Allianz Arena (Fußball-Arena), München, 09.06.2006
Lahm 6., Klose 17., 61., Frings 87. / Wanchope 12., 73.
Years of expectation and anticipation would finally come to an end in Munich’s brand new stadium, when Germany kicked off the 2006 FIFA World Cup against Costa Rica. It would signal a new direction for the Nationalmannschaft – though before a ball had been kicked nobody knew what exact direction things would take. Unlike in 1974 when the then West Germany hosted the tournament as reigning European Champions, this was a team whose form nobody could read: it was a team that not even six months earlier had been humiliated with a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of old rivals Italy.
Having been awarded the tournament in the wake of their disastrous Euro 2000 campaign, the road to Germany 2006 would be a long and at times painful one for Jürgen Klinsmann’s side. The disaster in Belgium and the Netherlands had been redeemed by a successful but workmanlike march to the World Cup final in Japan in 2002, only for things to fall away once again with a flat and disappointing first-phase elimination at Euro 2004.
The departure of the popular Rudi Völler as Nationaltrainer in 2004 would see his former strike partner Klinsmann take the helm – an appointment that would be met with everything between enthusiastic optimism and outright scepticism. Untested at national level, the urbane Klinsmann would right from the start have every single beady eye in the German press aimed squarely in his direction.
Klinsmann’s relationship with the press had been an uneasy one from the beginning. When his team were playing well, there would be much praise for the coach’s style and the free-flowing, open football being served up by his charges; when things went awry on the other hand the praise would quickly switch to the almost remorseless refrain about the lack of experience of the side and Klinsmann having one foot in Germany and the other in the United States – a constant source of irritation for his critics.
When the team walked out into a packed FIFA WM Stadion München (the temporary name given to the Allianz Arena) after a spectacular opening ceremony featuring Franz Beckenbauer, Claudia Schiffer and the ubiquitous Pelé, it would be the beginning of what would be a turning point in the history of German football: either they would sink without trace and take Klinsmann and his new-fangled ideas down with them, or they would lead it into a glittering new age. Before the first ball had been kicked, the bets were still open.
Germany would make their way out onto the field in their traditional Schwarz und Weiß ensemble, led by Bernd Schneider in the absence of the injured Michael Ballack. With the exception of “Schnix” Schneider and ‘keeper Jens Lehmann all of the starting eleven were under thirty years of age: ahead of Lehmann there would a back four with an average age of under twenty-four, while the captain would make up a three-man midfield alongside twenty-nine year old Torsten Frings, twenty-six year old Tim Borowski and twenty-one year old Bastian Schweinsteiger. Up front, Klose – celebrating his twenty-eighth birthday – would be partnered with Lukas Podolski, who having just turned twenty-one was the baby of the side.
Having qualified for their first FIFA World Cup in Italy in 1990 Costa Rica had become a tournament regular, and were far being the group’s whipping boys. Alexandre Guimarães’ side had a number of established players, among them former Derby County, West Ham United and Manchester City striker Paulo Wanchope. Playing in red shirts, blue shorts and red socks, the Central Americans would not just be there for the opening festivities.
On what was a bright afternoon in Bavaria, Argentinian referee Horacio Elizondo would get things underway. The home crowd roared.
Philipp Lahm cracks in a shot from the edge of the Costa Rican penalty area, and gets Germany’s campaign under way with a bang
Miroslav Klose scores the second of his two goals in the high-scoring opening fixture of Germany 2006
Prior to the tournament hopes had not been high for Klinsmann’s squad, and there were even some that had questioned the team’s ability to even make it out of the group phase. By the time the whistle blew to signal the end of the opening match, the mood had brightened considerably. Yes, it was only Costa Rica. Yes, it was only the opening game. And yes, the young defence had leaked two arguably soft goals. But on the other hand the home side had found the net in spectacular fashion, with Lahm’s opening effort setting the tone for what was a style of play unfamiliar to many who had watched the German sides of the 1980s and 1990s.
Four goals had been scored, and the crowd would go home happy. Outside of the stadia in the streets of Germany, things would slowly be stirring. The team would next move on to their fortress at Dortmund, where they would take on far grittier opposition in the form of eastern neighbours Poland.
Germany: Lehmann – Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm – Schneider (c) (90. Odonkor), Frings, Borowski (72. Kehl), Schweinsteiger – Klose (79. Neuville), Podolski
Costa Rica: Porras – Umaña, Sequeira, Marín – Martínez (67. Drummond), Solís (78. Bolaños), Fonseca, González – Centeno, Gómez (90. Azofeifa) – Wanchope
Referee: Horacio Elizondo (Argentina)
Assistants: Dario Garcia (Argentina), Rodolfo Otero (Argentina)
Fourth Official: Carlos Chandia (Chile)
Fifth Official: Cristian Julio (Chile)
Yellow Cards: – / Fonseca
Red Cards: – / –