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
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!”