In 1971, Franz Beckenbauer was handed the captaincy of the German national side. A golden age of German football ensued under his leadership, as Germany went on to lift the European Championships in 1972, and then won the following World Cup in 1974.
Beckenbauer’s Germany was unable to emulate that success in the following two competitions, and were unable to defend both of their titles. EURO ’76 saw Czechoslovakia beat Germany in the final, and the Germans were knocked out of the 1978 World Cup in the group stage. Franz Beckenbauer retired from international duty in 1977, and the Germans were simply just not the same without their talismanic leader.
Clearly, changes had to be made. Under pressure from the German public and the German media after their very poor showing at the 1978 World Cup, Germany knew they had to change their fortunes. In 1980, Germany once again were crowned European Champions after winning in the final of Euro ’80 against Belgium. In the 1982 World Cup, the Germans reached the final but were beaten by Italy.
Success again slipped away from Germany when they were knocked out of Euro ’84 in the first round. Germany were calling for a hero. Enter ‘The Kaiser.’ Franz Beckenbauer was hired as Germany national team coach in 1984 after Euro ’84. Immediately, Beckenbauer’s influence shone through for the Germans.
The German legend led Die Mannschaft to the final of the World Cup in 1986, but lost to a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina side. Beckenbauer swore revenge. Four years later, Beckenbauer again faced Argentina and Diego Maradona in the final of the 1990 World Cup, and this time Germany were triumphant. Beckenbauer had written his name in German folklore, having lifted the World Cup as a player and as a manager. This was also Germany’s third World Cup final appearance in a row.
Diego Maradona had finally succumbed to defeat with Argentina, and his football career was imminently on the wane. In 1991, Maradona was banned from football for 15 months after failing a drug test for cocaine use. At World Cup ’94 in USA, Maradona was ejected from the tournament for failing another drug test, this time for ephedrine.
Since, Germany has reached the final of World Cup ’02, and the final of Euro ’08. Argentina has had little in terms of success. Argentina, like Germany in the early ’80s, were calling for a hero. Enter Maradona. The man who led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 is the man that the South Americans again place their hopes on in 2010.
Many criticized Diego Maradona for his poor performances in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, and he was again criticized after his 23-man squad was revealed to the public. Players like Esteban Cambiasso, Fernando Gago, Ever Banega, and Javier Zanetti were not included by Maradona, and faith placed in him by the Argentinian public waned.
Now, though, Maradona has seemingly proved them all wrong. He has fashioned a side that is able to play some fantastic football and also be responsible defensively, and has pulled off excellent results so far at the 2010 World Cup. The pressure will certainly be on him now, though, to defeat Germany. Diego Maradona was the man to do it in 1986, and it is on him again to break German hearts and once again bring the World Cup back to Argentina.
Franz Beckenbauer, now, has retired from the game. His pride and passion will certainly be felt by the German squad and German coach Joachim Loew, though. They will know what they face and they will know the history behind these two sides and what it means to each nation to achieve World Cup success. It is a match of old champions and new generations of superstars. Will Lionel Messi take the place of a young Diego Maradona and lead Argentina to World Cup glory? Or will Thomas Mueller fill the boots of his namesake Gerd Mueller and fire the Germans past Argentina?
Certainly, a great match is on the cards here. Diego Maradona has the chance to further extend his legendary status with a win over Germany, but this young German side certainly have shown that they embody the hopes and passion of the nation.