When in Porto

I’ve talked about my admiration for pre-1998 German football. That is not to say I have ever been a fan, just that I respect the way Germany (West Germany and the current united version) were so efficient. The run of dominant Mannschaften ended in 1996. Before winning the European Championship at Wembley that year, they’d won five major international tournaments and finished second in four others in the previous 25 years.

They reached the FIFA World Cup Final three consecutive tournaments from 1982 to 1990.

There’s been talk of a resurgence in German football off and on over the past ten years. A closer look reveals just two runners-up spots and a third place finish in major tournaments that have been more a sign of decline than any real upturn. When you compare the class of successful teams of the ’70s, ’80’s, and ’90’s with recent versions of the Mannschaft, you can see why German successes have declined.

Just from the 1996 version, the likes of Jurgen Kohler, Matthias Sammer, Thomas Hassler, Oliver Bierhoff, Hans Moeller, Stefan Reuter, and even Jurgen Klinsmann could walk into any team today. Mighty Barcelona included! Those guys had everything needed for winning big matches. They were highly technical (except Klinsmann who was more of an amazing athlete than technically sound), tactical, and thoroughly professional. Most of all, they had a burning desire to be the best.

One (from their many impressive displays) that sticks out in my mind is the 1990 clash with Holland in the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup. The two bitter rivals met that day in Milan. Rudi Voller and Frank Rijkaard were sent off – spitting on an opponent is unforgivable. Klinsmaan played the game of his life. Brehme was exceptional. The entire German team were, to be fair. For strength and efficiency on a football pitch, that game was like no other I’ve ever seen.

When Arsenal go to Porto Wednesday, they will face a very good team, a team that can run through us if we aren’t careful. If we make the mistakes we’ve made against United and Chelsea, we’ll have no chance. Wenger has commented on the need to play well defensively, “We know that when you go to Porto you need a solid defensive performance. I was reassured on Wednesday – that was maybe the biggest part of our game against Liverpool. We looked solid defensively for the first time in the last three big games, and that was vital before you go out for a Champions League game.”

We’ll need to stop the stupid mistakes. We’ll need to be efficient. We’ll need to fight for the right to say we can win the Champions League. I’d like to send a DVD of that West Germany v Holland match to the players as a reminder of what it takes to be successful.

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