Parc des Princes, Paris, 15.06.1998
Möller 8., Klinsmann 64. / –
Coming into the tournament as reigning European Champions and off the back of yet another unbeaten if at times slightly patchy qualifying campaign, the Nationalmannschaft would kick off their campaign in Paris against the United States – a team that had been continually improving since hosting the tournament four years earlier.
The Americans had qualified fairly easily for the tournament, qualifying in second place in their final group alongside Mexico and first-time qualifiers Jamaica. Steve Sampson’s team had only lost two of sixteen matches on their way to France – both against Costa Rica. The Nationalmannschaft had won the only two previous meetings between the two sides, both of which were played in 1993 – an exciting 4-3 win in the US Cup tournament followed by a more straightforward 3-0 in a San Francisco friendly – but they would not be taking their opponents lightly.
The Nationaltrainer continued to stick with his tried and tested cadre of players for this opening encounter, but would opt for a positive formation with two strikers supported by a pair of attacking midfielders. With Andreas Köpke in goal, centre-backs Christian Wörns and Jürgen Kohler would form a two-man defensive unit ahead of sweeper Olaf Thon – sitting nehind a three-man defensive midfield consisting of the hard-working Jens Jeremies and attacking wingbacks Stefan Reuter and Jörg Heinrich. The two attacking midfielders would be the evergreen Thomas Häßler and Andreas Möller, while up front there would be the potent partnership of skipper Jürgen Klinsmann and the two-goal hero of the Euro 1996 final, Oliver Bierhoff.
Led out by Moroccan referee Said Belqola in front of a crowd of just over forty-three thousand in the Parc des Princes on what was a dry and pleasant Monday evening, the Germans would be in their familiar white and black colours – with their American opponents in a less familiar combination of red shirts, blue shorts and blue socks.
Andreas Möller celebrates Germany’s opening goal just eight minutes into their World Cup campaign
The match in Paris would mark a personal milestone for the skipper Jürgen Klinsmann, who at the age of thirty-three would win his 104th international cap, taking him past former coach Franz Beckenbauer into second place on the all-time list behind Lothar Matthäus. A genuine tournament goalscorer, Klinsmann’s second half strike would take his overall World Cup tally to nine, following his three goals in 1990 and five in 1994.
There would be a few other milestones: Olaf Thon, another veteran of the 1990 triumph, would win his fiftieth cap, while less happily the injury to Stefan Reuter would mark the end an international career that had seen him make sixty-nine appearances in the Nationaltrikot.
Although the score could have been a little more convincing the Germans had once again got off to a good start in the tournament. With three points safely in the bag they would travel some two-hundred kilometres north up to Lens – where they would take on what was arguably the most dangerous of their three group opponents, Yugoslavia.
Germany: Köpke – Thon – Wörns, Kohler – Reuter (69. Ziege), Jeremies, Heinrich – Häßler (50. Hamann), Möller (90. Babbel) – Klinsmann (c), Bierhoff
United States: Keller – Pope, Dooley, Regis – Burns (46. Hejduk), Stewart, Maisonneuve, Jones – Reyna, Deering (70. Ramos) – Wynalda (64. Wegerle)
Referee: Said Belqola (Morocco)
Assistants: Mohamed Mansri (Tunisia), Mikael Nilsson (Sweden)
Fourth Official: José Maria Garcia Aranda (Spain)
Yellow Cards: Jeremies, Hamann, Heinrich / Hejduk, Pope
Red Cards: – / –