Coming off the back of what could best be described as an insipid World Cup finals campaign in France, the German team and their new Nationaltrainer Erich Ribbeck must have been counting their blessings when studying their opponents in what was a fairly tame qualifying group: of their four group opponents, only Turkey threatened to offer any real challenge – but nobody expected much beyond that.
It didn’t take long for the Turkish threat to turn into a reality – in what was an dismal display in Bursa capped off by a catastrophic lapse by the usually reliable Oliver Kahn, the Turks claimed the first win over the Nationalmannschaft since their first-ever meeting back in 1951. Three times Kahn had the chance to clear the ball, and on each occasion he only succeeded in palming it back to a Turkish attacker who was himself trying his level best not to score. When the ball headed towards the German goal for the third time off Hakan Şükür’s head, Kahn could only help it into the net.
There was much debate over whether Şükür should have been awarded the goal or whether it should have been chalked down as an own goal by the hapless Kahn, but it mattered little as Ribbeck’s side failed to pick themselves off the the floor – even with the Turks being reduced to ten men with eighteen minutes left – and stumbled to a 1-0 defeat.
Those supporters following the German team across more unfamiliar parts of Europe may have been even more worried when group whipping boys Moldova took a shock sixth-minute lead in Chişinău, but Ribbeck’s side were finally able to put their goalscoring boots on as they claimed a 3-1 win and get the campaign back on the rails, if not back on track.
The German team had been workmanlike and solid rather than spectacular, but this minimalist approach proved to be more than enough in the games that were to follow – Northern Ireland were dispatched 3-0 in Belfast with makeshift forward Marco Bode grabbing a brace, while two goals in the space of minutes were enough to beat Finland in Nürnberg. The team played with a lot more freedom in putting six past the Moldovans, before grinding out a 2-1 win in Helsinki. Four goals were then put past Northern Ireland in Dortmund, with Christian Ziege scoring a hat-trick.
Facing Turkey in their final game in Berlin, Ribbeck’s side were two points in front of the Turks and only needed a draw to secure top spot and a guaranteed place at the finals – though the task would have been far stiffer had the Turks not dropped silly points by losing at home to Finland and drawing in Moldova. The Mannschaft did what they had to do, making the home crowd endure a painfully dull goalless draw to secure the point they needed – it was as if Jupp Derwall had returned.
Match Results and Details
v Turkey, Atatürk Stadyumu, Bursa, 10.10.1998
– / Şükür 70.
Team: Kahn – Nowotny – Babbel, Rehmer – Ramelow, Ricken (81. Bode), Jeremies, Beinlich, Heinrich (76. Neuville) – Bierhoff (c), Kirsten
0-1 A long ball from Abdullah Ercan into the German box is fisted away by Oliver Kahn, but only as far as substitute Saffet Akbaş who tries to hook it back towards the net. Kahn again gets his hands to the ball, but only succeeds in palming it onto the head of Hakan Şükür, who directs it towards the right of the German goal. The ball hits the inside of the post before rolling back off the unfortunate Kahn and over the line.
v Moldova, Republican, Chişinău, 14.10.1998
Kirsten 19., 36., Bierhoff 38. / Guzun 6.
Team: Kahn – Nowotny – Babbel, Rehmer – Ramelow, Ricken (53. Neuville), Nerlinger, Beinlich (83. Wosz), Tarnat – Bierhoff (c), Kirsten (73. Jancker)
0-1 A neat short corner move from Moldova sees a number of quick passes in the German area. Serghei Cleşcenco finds Alexandru Curtianu, who plays the ball across the six-yard box past a number of static defenders for Alexandru Guzun to stroke it into the net from all of five yards.
1-1 A Moldovan clearance finds Thomas Linke out on the left flank, and his well-placed cross finds Ulf Kirsten, who rises above his marker with perfect timing to place a firm header past ‘keeper Alexei Koselev.
2-1 Stefan Beinlich’s outswinging corner from the left is glanced across the Moldovan penalty area by the leaping Marko Rehmer towards Kirsten, who sweeps the ball in to the net with a smart left-footed volley from the edge of the six-yard box.
3-1 Germany initiate a move down the right flank, and a somewhat languid lofted ball into the opposition box by Carsten Ramelow is nodded on by Lars Ricken for Oliver Bierhoff, who runs into space before chipping neatly over Koselev.
v Northern Ireland, Windsor Park, Belfast, 27.03.1999
Bode 11., 43., Hamann 62. / –
Team: Kahn – Babbel, Matthäus (46. Nowotny), Wörns – Strunz, D. Hamann, Jeremies, Heinrich – Neuville (68. Jancker), Bierhoff (c), Bode (78. Preetz)
1-0 A long ball out to the right from Dietmar Hamann finds the fleet-footed Oliver Neuville, who runs to the byline before delivering a perfect cross which is met with power by the leaping Marco Bode.
2-0 Germany win an indirect free-kick some thirty yards out, and both Marko Rehmer and Hamann leave the ball for Bode, who fires in a left-footed shot that curves around the wall and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net to the left of the diving Maik Taylor.
3-0 Another free-kick – this time direct – from a similar distance sees Hamann’s right-footed drive take a wicked deflection off centre-back Stephen Morrow and into the Northern Irish net past a helplessly flat-footed Taylor.
v Finland, Frankenstadion, Nürnberg, 31.03.1999
Jeremies 31., Neuville 36. / –
Team: Kahn – Babbel, Matthäus, Wörns – Strunz, D. Hamann (72. Nowotny), Jeremies, Heinrich – Neuville (65. Kirsten), Bierhoff (c), Bode (76. Jancker)
1-0 Picking up possession on the half-way line, Jens Jeremies embarks on a swashbucking diagonal run that sees him charge past at least five opposition players before slamming the ball into the roof of the net with his right boot.
2-0 Dietmar Hamann finds Marco Bode on the left with a pass that looks marginally offside, and the Bremen man checks before charging down toward the byline. He beats his man and crosses into the Finnish box, where the unmarked Oliver Neuville provides a calm finish past ‘keeper Antti Niemi.
v Moldova, BayArena, Leverkusen, 04.06.1999
Bierhoff 2., 56., 82., Kirsten 27., Bode 38., Scholl 71. / Stratulat 76.
Team: Kahn – Matthäus (75. Babbel) – Nowotny – Strunz, Jeremies (45. Scholl), D. Hamann, Heinrich – Neuville, Kirsten (54. Ramelow), Bierhoff (c), Bode
1-0 Lothar Matthäus plays the ball into the Moldovan penalty area towards Ulf Kirsten, who cannot keep his footing under a challenge from two defenders. As Kirsten goes down, Oliver Bierhoff ghosts into the empty space and slots the ball under ‘keeper Sergiu Dinov with his left foot.
2-0 After a patient German build-up in midfield, Bierhoff plays a pass that slices through the Moldovan defence towards Ulf Kirsten, who controls the ball neatly before hooking in a firm left-footed shot past the advancing Dinov.
3-0 Jens Jeremies clips the ball into the Moldovan box from the left, and it is neatly taken down by Jörg Heinrich who rolls in into the path of Marco Bode. Bode makes no mistake as he strokes the ball with his right foot past Dinov’s outstretched left arm.
4-0 Carsten Ramelow wins the ball in midfield, releasing Mehmet Scholl to his left. Scholl plays a neat one-two with Kirsten before playing a horizontal ball that catches the Moldovan defence cold and finds Bierhoff out on the right in space. Bierhoff is able to take his time and rifles in a right-footed shot that skids into the left-hand corner of the net.
5-0 A well-timed pass from Dietmar Hamann finds Scholl out on the right, and the Bayern man cuts outside and then back inside his marker Serghei Stroenco before curling a delicious left-footed shot into the left-hand corner of the net that leaves Dinov no chance.
5-1 Moldovan substitute Gheorghe Stratulat picks the ball out on the left just outside the German penalty area, and after wrong-footing Ramelow charges into the box. He is unchallenged as the defence stands back, and is allowed to get in a right-footed shot that is perfectly placed to the right of Oliver Kahn in the German goal.
6-1 After picking up the ball just inside his own half, Mehmet Scholl charges forward before finding Oliver Neuville in space out on the left. Neuville moves inside before playing the ball out to his right, and the unmarked Oliver Bierhoff’s right boot does the rest to cap off a fine hat-trick.
v Finland, Olympiastadion, Helsinki, 04.09.1999
Bierhoff 2., 17. / Salli 63.
Team: Lehmann – Babbel, Linke, Nowotny – Matthäus – Scholl (79. Nerlinger), Jeremies – Neuville (85. Strunz), Kirsten (32. B. Schneider), Bierhoff (c), Ziege
1-0 Oliver Neuville’s curling cross from the right is poorly dealt with by Finnish defender Sami Hyypiä, and falls invitingly to skipper Oliver Bierhoff who calmly slots the ball under ‘keeper Antti Niemi from close range with his right foot.
2-0 Markus Babbel plays a superb ball down the right for the fast moving Neuville, who avoids the fast advancing Neimi and plays the ball into the Finnish box. It is only half cleared by a defender and falls to Bierhoff, who curls a delicious right-footed volley into the top left corner of the Finnish net from just inside the penalty area.
2-1 A Finnish free-kick from out on the left is floated into the German box and finds it way past the German defenders to Jonatan Johansson, who makes contact with an outstretched left leg. The ball comes off the post and falls to defender Janne Salli who clips in it over the prostrate Oliver Kahn with his left foot.
v Northern Ireland, Westfalenstadion, Dortmund, 08.09.1999
Bierhoff 2., Ziege 16., 33., 45.+3. / –
Team: Lehmann – Linke, Nowotny (46. Wörns) – Matthäus – Babbel (30. Strunz), Jeremies, Ziege – Scholl – Neuville (67. B. Schneider), Bierhoff (c), Bode
1-0 Germany win a direct free-kick around twenty-five yards from the opposition goal, and Mehmet Scholl’s right-footed effort cannons off the top of the upright. The ball is hooked back into the box by Christian Ziege, and Oliver Bierhoff pounces from close range.
2-0 A perfectly weighted long diagonal ball from Lothar Matthäus from inside his own half finds Oliver Neuville out on the right flank. Neuville outpaces his marker to the byline, where he cuts the ball back inside for Ziege who strokes it past Maik Taylor with his right foot.
3-0 Scholl puts Ziege into space with a cute little backheel, and the full-back charges forward towards the Irish penalty area. After a quick pass to Bierhoff which is immediately returned via the outside of the skipper’s right boot, Ziege hooks a left-footed shot on the volley past Taylor.
4-0 Scholl makes a strong run down the left flank before cutting inside and skipping past his marker with great skill. His cross into the box is dummied by Marco Bode and reaches Ziege, who controls the ball neatly before completing his hat-trick with a crisp left-footed shot that goes in off the fingers of the diving Taylor.
v Turkey, Olympiastadion, München, 09.10.1999
– / –
Team: Kahn – Matthäus – Babbel, Linke – B. Schneider (89. Doğan), D. Hamann (46. Nerlinger), Jeremies, Ziege (76. Bode) – Neuville, Bierhoff (c), Scholl
Final Group Standings
Other results: Finland 3-2 Moldova; Turkey 3-0 Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland 1-0 Finland; Turkey 1-3 Finland; Northern Ireland 2-2 Moldova; Turkey 2-0 Moldova; Moldova 0-0 Northern Ireland; Finland 2-4 Turkey; Moldova 0-0 Finland; Northern Ireland 0-3 Turkey; Moldova 1-1 Turkey; Finland 4-1 Northern Ireland.
Goals Summary: Bierhoff (7), Bode, Kirsten, Ziege (3), Hamann, Jeremies, Neuville, Scholl (1). Total 20.