“If I could walk on water, my accusers would say it is because I cannot swim.”– Berti Vogts
Hans-Hubert “Berti” Vogts became the sixth Nationaltrainer in 1990, inheriting the World Cup winning side from Franz Beckenbauer for whom he had been assistant for four years. The man known during his playing days as Der Terrier brought with him not only a wealth of coaching experience, but also a deep respect stemming from his days as a member of the great German team that dominated both Europe and the world during the seventies.
Born in the village of Büttgen near Kaarst in North-Rhine Westphalia, Berti Vogts had developed a reputation as straight and hard professional during his playing days, something he brought with him as coach. When working with Beckenbauer it was Der Kaiser who brought the style and panache, while Der Terrier provided the steel: both men knew each other well, having been in the great Germany squad that dominated world football during the seventies.
A one-club man with his local side Borussia Mönchengladbach, Vogts appeared ninety-six times for the Nationalmannschaft between 1967 and 1978, scoring one goal. During his fourteen years at club level for Borussia, he played 419 times, scoring on thirty-two occasions.
Vogts coached in the much same way as he had played – hard and fair, but with the tenacity that earned him his nickname. While he may not have been the most powerfully-built defender – he was only 5′ 6″ tall – he made up for this with sheer guts and a never-say-die attitude that was widely admired. A big favourite with the home crowd, Vogts could be said to have won the World Cup for West Germany in 1974 through his shackling of Dutch maestro Johann Cruyff.
Der Terrier cannot prevent East Germany’s Jürgen Sparwasser from scoring at the World Cup in 1974
The one real duff note in what had been a stellar career occurred in what would be his last game against Austria in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina – the game that sits alongside Lyon 1998, Rotterdam 2000 and Munich 2001 in the black book of German football. In what was later described in Austria as the Wunder von Córdoba (“the miracle of Córdoba”) and conversely in Germany as the Schmach von Córdoba (“the disgrace of Cordoba”), Vogts scored an unfortunate own goal as the Austrians upset the form book to beat a dispirited German side 3-2.
Hans Krankl’s 87th minute winner for the Ösis meant that Helmut Schön’s side could not even make the third-place play-off, and constituted what has sarcastically been described by German fans as the greatest day in the history of Austrian football. In much the same way as the freak 5-1 victory in Munich is mentioned by England fans every time their team lines up to play Germany, in Austria people are treated to highlights of Córdoba 1978 and the wonderfully-named Edi Finger’s crazy commentary.
Burden of expectation
Having taken over from Franz Beckenbauer in the autumn of 1990, Berti Vogts’ first campaign as Nationaltrainer was the 1992 European Championships in Sweden. With the core of the 1990 squad and an injection of talent from the former East German national team, expectations were high.
After the World Cup victory in 1990 and the with imminent reunification of Germany, an off the cuff remark from Beckenbauer would come to haunt Vogts. Asked what would happen when players from the former East Germany could supplement the world champion squad, Der Kaiser had responded with something along the lines of “we’d probably be unbeatable for years”. Whether it had been said in seriousness or in jest, Beckenbauer’s remark had left Vogts would facing a massive burden of expectation from the start.
On paper, the German squad should have marched to a third European title. The reality was very different. The qualifying campaign would get off to an indifferent start with a scratchy 3-2 win against minnows Luxembourg, and a shock defeat in Wales was a massive blow to both the World Champions. The ship was quickly steadied with five wins on the bounce that included a 4-1 thrashing of the Welsh in Nürnberg, but the beady eyes of the media were already focussed on the coach.
The Euro 92 campaign in Sweden was disjointed and inconsistent, with very ordinary performances spliced with moments of magic. A stunning last-minute free-kick from Thomas Häßler would snatch a point from outsiders CIS, which was followed by a workmanlike victory over Scotland. The group phase would finish with a disappointing 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Netherlands, with the Germans only making the last four as a result of the Scots’ 3-0 consolation victory over the previously unbeaten CIS.
The semi-final against the unbeaten hosts should have been a challenge, but Vogts’ side would produce their best football of the campaign to reach the final. Another magical free-kick from Häßler would set things in motion, with a brace from Karlheinz Riedle sandwiching a Thomas Brolin penalty. Sweden had netted a late consolation to pull the score back to 3-2, but the result was flattering for the hosts.
In disposing of the dangerous Dutch in their semi-final, Denmark’s path to the big showpiece in Stockholm had been something of a fairy tale. Only in the tournament due to the late expulsion of Yugoslavia, the Danes were not expected to beat a German team that despite their indifferent form were still, well, Germany.
Not this time.
From the start, one could sense something in the air. Midfielder John Jensen, who had been unable to hit a barn door from ten yards earlier in the tournament, fired the Danes into the lead with a stunning long-range shot after eighteen minutes. As the Germans looked to get back into to the contest, Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was able to get in the way of everything that was thrown at him. Then the referee would fail to spot Kim Vilfort’s cheeky handball to bring the ball back under control before scoring the Danes’ second goal twelve minutes from time.
In any other country, a place in a major tournament final would have been seen as a major achievement. For Germany and and Berti Vogts however, it was something of a failure.
The path towards the World Cup in the United States was a little more unpredictable, and one of the costs of being world champions. With no qualifying matches to play, Vogts’ squad were starved of competitive football. Friendly matches were no real indicator of form, and the team would start to suffer.
The closest any of the players would get to serious football was the invitational US Cup held during the summer of 1993, a four-team tournament organised by the following year’s World Cup hosts. Given the circumstances, Vogts and the German team took the matter seriously. A strong squad with a number of first team regulars was sent to across the Atlantic, and there were some encouraging performances.
In their opening match the Mannschaft would come back from three goals down to snatch a last-gasp draw against Brazil, and would then beat the hosts by the odd goal in seven in a pulsating encounter. With other results going their way, Vogts’ men would beat England 2-1 to finish top of the round-robin group and clinch the mini-tournament trophy.
It was something, but not enough of a test. Germany’s squad for the World Cup the following year was blessed with big names and driven by those who had been part of the winning Kader in 1990, but the harsh reality was that they hadn’t really been tested properly for the best part of two years.
No collective edge
The problem was not so much individual form, but a distinct lack of collective edge. This would come to haunt the German team in the latter stages of the tournament, against opponents that they should have dispatched in their sleep. The self-confidence was still there, but none of the fighting spirit to back it up. The net result was a group of players that looked jaded and even arrogant.
After a satisfactory first phase and a well-worked second phase victory against Belgium, Vogts’ side would come unstuck against an unheralded Bulgarian team that delivered one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. On paper, it was a match that should never have even been a contest.
Vogts talks to skipper Lothar Matthäus at the World Cup in 1994. It was a not a great tournament for the Mannschaft.
Things were far from rosy in the German camp. There were rumours of a growing rift between Vogts and his captain Lothar Matthäus, part of a wider struggle between the unpretentious coach the big egos in the team. One of those big egos was the feisty midfielder Stefan Effenberg. Never the most popular player among German supporters, Effenberg had reacted to the hoots of disapproval in the crowd by giving them the finger after being subbed off in the 3-2 group phase win over South Korea. Not one to put up with such shenanigans, Vogts was unforgiving. There was no discussion, and the recalcitrant midfielder was made to pack his bags.
Following the team’s quarter-final exit in Chicago, the knives were once again being sharpened for Berti Vogts, who had now gone two tournaments without a win. In most other countries, making a final in your first tournament and the last eight in your second – with next to no competitive fixtures in between – would have been hailed as a success. Not in Germany, where every single Nationaltrainer since Sepp Herberger had won at least one major trophy.
Euro 96 triumph
As the qualifying campaign got under way for the 1996 European Championships, things just seemed to stutter along. After two ordinary victories against even more ordinary opposition in Georgia and Moldova and then two 2-1 scrapes against Albania, Germany had a maximum twelve points; the team were winning, but this was not good enough for Vogts’ critics – they had to be winning well. When they then stumbled to a 1-1 home draw with Wales and blew a 2-0 lead to their new bogey team Bulgaria in the last fixture of the 1994-1995 season, the coach could have probably sensed the knives being held close against his back.
The summer break could not have come at a better time for Vogts and his side. When they returned to action in the autumn of 1995, things seemed to go a whole lot better. The Mannschaft rounded off the Euro qualifying campaign with a perfect four wins from four games, scoring fifteen goals and laying the Bulgarian bugbear to rest with a resounding 3-1 win in Berlin. The critics had been silenced, and the team was hailed by an exultant home crowd.
The daggers had been sheathed, Germany had booked their place at the finals, and the coach was safe again. For the time being at least. For Vogts, life had been made considerably easier with his exclusion of Lothar Matthäus. Having installed the far more amenable Jürgen Klinsmann as team captain, there were none of the off-field problems that had plagued the World Cup campaign. Similarly, there was no place at the table for Stefan Effenberg. Rather than waste time battling with big egos, Vogts had simply decided to jettison them instead.
The events of the summer of 1996 would be the highlight of Berti Vogts’ time in charge, seeing him fulfil the historical requirement of securing at least one major trophy. A series of dominant displays would take the Mannschaft to a fifth European Championship final, including a dramatic penalty shootout victory in the semi-final against hosts England. On the way, they would also have to overcome a growing list of injuries.
The Czech Republic had been easily dispatched in the group phase, but when they took the lead at Wembley with a disputed penalty, it looked like the ghosts of 1992 were going to haunt Berti Vogts again. Another shock was on the cards, but this time the coach would have his trump card.
According to some, Berti Vogts had been persuaded by his wife Monika to take striker Oliver Bierhoff to England. In the 69th minute, Bierhoff was sent on for Mehmet Scholl. Just four minutes later, he stole on a march on the Czech defence to head home and level the scores. Then, five minutes into extra time, the Udinese man scored the golden goal. It was not the prettiest goal one would ever see, more the product of a complete Czech mess at the back. But when the ball hit the back of the net, it was all over. Germany had secured a third European title.
The story of Vogts listening to his wife’s advice would be become the stuff of legend. The decision to send Bierhoff on with just over twenty minutes left would prove to be inspired.
Vogts takes a bow for the German fans after the Euro 1996 victory at Wembley. His finest moment as Nationaltrainer.
Bierhoff may have won Germany the trophy, but the unsung hero of the winning squad was a player for whom Euro 1996 would be his only major tournament – Werder Bremen’s defensive midfielder Dieter Eilts. Although somewhat taller than his coach, Eilts was truly a player in the Vogts mould – blond with receding hair, hard but correct in the tackle, tactically aware and willing to go that extra mile. It was if Der Terrier himself had been out on the field.
With his trophy finally in the bag at the third attempt, Vogts had joined the long list of successful tournament-winning German coaches. The pressure was now off as his side embarked on the qualification trail for the 1998 World Cup in France.
Failure in France
The triumph at Euro 96 had been magnificently managed. Berti Vogts had etched his name on the Nationaltrainer’s roll of honour, his achievement all the more creditable given the long list of injuries that had accumulated during the tournament. The team spirit that was absent in the World Cup in 1994 had returned, motivated by players like Eilts, Bierhoff and captain Jürgen Klinsmann. The problem was that the squad was ageing, and there were very few talented players coming through the youth system. The time was coming where old school values, solid tactics and team spirit would not be enough.
This would be the theme for the 1998 World Cup campaign, where the team would end up going through the motions before bowing out again at the quarter-final stage.
The group phase was fairly comfortable, but the signs were already apparent that the 1998 vintage were just that. Vintage. There were straightforward wins over the United States and Iran, workmanlike performances that sandwiched a dramatic encounter against Yugoslavia that produced a dramatic comeback from two goals down. In the second round the team would fall a goal behind to an energetic Mexican side and could realistically have been completely shut down, but experience and sheer strength of will would see them through. The team had become an image of how their coach had played; dogged, determined, and driven by a desire not to be beaten.
Vogts running his show at the World Cup in France in 1998. It was a tournament where simple determination was not enough.
Very few would argue that quarter-final opponents Croatia were the better team on the night, but once again luck would not be on the German coach’s side. After a fairly even first forty minutes, the balance would tip in favour of the Croats with the dismissal of defender Christian Wörns, who received a straight red card for a clumsy but not exactly leg-breaking tackle on Davor Šuker. After that, there was no way back as their opponents upped the ante before easing to a 3-0 win.
With all the tenacity and bloody-minded will in the world, there was no way that a team with an average age of over thirty were ever going to compete against eleven younger and fitter opponents.
Despite the early World Cup exit, the DFB would stop short of dispensing with the coach. The hope was that he would go on, but it was clear that things were coming to an end. Vogts’ bosses knew that nobody really wanted the job, and it would take until the autumn for him to finally realise that he did not want it anymore either.
Berti Vogts had been continually targeted by the media during his eight years as Nationaltrainer, and to some extent his old school approach and aloofness didn’t help his cause – the one brief respite coming during the victorious charge to the European Championship title in 1996.
As far as results were concerned, Vogts was one of the better Nationaltrainers. His record of one European title, another European final and two World Cup quarter-final finishes was a record many coaches in Europe would have cut off their right arm to have. Franz Beckenbauer’s flippancy in 1990 had come to haunt Vogts, and had been the first drop of poison in the chalice. The thought had been absorbed by the media, turning it into a monkey that he could never really get off his back.
If Vogts was guilty of anything, it was his not fielding enough new young players during his eight-year tenure – something that probably fed the idea that he had taken a world champion team and slowly ground it into the dust. He had inherited a group of players who in 1990 had been at the peak of their powers, but eight years later had bequeathed to his successor a tired, ageing and fractured squad. Rather than infusing the team with new blood, Vogts preferred to stick with tried and tested veterans, prolonging careers that in some cases should have ended earlier and resulting in a predictable glut of retirements after the quarter-final exit in France.
In fairness, this policy worked for Vogts – his record of sixty-six wins in 102 games makes him statistically one of the best coaches of the German national side – but his squeezing every last drop out these resources left his successor with a mountain to climb. Of the twenty-two players that had been selected for the World Cup squad in 1998, no fewer than seven had also been in the victorious line-up in 1990 – the thirty-six year old Andreas Köpke, the thirty-four year old Jürgen Klinsmann, the thirty-two year old Olaf Thon and Jürgen Kohler, and thirty-one year olds Stefan Reuter and Thomas Häßler. Five of these players – Köpke, Klinsmann, Thon, Kohler and Reuter – retired immediately after the end of France 1998, while Möller went one further year before calling time. Häßler meanwhile stretched his international career out until Euro 2000 – perhaps against his better judgement.
Put simply, it was not the easiest task for any coach to replace a Köpke, Kohler or a Klinsmann at the best of times; to replace all three in one go was always going to be a mission. What made matters worse for Vogts’ successor was that many of those waiting in the wings had never really been tested, and those that were later thrown into the mix were simply not up to the standard required.
It is little or no wonder that nobody really wanted the job when Der Terrier finally released his grip and resigned from the post in the autumn of 1988, with the only willing takers being Uli Stielike – who was arguably seen by the establishment as being a little too radical – and Erich Ribbeck, a man even more old-school that Vogts whose appointment was the realisation of a long-held dream that stretched back fourteen years.
Following his resignation in the autumn of 1998 Vogts spent a couple of years away from football before taking on the coach’s role at Bayer Leverkusen in late 2000 – ironically filling the post that had recently been vacated by Rudi Völler who succeeded Vogts’ successor Erich Ribbeck as Nationaltrainer.
After one season at Leverkusen a return to international football beckoned, and having served six months in Kuwait Vogts took on the role as manager of the Scotland national team. Two years in the Scotland job would put the treatment he had received at the hands of the German press into perspective; having suffered what he described as an almost continuous campaign of vilification and abuse, he resigned with eighteen months remaining on his contract.
A unsuccessful spell as coach of Nigeria was followed by a more fruitful six years in charge of the Azerbaijan national team. The one-time minnows were gradually honed into a more competitive unit, more than capable of giving bigger teams a decent challenge. In the end, though, it was not enough. Vogts had taken the team as he far as he could, which was not enough for his bosses.
After an unsuccessful stint as coach of Scotland, Vogts would spend six years at the helm in Azerbaijan
In the spring of 2015, Vogts was appointed as a technical advisor to the United States national team, then coached by Jürgen Klinsmann. The plan was to help take the team through to the World Cup finals in 2018, but the dismissal of Klinsmann in November 2016 would also bring an end to Vogts’ contract.
At the age of seventy, Germany’s sixth Nationaltrainer is surely approaching the end of his career. Though he will surely be looking for one more appointment before he finally calls time.
International Career Record as Player (1967-1978)
Total matches: 96
Total goals: 1
Tournament Record as Player
FIFA World Cup Mexico 1970 – Third Place
UEFA European Championship Belgium 1972 – Champions
FIFA World Cup Germany 1974 – Champions
UEFA European Championship Yugoslavia 1976 – Runners-up
FIFA World Cup Argentina 1978 – Second Group Phase
Career Record as Coach
First match as coach: 29.08.1990 1-1 (1-0) v Portugal, Lisboa (Matthäus 15. / Rui Aquas 57.)
Last match as coach: 05.09.1998 1-1 (0-1) v Romania, La Valetta (Nerlinger 85. / Moldovan pen 35.)
Total matches: 102
Wins: 67* (65.7%)
Draws: 23 (22.5%)
Defeats: 12 (11.8%)
Goals For (goals scored per game): 206 (2.02)
Goals Against (goals conceded per game): 87 (0.85)
Competitive matches: 50§
Wins: 34* (68%)
Draws: 10 (20%)
Defeats: 6 (12%)
Goals For (goals scored per game): 106 (2.12)
Goals Against (goals conceded per game): 54 (1.08)
Friendly matches: 52
Wins: 33 (63.5%)
Draws: 13 (25%)
Defeats: 6 (11.5%)
Goals For (goals scored per game): 100 (1.92)
Goals Against (goals conceded per game): 33 (0.63)
Results Breakdown by Year
*matches listed as wins include the penalty shootout victory against England (UEFA European Championship Semi-Final, 1996)
§includes the 1993 four-team US Cup tournament
Tournament Record as Coach
UEFA European Championship Sweden 1992 – Runners-up
FIFA World Cup United States 1994 – Quarter-finalists
UEFA European Championship England 1996 – Champions
FIFA World Cup France 1998 – Quarter-finalists