Olympiastadion, München, 17.06.1988

2-0 (1-0)
Völler 29., 51. / –

On 20th June 1984, Germany played Spain at the Parc des Princes in Paris in what was their final match of their European Championship first phase group. Before the kick-off, Jupp Derwall’s side had needed a draw to progress to the semi-final stage – and as the match reached its ninetieth minute with the score at 0-0, all seemed well. And then came a cross from the right, and the deadly finish from the unmarked Antonio Maceda.

Four years later almost to the day in Munich’s Olympiastadion, the scenario would be eerily similar. The final group match, with Germany top of the table on three points – as had been the case in 1984 – and needing a point to make their way through to the semi-finals… The opponents: Spain.

Although they were in a good position with three points from their two matches, it had not been a smooth journey for Franz Beckenbauer’s side. They had to come from behind in their opening match against Italy and had been somewhat fortunate in securing a 1-1 draw, and while their second game against Denmark had produced a well-earned 2-0 win it had been a frustratingly disjointed performance that had lacked in both spark and inspiration.

Even with the advantage of playing at home, many German supporters remained tight-lipped about their team’s chances: the defence had been more than slightly suspect, the midfield had shown plenty of solidity but little creativity, and up front long-trusted goalscorer Rudi Völler was quickly becoming a moving target for the Mannschaft’s more impatient supporters. When the match kicked off, the atmosphere was one of expectation laced with caution.

Spain for their part knew that they couldn’t rely on the already-eliminated Danes to do then a favour against Italy; they simply had to win to make sure of a place in the last four.

The match kicked off in what was a pleasant Munich evening in front of a loud and enthusiastic home crowd. Franz Beckenbauer had opted for the same 1-3-4-2 formation that had been fielded against Denmark, but with an interesting tactical switch that saw Andreas Brehme put out on the right flank. There was only one change in personnel, with Werder Bremen defender Uli Borowka had coming in for Guido Buchwald.

Given that they had to chase the game to have any chance of making it out of the group, it was the Spaniards who set that set the pace during the opening spell of the match. Both José Mari Bakero and Emilio Butragueño were showing good bursts of pace, and it was in the thirteenth minute that they fashioned their first real opportunity as Rafael Martín Vázquez twisted past Matthias Herget before placing a well-drilled shot from the edge of the penalty area that flew just wide of Eike Immel’s left post.

Having soaked up the pressure for the first quarter of the match the home side was finally able to settle, though the crowd remained impatient and quick to whistle every pass that didn’t quite meet with their approval.

The crowd had to wait over twenty minutes until the Germans launched their first genuine attack on the Spanish goal, as Lothar Matthäus played an excellently-timed long ball to find the fast-paced Jürgen Klinsmann. Spanish ‘keeper Andoni Zubizarreta was quick off his line to challenge the blonde VfB Stuttgart striker, but clearly handled the ball outside the penalty area before grabbing it at the second attempt. Today Zubizarreta might have been given his marching orders, but the referee simply awarded a free-kick at the edge of the area which was struck the defensive wall.

It was just the spark the home side needed as they suddenly seemed to burst into life. Zubi was quickly called into action again as he plucked a Brehme cross out of the air as Klinsmann leapt dangerously, and referee Michel Vautrot waved play on as Rudi Völler appeared to be bundled over after making an excellent run into the Spanish box. Franz Beckenbauer’s side were now on top, and both Matthäus and Pierre Littbarski were finding far more freedom in the middle of the field.

Just before the half hour mark Matthäus picked up the ball inside the centre circle and picked out Littbarski to his left. The 1. FC Köln number’s seven’s pass inside caught the heel of a Spaniard, sending the ball towards the lurking Klinsmann who deftly avoided his marker before playing a neat ball into the box. Völler was first to it, and drilled a low shot with his right foot that skidded past the diving Zubizarreta and into the left-hand corner of the Spanish net.

The AS Roma striker had endured more his fair share of abuse during the first two matches and had looked completely off the boil, but Franz Beckenbauer had continued to show faith in him. Here that faith was rewarded, and an ecstatic Völler made sure everybody knew about it. It was as if a massive weight had been lifted from both the team and the crowd: the relief was palpable.

The goal simple allowed the Mannschaft to smoothly move into a higher gear, and the young Klinsmann in particular was charging around the field like a man possessed. Every Spanish move seemed to break down as home side were now starting to show far more ambition and, indeed, something of a swagger.

The sprightly Bakero found himself unmarked at Immel’s near post and put his header high and wide of the target, but it was a rare foray from a Spanish side that was looking increasingly desperate and short of ideas. As the half-time whistle blew, the German team were warmly applauded off the pitch by a crowd that was now completely on their side.

Inspired by their first-half display the Germans immediately found their rhythm. Some six minutes in, Rafael Gordillo’s run down the left was thwarted by Brehme, who robbed his opponent and played the ball forward for Völler who was still deep inside his own half. Völler swept the ball inside to Matthäus, who took complete advantage of the space in front of him as he charged up the field.

The German skipper muscled his way towards and into the opposition box, brushing off every red-shirted opponent who stood in his way before playing a beautiful backheel back into space. Völler, who had kept up with the move all the way, was perfectly positioned to collect the ball before stabbing it with his right foot past the diving Zubizarreta and again into the low left-hand corner of the net from ten yards out. With his second fine strike of the evening Völler had completely redeemed himself, and was quick to congratulate Matthäus for his part in what was a truly wonderful goal.

Striker Rudi Völler would rediscover his goalscoring touch in München against Spain with two excellent goals. Uli Borowka joins in the celebrations

On sixty-three minutes Littbarski was replaced by Wolfram Wuttke, who blended in seamlessly as the home side continued to sweep forward with purpose. Despite having to chase the game the Spaniards continued to look toothless and devoid of any real inspiration, with the possible exception of little Bakero who looked almost alone in trying to get his side back into the game. At the other end, a quickly taken throw-in by Klinsmann put Olaf Thon through on goal, and the little midfielder’s well-struck left-footed shot was excellently parried by Zubizarreta.

As the Spaniards finally managed to put a few decent passes together, it was Eike Immel’s turn to show off. After Gordillo had managed to get behind the German defence down the right, he pulled the ball back into the box for the now ubiquitous Bakero, who must have thought his right-footed snapshot was going to creep inside Immel’s left-hand post only to see the seemingly wrongfooted German Torhuter stick out his left hand to pull off a miraculous reaction save. It had been Spain’s best spell by a distance, and from the resulting corner Herget found himself having to clear a José Antonio Camacho header off the line.

With ever-increasing gaps now starting to appear on the pitch Germany were able to break at pace, with Klinsmann leading the charge. With the red-shirted Spaniards desperately running back to quell the danger, Klinsmann played to ball out left to Wuttke, who delivered a delicious cross back into the Spanish box with the outside of his right foot. Völler desperately tried to get his head on the ball to complete what would have been a deserved hat-trick, but it was just a little too high and too long.

With five minutes left the heroic Klinsmann was roared off the field by an appreciative crowd and replaced by Borussia Dortmund’s Frank Mill; it was now just a matter of quietly seeing out the remaining time. With Italy now two goals up against Denmark in the other match, Spain needed a something close to a miracle – and as the clock ran down they clearly knew that any such task was beyond them.

With the regulation ninety minutes up Thon should have made it three after an unselfish Völler had put him into space, but his shot was well blocked by Zubizarreta. When the final whistle blew, the atmosphere was one of elation and celebration.

When the other group was settled the following evening, Beckenbauer’s team would finally find out who their next opponents would be. The Dutch.

Germany: Immel – Herget – Borowka, Kohler, Brehme – Matthäus (c), Littbarski (63. Wuttke), Rolff, Thon – Klinsmann (85. Mill), Völler

Spain: Zubizarreta – Tomás, Andrinúa, Sanchís, Camacho – Míchel, Víctor, Martín Vázquez, Gordillo – Bakero, Butragueño (51. Salinas)

Referee: Michel Vautrot (France)
Assistants: Gérard Biguet (France), Rémi Harrel (France)
Fourth Official: Michał Listkiewicz (Poland)

Yellow Cards: Thon, Herget / Gordillo, Sanchis, Martín Vázquez
Red Cards: – / –

Attendance: 72,308

First Phase Group 1 Table

GermanyGermany (Q)321051+45
ItalyItaly (Q)321041+35

Other results: Denmark 2-3 Spain; Italy 1-0 Spain; Italy 2-0 Denmark.

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