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Germany trying to get it right again
Germany's national football team is second only to Brazil in terms of historical achievement. The Mannschaft has, however been in a state of decline for the past decade, and the team is now desperately looking for the spark that will bring them back among the world's elite.
Since stars like Lothar Matthäus, Jürgen Klinsmann and Rudi Völler ended their careers, only a few national team players have lived up to their incredibly high standards. One is Bayern Munich's Oliver Kahn, who has been voted as the world's best goalkeeper on a number of occasions. Kahn is the epitome of willpower and discipline and the unquestioned leader of the side. His club team mate Mehmet Scholl is also a pillar of the line-up thanks to his technical skills and exuberant style of play. Jens Jeremies is another who stands out, possessing the commitment and toughness that marked previous German national sides.
The Bayern Munich trio have experience not only internationally, but have also achieved much with their club, culminating in their 2000-2001 UEFA Champions League success.
In general though, the feeling is that some players who were expected to make an impact have not performed to the level necessary so far and Germany's greatest hope for future success, midfielder Sebastian Deisler of Hertha BSC Berlin, may be too inexperienced to make his presence felt at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.
One player who has risen to the occasion, however, is Michael Ballack, who was the surprise package of this FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. The Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder was Germany's top scorer and netted three times in the playoff matches against Ukraine, finally unleashing the potential that previously had only been on display at club level. Should he remain in this rich vein of form then he will be the key to Germany's dreams of winning the FIFA World Cup for the fourth time.
Germany's defence, with players such as Jens Nowotny (Bayer Leverkusen), Christian Wörns (Borussia Dortmund) and Thomas Linke (Bayern Munich), allowed only ten goals in eight qualifying matches, half of those in a 5-1 home loss to England. In attack, the days of captain Oliver Bierhoff (Monaco) seem limited, as he has been used as a substitute in recent international matches, whereas strikers such as Carsten Jancker (Bayern Munich), Oliver Neuville (Bayer Leverkusen), Miroslav Klose (Kaiserslautern) and Gerald Asamoah (Schalke 04) have proved worryingly inconsistent.
Significant past players:
Lothar Matthäus, Jürgen Klinsmann, Karl Heinz Rummenigge, Horst Hrubesch, Sepp Maier, Berti Vogts, Ulrich Stielike, Paul Breitner, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Fritz Walter.
-- Winner 1954 FIFA World Cup Switzerland
-- Winner 1974 FIFA World Cup West Germany
-- Winner 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy
-- Runner-up 1966 FIFA World Cup England
-- Runner-up 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain
-- Runner-up 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico
-- 3rd 1934 FIFA World Cup Italy
-- 3rd 1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico
-- 4th 1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden
-- Quarter-final 1962 FIFA World Cup Chile
-- Quarter-final 1994 FIFA World Cup USA
-- Quarter-final 1998 FIFA World Cup France
-- Winner UEFA European Championship Belgium 1972
-- Winner UEFA European Championship Italy 1980
-- Winner UEFA European Championship England 1996
-- Runner-up UEFA European Championship Yugoslavia 1976
-- Semi-final UEFA European Championship West Germany 1988
-- Runner-up UEFA European Championship Sweden 1992
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