Soldier Field, Chicago, 02.07.1994
Völler 6., 40., Klinsmann 11. / Grün 8., Albert 90.
Berti Vogts’ side had worked hard to top their first phase group with seven points from a possible nine: their reward would be a return north to Chicago’s Soldier Field, and a second phase encounter against neighbours and 1986 semi-finalists Belgium. Coming into the game, the Nationalmannschaft’s recent record against the Belgians had been excellent: they were unbeaten in ten games – a record stretching back to 1954 – and had got their better of the Rode Duivels in four competitive matches during this period, including the European Championship final in 1980 that had seen two goals from Horst Hrubesch earn the Germans a 2-1 win.
Belgium meanwhile had emerged from a competitive first-phase group that had seen them finish third behind the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia – with all three teams on six points. Having beaten Morocco 1-0 and following this up with an excellent win by the same score over the Oranje, they would then be surprisingly turned over by the Saudis – with midfielder Saeed Al-Owairan scoring one of the most memorable goals of the tournament.
Paul van Himst’s side may have been in decent form, but the Germans would remain firm favourites to reach yet another World Cup quarter-final.
The Nationaltrainer’s 1-2-5-2 system – with Lothar Matthäus playing the sweeper role – had proved successful during the three first-phase matches, and the Nationaltrainer saw no need to change things. However while the system remained the same, there would be a number of personnel changes. Thomas Helmer would make his first start of the tournament alongside Jürgen Kohler in the two-man defensive unit, Thomas Berthold was moved to the left of the midfield in place of Andreas Brehme, while Kaiserslautern’s Martin Wagner would make his tournament debut in place of the disgraced and displaced Stefan Effenberg. Up front, Vogts would experiment with his third starting pairing in four matches: with Karl-Heinz Riedle injured, top scorer Jürgen Klinsmann would be reunited with his 1990 strike partner Rudi Völler.
On what was yet another bright and warm early afternoon in Chicago, Swiss referee Kurt Röthlisberger led out the sides in front of a crowd of just over sixty-thousand. The Germans were once again in their famous Schwarz und Weiß, while their Belgian opponents wore their usual all-red ensemble with yellow and black trim.
Reunited with 1990 strike partner Jürgen Klinsmann, the recalled Rudi Völler would twice find the back of the Belgian net
The final 3-2 scoreline wouldn’t quite reflect the overall balance of play and was arguably a little flattering to the Belgians, but the Nationalmannschaft had made it into the last eight of a World Cup finals tournament for the eleventh time in succession. Their quarter-final would be played at the Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New York – and three days later they would also know the identity of their opponents – Bulgaria.
Germany had not been beaten in eleven matches by the Bulgarians – a record that had included ten wins, twenty-eight goals and stretched back to 1960 – and would be overwhelming favourites to claim a place in the last four for the fourth tournament in succession.
Germany: Illgner – Matthäus (c) (46. Brehme) – Kohler, Helmer – Berthold, Häßler, Buchwald, Sammer, Wagner – Völler, Klinsmann (86. Kuntz)
Belgium: Preud’homme – de Wolf – Grün, Albert – Emmers, van der Elst, Staelens, Scifo, Smidts (66. Boffin) – Weber, Nilis (77. Czerniatynski)
Referee: Kurt Röthlisberger (Switzerland)
Assistants: Michał Listkiewicz (Poland), Carl-Johan Meyer Christensen (Denmark)
Fourth Official: Manuel Díaz Vega (Spain)
Yellow Cards: Helmer, Wagner / Albert
Red Cards: – / –