Porto Alegre, 12th December 1992
December 1992, and Berti Vogts’ German side are on a tour-match tour to South America to take on Brazil in Porto Alegre, and then Uruguay in Montevideo. The touring squad includes a number of new faces: 1. FC Kaiserslautern’s Martin Wagner, Borussia Dortmund stalwart Michael Zorc, FC Bayern München striker Bruno Labbadia – and Werder Bremen defensive midfielder Thomas Wolter.
Werder had a habit of attracting one-club men – Thomas Schaaf and Dieter Eilts to name but two – and Wolter would be another one of them. Born in Hamburg, he would move to Bremen in 1984 at the age of nineteen, and after a start with the amateur side would make his first team debut late in the year against Eintracht Braunschweig. By the middle of the 1992/93 season he had racked up the best part of two-hundred top flight appearances, and would be seen by many as part of the furniture at the Weserstadion.
Wolter was a player who fitted perfectly into the Bremen side in the late 1980s and early 1990s under their legendary coach Otto Rehhagel. Steady and solid without being spectacular, completely reliable, and wholly committed to the cause. The 5’11” defensive midfielder was the sort of player who, like his team mate Eilts, would attract the attention of Nationaltrainer Berti Vogts in the early 1990s: he would be one of a new selection of players drafted into the national side as part of the gradual build up towards the 1994 World Cup. With no qualifying matches to play as reigning champions, there would be plenty of scope for experimentation.
In the green of Werder Bremen, Thomas Wolter skips clear of St. Pauli’s Waldemar Steubing.
Located on the coast in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, the city of Porto Alegre was home to a number of Brazilians of German descent, and there would be plenty of support in the 50,000-capacity Estádio Olímpico Monumental for the visitors on what would be a bright December afternoon. Vogts would start with a mix of experienced heads and Neulings, while the home side – still reeling after disappointing World Cup and Copa America defeats at the hands of neighbours and arch-rivals Argentina – would be undergoing a rebuilding process under Carlos Alberto Parreira.
Stepping out into that bright afternoon in the Schwarz und Weiß would be Thomas Wolter, who after being a Bundesliga mainstay for the best part of a decade would finally win that much-coveted first international cap. He would start as part of a new-look and arguably dangerously experimental defensive midfield trio alongside fellow debutant Wagner and the young FC Bayern tyro Stefan Effenberg, who would be making his sixteenth international appearance.
The Nationalmannschaft would find themselves behind at half time as the home side scored two goals in the space of four minutes – the first a fine long-range strike from Luis Henrique, and a the second a rather freakish lob that came off Bebeto’s shin following German ‘keeper Bodo Illgner’s charge and parry. The German defence had found it hard to contain their nimble opponents, and the new-look midfield would be given a stern test by Bebeto, Zinho and Co. Wagner was replaced by Dortmund’s Knut Reinhardt at the break, and as the match approached the hour mark Wolter’s number would also be up.
Wolter’s first hour in the Nationaltrikot would also turn out to be his last. He would be replaced in the fifty-ninth minute by another debutant – Borussia Dortmund’s Michael Zorc. He would never be considered for the national team again, and would finish his fourteen-year professional career at the Weserstadion in 1998. In these fourteen seasons Wolter had made 312 appearances, scoring a dozen goals; his honours included two Bundesliga titles in 1988 and 1993, two DFB-Pokal victories in 1991 and 1994, a European Cup Winners’ Cup triumph in 1992 – and that one international cap.
Thomas Wolter may have been discarded after an hour in the Nationaltrikot, but he would remain a bedrock of the establishment at the Weserstadion after his retirement. Like Thomas Schaaf he would move across into coaching, taking charge alongside Schaaf as co-trainer of the amateur side before coaching the Under-18 and Under-19 youth teams. In 2002 he once again took charge of the amateurs, where he has remained ever since.