Charlton Heston? Russell Crowe? Michael Palin? No, a certain Lukas Podolski – who looks set to win his hundredth international cap against Denmark in Lviv on Sunday – becoming the seventh player to reach the mark for the Nationalmannschaft.
In what has been a short and dynamic career where he has played a staggering 83.9% of all DFB international fixtures since making his debut as a nineteen year-old in June 2004, Podolski is also set to become the youngest German player to reach the mark: when the Mannschaft meet the Danes, he will be a mere twenty-seven years and thirteen days old.
The 1. FC Köln winger – recently signed by English club Arsenal – has gone through a lean spell of late, but has remained a constant fixture in Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw’s squad. Since making his international debut under Rudi Völler just prior to the 2004 European Championships, he has featured in two FIFA World Cups and the Euros in 2008, with this year’s tournament in his native Poland and the Ukraine being his fifth major tournament outing.
The early part of Podolski’s career saw him became part of the “Schweini-Poldi” double act during the World Cup in 2006, but his clowning around off the field would soon be matched by an excellent record on it. When he scored his fortieth international goal in the FIFA World Cup second phase match against England in 2010 – his seventy-seventh match for the Nationalmannschaft – Podolski would join a select group of German players who had reached that mark; what was also noticeable was that his goals per game ratio was better that 0.5 – not bad at all for a player who had neither been selected nor employed as a specialist striker.
Podolski’s goalscoring form dipped badly after the 2010 tournament in South Africa – he has only scored only three times in twenty-two matches since. Nevertheless, he had been able to retain the faith of the Nationaltrainer, keeping an array of younger pretenders waiting on the sidelines.
Born in Gleiwitz (Gliwice) in Silesia in 1985, the then Łukasz Podolski moved with his family from Poland at the age of two, settling in the town of Bergheim in Nordrhein-Westfalen. After playing for his local side at youth level was signed for 1. FC Köln in 1995, going on to become of the club’s biggest stars of the modern era after making his top-flight debut as an eighteen year-old in 2003 – and playing a big part in what would ultimately be the club’s failed attempt at retaining their I. Bundesliga status.
Having been born in Poland the young Kölner would be courted by the football authorities from the land of his birth, but he would remain loyal to his adopted country, winning his first international cap against Hungary in Kaiserslautern on 6th June 2004. Loyalty would be a word that would quickly be associated with the dynamic young winger: despite being chased by a plethora of bigger clubs, he chose to stick with Köln to play second-flight football – meaning that when he made his international debut he also achieved the rare feat of becoming one of the very few 2. Bundesliga players to have played for the Nationalmannschaft. Podolski’s loyalty to his club side would pay off almost immediately, as he would help guide them back into the top flight the following season – by which time he had become a key member of the German squad under Jürgen Klinsmann.
After the 2006 World Cup Podolski would follow his national coach Klinsmann to make the big move south to FC Bayern München, but a couple of unsuccessful seasons at the Sabener Strasse – preceded by Klinsmann’s dismissal – would see him return to the club where he had achieved something of a cult status. He would score eighteen goals in twenty-matches for Die Geißböcke during the 2011-12 season, but even this would not be enough to keep the club in the top flight as they took yet another tumble into the 2. Bundesliga.
Finally, having spent just under fifteen years under the shadow of the Dom, the man affectionately known as “Poldi” would take his first venture overseas, signing for English Premiership side Arsenal in the summer of 2012.
Having been selected for the twenty-three man squad for the 2012 Euros, Podolski would make his 98th international appearance in the Nationalmannschaft’s opening game of the tournament against Portugal, and would follow this with his 99th game in the Schwarz und Weiß against the Netherlands – which would take in to seventh position on the all-time list ahead of Michael Ballack.
Should he achieve his century against Denmark, Podolski would join six others. The first centurion was the great Franz Beckenbauer – who won his hundredth cap during the Mannschaft’s ill-fated European Championship final against Czechoslovakia in 1976 – while the man last to achieve the feat was none other that Podolski’s current team-mate and fellow Schlesier Miroslav Klose, who reached the milestone during the 2010 FIFA World Cup match against Argentina – capping off the celebration with two of Germany’s four goals.
Born: München, 11.09.1945
Debut: v Sweden, 26.09.1965 (World Cup 1966 Qualifying, Stockholm)
Age at debut: 20 years 15 days
100th Match: v Czechoslovakia, 20.06.1976 (European Championship 1976 Final, Belgrade)
Age at 100th Match: 30 years, 9 months, 9 days
Length of time taken: 10 years, 8 months, 25 days
Born: Erlangen, 21.03.1961
Debut: v Netherlands, 14.06.1980 (Euro 1980 1R, Napoli)
Age at debut: 19 years, 2 months, 24 days
100th Match: v United States, 13.06.1993 (US Cup Tournament, Chicago)
Age at 100th Match: 32 years, 2 months, 23 days
Length of time taken: 12 years, 11 months, 30 days
Born: Göppingen, 30.07.1964
Debut: v Brazil, 12.12.1987 (Friendly, Brasilia)
Age at debut: 23 years, 4 months, 12 days
100th Match: v Armenia, 10.09.1997 (World Cup Qualifier, Dortmund)
Age at 100th Match: 33 years, 1 month, 11 days
Length of time taken: 9 years, 8 months, 29 days
Born: Lambsheim, 06.10.1965
Debut: v Denmark, 24.09.1986 (Friendly, København)
Age at debut: 20 years, 11 months, 18 days
100th Match: v Colombia, 30.05.1998 (Friendly, Frankfurt a. M.)
Age at 100th Match: 32 years, 7 months, 24 days
Length of time taken: 11 years, 8 months, 6 days
Born: Berlin-West, 30.05.1966
Debut: v Finland, 31.08.1988 (World Cup 1990 Qualifying, Helsinki)
Age at debut: 22 years, 3 months, 1 day
100th Match: v Romania, 12.06.2000 (European Championship 2000 First Phase, Liège)
Age at 100th Match: 34 years, 13 days
Length of time taken: 11 years, 9 months, 12 days
Born: Oppeln (POL), 09.06.1978
Debut: v Albania, 24.03.2001 (World Cup 2001 Qualifying, Leverkusen)
Age at debut: 22 years, 9 months, 15 days
100th Match: v Argentina, 03.07.2010 (World Cup 2010 Quarter-Final, Cape Town/Kaapstad)
Age at 100th Match: 32 years, 24 days
Length of time taken: 9 years, 3 months, 9 days
Lukas PODOLSKI (projected)
Born: Gleiwitz (POL), 04.06.1985
Debut: v Hungary, 06.06.2004 (Friendly, Kaiserslautern)
Age at debut: 19 years, 2 days
100th Match: v Denmark, 17.06.2012 (European Championship First Phase, Lviv)
Age at 100th Match: 27 years, 13 days
Length of time taken: 8 years, 11 days
Podolski will become:
– the youngest player to win a hundred caps for Germany, at 27 years and 13 days
– the player who has won a hundred caps in the shortest time span, 8 years and 11 days
– the only centurion to have debuted as a teenager, at 19 years and 2 days
– Germany’s seventh “centurion”
Other names worth mentioning are Ulf Kirsten – who won forty-nine caps for the former East German national side and fifty-one for the reunited Nationalmannschaft – as well as former GDR players Joachim Streich and Hans-Jürgen “Dixie” Dörner, who won 102 and 101 caps for the East German national side respectively.
DFB records include Kirsten, Streich and Dörner in their list – meaning that Lukas Podolski will according to that list actually be the tenth centurion – but in my table I have only counted those players who have won a hundred caps playing in the Schwarz und Weiß.