Stadio San Siro, Milano, 10.06.1990

4-1 (2-0)
Matthäus 29., 65., Klinsmann 39., Völler 71. / Jozić 55.

One could argue that Franz Beckenbauer’s side had just about made it to Italy – but having gone through the last-match trauma against Wales in Köln the mood would be upbeat. Unlike in Mexico four years earlier where the side was seen as an ageing unit on its last legs, the team that headed to Italy woule be among the genuine favourites to lift the trophy in Rome. The likes of Rummenigge, Magath and Allofs had long since retired, and Mannschaft’s talismans were now the young blond VfB Stuttgart striker Jürgen Klinsmann and the man who four years earlier had been tasked with shackling Diego Maradona – Lothar Matthäus.

The first game against perennial tournament dark horses Yugoslavia was on paper a tough one; the Yugoslavs had always managed to turn out a talented side, and this one was no different. However, against the backdrop of internal strife in the country following the then recent revolutions across the Eastern Europe, things were perhaps as not as happy as they might otherwise have been.

But nobody expected such a dynamic start by the Germans.

Coach Franz Beckenbauer had selected an uncompromisingly attacking formation. Klaus Augenthaler was given the role of sweeper and would be protected by a two-man defensive unit of Thomas Berthold and Guido Buchwald; ahead of them was an imposing five-man midfield, with “Icke” Häßler, Uwe Bein and Matthäus running the engine room, alongside Andreas Brehme and the nimble Stefan Reuter patrolling the wings. Running the show up front would be the old head and the young starlet – Rudi Völler and Jürgen Klinsmann.

The first half hour wouldn’t really provide any real indication of how things were going to pan out; indeed, Andreas Brehme could easily have found himself consigned to an early bath for a couple of strong challenges had there been a referee more willing to reach for his pocket than Dane Peter Mikkelsen. There was plenty of cut and thrust in midfield, but little in the way of clear chances – until the twenty-ninth minute when Reuter played a lovely first-time ball from a pass by Thomas Berthold which found Matthäus just outside the opposition area. The German skipper neatly turned and twisted past defender Davor Jozić, before lashing a left-footed thunderbolt past keeper Ivković. Italia ’90 had begun.

Lothar Matthäus celebrates his stunning opener to get Germany’s Italian campaign underway

The Germans would not be prepared to sit on their lead, and less than ten minutes after the opener a sweeping ball from midfield found the marauding Brehme on the left, whose cross found the head of Jürgen Klinsmann who buried a spectacular diving header that sliced across Ivković, beating him at his far post. It’s actually way too good to describe here – it was a stunning goal that truly served notice that Klinsi was a world-class finisher.

As half-time arrived, the Mannschaft had well and truly laid down a marker for everyone else to follow. It was 2-0, and things were looking comfortable.

No doubt shaken by the start made by the Germans, the Yugoslavs came into the second half with more resolve, and would be rewarded ten minutes after the restart when they won a free-kick just outside the box. The kick was swung in by Dragan Stojković, who found the head of Jozić. At 2-1, they were back in with a shout.

Yugoslavia’s sniff of an opportunity would last less than ten minutes however, as the inspired Lothar Matthäus restored Germany’s two-goal advantage with what was arguably the goal of the entire tournament.

After Andy Brehme and Guido Buchwald had combined to break down an opposition move in midfield, the ball fell to Matthias Herget who found Matthäus in space. Picking the ball up just inside his own half, the German skipper careered over the half-way line and skipped through the Yugoslav defence, leaving every man either trailing or simply floundering in his wake. Approaching the edge of the box, he unleashed a right-footed drive that gave Ivković no chance – the closest the ‘keeper actually got to the ball was when he was plucking it out of the back of the net as Matthäus wheeled away to be mobbed by his team-mates. From that point the game was effectively over, with Rudi Völler pouncing on an Ivković fumble of a Brehme cross-cum-shot to wrap things up six minutes later.

Much has been said about the German side and their chances prior to the tournament, and this opening game did much to justify those those pundits who had pencilled their name on the trophy. After what had been a fairly solid if unspectacular run-in to the tournament, they had once again stamped their authority on proceedings where and when it had mattered most.

Germany FR: Illgner – Augenthaler – Berthold, Buchwald – Reuter, Häßler (74. Littbarski), Matthäus (c), Bein (74. A. Möller), Brehme – Völler, Klinsmann

Yugoslavia: Ivković – Spasić, Jozić, Hadžibegić, Baljić – Vulić, Stojković, Sušić (55. Prosinecki), Katanec – Savićević (55. Brnović), Vujović

Referee: Peter Mikkelsen (Denmark)
Assistants: Jassim Mandi Abdul Rahman (Bahrain), Michał Listkiewicz (Poland)

Yellow Cards: Brehme / –
Red Cards: – / –

Attendance: 74,765

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