Germany are the most successful European nation in FIFA World Cup history. The Germans have won the World Cup on four occasions, with only Brazil winning more global titles. Germany have never failed to qualify, although in 1950 none of the three German national teams that existed at that time entered qualifying.
Germany were banned from many international sports from 1945 to 1950 and so none of West Germany, East Germany or Saarland (a short-lived protectorate) could enter qualifying for the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. Following the war, East Germany played at just one finals, appearing in the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. They failed to qualify for all the other tournaments they entered between 1958 and 1990 inclusive aside from that one.
The full picture of German involvement at the World Cup is somewhat confusing. Prior to the Second World War, Germany had competed as one single nation at two World Cups, in 1934 and 1938. Due to the war itself, the next competition did not take place until 1950, when, as said, all German teams were banned. Then followed an extended period between 1950 and 1990 (inclusive) when there were separate East and West German sides.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany and West Germany were reunified (Saarland had long since been subsumed into West Germany) as one national team. Germany as a reunified country competed in its first World Cup in USA in 1994, exiting the competition at the quarter final stage.
For the purposes of this piece, we are considering Germany as one single World Cup footballing entity. Given East Germany made little impact on the tournament that means that for the purposes of this article we are looking at the results for the single German team before WWII, West Germany from 1954-1990 inclusive and then the reunified nation from 1994 onwards. Simple right?
World Cup Results
Germany have a formidable World Cup record. They did not enter the first edition back in 1930 and they were banned from the 1950 World Cup in Brazil after World War II, but they have participated in every other World Cup, winning the tournament on four occasions (three as West Germany). Germany have had the most finishes in the top two with a staggering eight, while no nation has finished runners-up more times (four).
|Year||Host||Stage of Elimination (Position)||Manager||Top Scorer|
|2018||Russia||Group Stage (22nd)||Joachim Low||Marco Reus (1) & Toni Kroos (1)|
|2014||Brazil||Winners (1st)||Joachim Low||Thomas Muller (5)|
|2010||South Africa||Semi-finals (3rd)||Joachim Low||Thomas Muller (5)|
|2006||Germany||Semi-finals (3rd)||Jurgen Klinsmann||Miroslav Klose (5)|
|2002||South Korea & Japan||Final (2nd)||Rudi Voller||Miroslav Klose (5)|
|1998||France||Quarter-final (7th)||Berti Vogts||Oliver Bierhoff (3) & Jurgen Klinsmann (3)|
|1994||USA||Quarter-final (5th)||Berti Vogts||Jurgen Klinsmann (5)|
|1990||Italy||Winners (1st)||Franz Beckenbauer||Lothar Matthaus (4)|
|1986||Mexico||Final (2nd)||Franz Beckenbauer||Rudi Voller (3)|
|1982||Spain||Final (2nd)||Jupp Derwall||Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (5)|
|1978||Argentina||2nd Group Stage (6th)||Helmut Schon||Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (3)|
|1974||West Germany||Winners (1st)||Helmut Schon||Gerd Muller (4)|
|1970||Mexico||Semi-final (3rd)||Helmut Schon||Gerd Muller (10)|
|1966||England||Final (2nd)||Helmut Schon||Helmut Haller (6)|
|1962||Chile||Quarter-final (7th)||Sepp Herberger||Uwe Seeler (2)|
|1958||Sweden||Semi-final (4th)||Sepp Herberger||Helmut Rahn (6)|
|1954||Switzerland||Winners (1st)||Sepp Herberger||Max Morlock (6)|
|1938||France||First Round (10th)||Sepp Herberger||Josef Gauchel (1) & Wilhelm Hahnemann (1)|
|1934||Italy||Semi-final (3rd)||Otto Nerz||Edmund Conen (4)|
When Did Germany Last Win the World Cup?
Germany’s last World Cup win came on Brazil soil in 2014, when they famously routed the hosts 7-1 in the semis before seeing off Argentina in the final.
Times Germany Won the World Cup
Germany have won the World Cup four times. Their first three triumphs came when they were West Germany, winning in 1954, 1974 on home soil and 1990. Their most recent success was in 2014.
1954 – West Germany Win on Swiss Soil
Four years after being banned from the competition, and playing for the first time as a separate (from East Germany) nation, West Germany became World Cup winners for the first time in 1954. The Germans went all the way in Switzerland, beating Hungary’s Golden Team, the Mighty Magyars, in the final in Bern to win their first world crown. Hungary had beaten them 8-3 in the Group phase and led 2-0 in the final after just eight minutes but in the “Miracle of Bern”, the Germans came back to win 3-2.
1974 – Second Success 20 Years On
Helmut Schon’s West Germany were very impressive on home turf in 1974, winning six of their seven games to win World Cup number two. The Germans secured the trophy by beating Netherlands 2-1 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. This was the great German team that included Gerd Muller, Franz Beckenbauer and Paul Breitner.
1990 – Last World Cup Before the Unification
The 1990 World Cup was the last that featured West Germany. Shortly after, West Germany and East Germany reassembled to become one nation. The West Germans, managed by the popular Franz Beckenbauer, finished on top in Italy, beating Argentina 1-0 in the Rome finale. The victory was extra sweet because Diego Maradona’s Argentina had beaten them in the final in Mexico four years earlier.
2014 – Germany Win in Brazil
Germany’s one and only win since the turn of the century came in Brazil in 2014. The tournament will always be remembered for Die Mannschaft’s 7-1 mauling of hosts Brazil in the semi finals. Joachim Low’s men went on to beat old rivals Argentina in the final thanks to Mario Gotze’s late extra-time goal. Amazingly, this was the third World Cup final clash between the nations, Brazil v Italy the only other “repeat” final (the sides having met twice in 1970 and 1994). After the semi it was something of a disappointing finale but try telling that to Gotze or indeed any German.
Golden Boot / Top Goalscorer
As you would expect of a side that has enjoyed so much international success, Germany have had some truly great strikers over the years. They have had three Golden Boot winners in World Cup history.
The first of those was Gerd Muller, who netted an astonishing 10 times at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Along with the four he notched four years later that meant for a long time that Muller was the leading scorer in World Cup history.
On home turf in 2006, the prolific Miroslav Klose finished top scorer with five goals. Klose enjoyed tremendous longevity, playing 137 times for his country and he surpassed Muller as the leading scorer in the history of this competition. His 16 World Cup goals were spread over four tournaments and this is a record that may stand for some time.
In 2010 another Muller, Bayern’s Thomas, also netted five World Cup goals to fire his side to third place. Muller notched five in six games, was named best youngster at the tournament and was joint-top scorer with Wesley Sneijder, David Villa and Diego Forlan. In 2014 he also won the Silver Boot as the second top Goalscorer.
|Year||Host||Player||Number of Goals||Runner(s) Up|
|2010||South Africa||Thomas Muller||5||Joint Top Scorer – Wesley Sneijder (5), David Villa (5) & Diego Forlan (5)|
|2006||Germany||Miroslav Klose||5||Hernan Crespo (3), Maxi Rodriguez (3), Ronaldo (3), Thierry Henry (3), Zinedine Zidane (3), Lukas Podolski (5), Fernando Torres (3), David Villa (3)|
|1970||Mexico||Gerd Muller||10||Jairzinho (7)|
Germany are one of the most successful nations in World Cup history. However, even Die Mannschaft have not always had it all their own way on the biggest stage.
As reigning champions, Germany were one of the favourites to go all the way in Russia in 2018. However, to say it did not go to plan for Low’s side would be a major understatement. Things got off to a bad start as they were beaten by Mexico in the first game. Despite coming from behind and scoring late to secure a 2-1 win over Sweden in match two, Germany were dumped out of the competition after a famous 2-0 defeat to South Korea in Kazan.
They ended up finishing in 22nd place according to FIFA’s points system, which is their lowest position at a World Cup to date. For a side that has, quite astonishingly, made the semis or final in 13 World Cups, elimination in the first round is a catastrophe but no doubt they’ll be back.