Stadio San Siro, Milano, 01.07.1990
Matthäus pen 25. / –
After their dramatic second-phase victory over the Netherlands, Franz Beckenbauer’s side would remain in Milan to take on one of the tournament’s perennial dark horses – Czechoslovakia. Both countries would undergo significant change after the tournament: while the two Germanies would be unified later in the year, Czechoslovakia would head in the opposite direction and peacefully separate into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. It would be the last tournament finals that Czechoslovakia would participate in – until 1993 they would compete as the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks or RCS – and the team came to the tournament wearing the national flag on their shirts, replacing the famous communist-era emblem that had been present since 1948.
The Czechs had few superstars and clearly lacked the talent that had won them the European title in 1976, but they had a core of solid and dependable players, many of whom had been quickly snapped up by Western clubs not long after the Iron Curtain had started to be drawn back. The first phase had seen Jozef Vengloš’ side lose 2-0 to hosts Italy, but a 5-1 thrashing of the United States and a hard-fought 1-0 win over neighbours Austria had been enough to take them through to the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time since 1962, when they had reached the final itself.
The second phase would pit the Czechs against surprise team Costa Rica, and in a match that had seen both sides level at 1-1 until just after the hour mark AC Sparta Praha striker Tomáš Skuhravý completed a hat-trick of headers to sweep his side into the last eight. With his three goals Skuhravý – he of the rosy cheeks, cheesy grin and distinctive mullet – would take himself to the top of the tournament’s scoring chart with five strikes in four games.
Franz Beckenbauer would name what was essentially the same eleven that has started against the Netherlands a week earlier, but with the versatile Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Uwe Bein coming in for Stefan Reuter and Werder Bremen’s Karl-Heinz Riedle replacing the suspended Rudi Völler up front. There would also be a tactical change, with the 1-4-3-2 system deployed against the Dutch being adjusted to a more attacking 1-2-5-2 featuring three creative midfielders: Bein, Pierre Littbarski and skipper Lothar Matthäus.
On what was a bright Sunday afternoon in Milan, Helmut Kohl (the Austrian referee, not the German Chancellor) would get things underway with the both sides in their traditional attire – Germany in their famous Schwarz und Weiß, and the Czechs in red shirts, white shorts and blue socks.
Jürgen Klinsmann is felled by Jan Kocian – it would be the number eighteen who would win the decisive penalty.
The narrow 1-0 victory had been hard earned, and Franz Beckenbauer’s side had done just about enough to make it to the World Cup semi-finals for the ninth time in twelve attempts. The team had clearly lacked the energy and spark that they had shown in their previous match against the Dutch, but even this would be enough to overcome a one-dimensional and somewhat disappointing Czech side that had barely threatened Bodo Illgner in the German goal.
The Mannschaft would now move some 120 kilometres south-west to nearby Turin, where everything would be set up nicely for yet another dramatic encounter against old foes England.
Germany FR: Illgner – Augenthaler – Buchwald, Kohler – Berthold, Littbarski, Matthäus (c), Bein (83. Möller), Brehme – Riedle, Klinsmann
Czechoslovakia: Stejskal – Hašek, Kocian, Straka, Kadlec – Moravčik, Chovanec, Kubík (79. Griga), Bílek (67. Němeček) – Skuhravý, Knoflíček
Referee: Helmut Kohl (Austria)
Assistants: Peter Mikkelsen (Denmark), Michał Listkiewicz (Poland)
Yellow Cards: Klinsmann / Moravčik, Bílek, Straka, Knoflíček
Red Cards: – / Moravčik 70.