo­ple of­ten say that 2002 was the World Cup of Ron­aldo and 1986 was the World Cup of Maradona. I’m proud when peo­ple say that 1990 was the World Cup of Lothar Matthaus – it’s a nice com­pli­ment and it sounds good, but I didn’t win that World Cup alone.

Sure, I scored some goals, I was the cap­tain and maybe I was the face of the West Ger­many team. But I don’t see my­self as a hero. I didn’t dom­i­nate like Maradona in 1986. We had a great team, not only in terms of qual­ity, but men­tal­ity and team spirit.

The first match was very im­por­tant. It was one of the best games I had for Ger­many. We beat Yu­goslavia 4-1 and showed that, hey, if some­body wants to win the World Cup, first they have to beat us. It also gave us peace from the jour­nal­ists, as they couldn’t write s**t and dis­turb the at­mos­phere.

Our tough­est game was Eng­land. It was one of the best games at that World Cup – both teams tried to at­tack. Eng­land didn’t start the World Cup too well, but they’d been play­ing bet­ter and bet­ter. They had great play­ers - Platt, Gas­coigne, Lineker, Pearce, Shilton, Wad­dle. They had the qual­ity to win that World Cup. They played very well against us, and I was a lit­tle bit sur­prised they played quite so well.

But we did a very good job, too. I re­mem­ber Gas­coigne’s yel­low card, be­cause that was also my prob­lem. I was on a yel­low card as well – I had been booked against Hol­land. I thought, ‘Please con­trol your­self, Lothar - you’ve had a good World Cup, and if the team gets to the fi­nal, you will play in the fi­nal too’. Psy­cho­log­i­cally, it was a lot of stress. In one way, maybe it was good for Gas­coigne that Eng­land didn’t get to the fi­nal. Maybe he still wished his team-mates had got there, but you have to think about your­self, too – it was eas­ier that he only missed the third place play-off.

I wouldn’t say I was happy the game went to penal­ties: I wanted to win in 90 min­utes, or in ex­tra time. At that point, we didn’t know Eng­land couldn’t take penal­ties. Now we know it, af­ter 28 years! At the end of train­ing ev­ery day we’d take penal­ties, not be­cause we were pre­par­ing for Eng­land, but for fun – the loser had to bring the beer for their team-mates in the evening. There was al­ways a bit of pres­sure on it. No one wanted to serve the beer!

I didn’t feel any pres­sure dur­ing the shootout. I’d scored a penalty in the quarter-fi­nals and felt so sure about my­self. I never thought I could miss. When we won, I went to con­sole Chris Wad­dle be­cause I’d missed a penalty in the 1984 Ger­man Cup Fi­nal and knew how s**t it was. I felt for him.

The way Eng­land played against us, they would have gone into the fi­nal as favourites. I couldn’t have been an­gry if they had beaten us. But if Ar­gentina had beaten us in the fi­nal, that would have made me an­gry. They weren’t in­ter­ested in at­tack­ing.

When you look at the tour­na­ment from be­gin­ning to end, the best team won that World Cup. To get the cup in my hands was a spe­cial mo­ment I’ll never for­get. There are so many things go­ing on in your brain in the mo­ments af­ter vic­tory: the con­grat­u­la­tions, the at­mos­phere, the stress of the past five weeks, the feel­ing. You’re a World Cup win­ner.

I’m proud to hold the record of play­ing in five World Cups. When Italy didn’t qual­ify this time, I was sad for them be­cause I used to live there. Later, when peo­ple said to me, ‘Buf­fon would have gone to six World Cups’, I thought ‘OK, maybe it wasn’t bad for me!’ But I’m sad for him, too. He’s one of the best goal­keep­ers in the world.

I also have the record of play­ing in 25 World Cup matches – that’s all down to the team, be­cause we went to three fi­nals and two quarter-fi­nals. Ac­tu­ally I could have played 31 matches. I only played twice in 1982, when I was young. But what more do I want? I played in five World Cups, I won the World Cup, I have the record of 25 games. Ev­ery­thing is OK for me!

“OUR TOUGH­EST GAME WAS ENG­LAND. AT THAT POINT, WE DIDN’T KNOW THEY COULDN’T TAKE PENAL­TIES. NOW WE KNOW, AF­TER 28 YEARS!”

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