Andreas Brehme: The unexpected German World Cup hero – and a player who truly cared

Andreas Brehme: The unexpected German World Cup hero – and a player who truly cared


Andreas “Andi” Brehme wasn’t supposed to be the hero of the 1990 World Cup final.

Striker Rudi Voller was down to take penalties, but didn’t want to when the time came because he had been the man brought down in the box; in the eyes of referee Edgardo Codesal, at least. German football superstition had it that the player fouled should never take the ensuing penalty. The second in line, Lothar Matthaus, too, refused. The team captain had changed his boots at half-time and didn’t feel comfortable.

It thus fell to Inter Milan wing-back Brehme, 29, to step up, in the 85th minute of a goalless game, against Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea in Rome’s Olympic Stadium. “If you score, we’ll be world champions,” Voller told his team-mate, while angry protests by Diego Maradona’s men delayed the taking of the penalty by seven minutes. No pressure then.

Brehme, however, had something more important to mull over. Which foot should he use? The Hamburg-born defender was the most ambidextrous player of his generation, equally happy to kick the ball with either foot. Four years prior, on course for Germany’s 1986 World Cup final defeat by the same opponents, Brehme had converted a quarter-final shootout penalty against hosts Mexico with his left.

In Rome that night, he went with his other foot. Goycochea had saved four penalties in the two previous matches (against Yugoslavia and Italy) but stood no chance this time. The ball fizzed low and true into the corner. Soon after, Germany had won their third World Cup, but their first as a re-united nation.

Brehme celebrates after scoring the penalty in 1990 (Georges Gobet/AFP via Getty Images)

“My left is harder and my right is more precise,” Brehme told German news magazine Der Spiegel later. In training at Inter, he regularly challenged their Italy international goalkeeper Walter Zenga to a shootout, taking five kicks with each foot.

Brehme had also found the net in the quarter-final against the Netherlands and the semi-final against England, when Peter Shilton was unable to keep out his wickedly deflected, left-footed free kick.

Aged five, he used to juggle balls during half-time breaks of HSV Barmbek-Uhlenhorst matches, the Hamburg-based amateur side of his father Bernd. After finishing vocational training as a machinist, Brehme joined second-division Saarbrucken but only played there for one season before getting signed by then top-flight powerhouse Kaiserslautern in 1981.

Five years later, Bayern Munich bought him for 2million Deutschmarks (€1m) — the second-highest transfer fee paid in the Bundesliga up to that point. He was a cultured player who combined great work ethic, defensive seriousness and clever runs with a knack for scoring important goals. Brehme won the championship with Bayern in 1987 and then followed the call of Serie A, like so many top German and other international players at the time.

At Inter, he joined up with his former Bayern team-mate Matthaus. National team striker Jurgen Klinsmann completed the trinity of Tedesci (Germans) one year later.

Signing the trio was Inter’s attempt to emulate the success city rivals AC Milan had found with three Dutchmen in Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit. And it worked. The incredibly versatile Brehme won the Scudetto in 1989 — when he was voted Italy’s Footballer of the Year ahead of Maradona — and the UEFA Cup in 1991 under coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

He rejoined Kaiserslautern in 1993, getting relegated with them three years later. After the full-time whistle of the final-day 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen that plunged Kaiserslautern into the second tier, Brehme sobbed uncontrollably in the arms of Voller (then a striker for Leverkusen) live in a TV studio.

It’s a moving moment that went down in German football history and cemented Brehme’s popularity as a player who truly cared.

Brehme with the Bundesliga trophy in 1998 (Bongarts/Getty Images)

He decided to postpone his retirement to help them back up in the coming season. Brehme’s active career ends in a fairy tale: Kaiserslautern went on to become the first team in Bundesliga history to win the league as a promoted side in 1998.

Subsequent spells as manager at Kaiserslautern and assistant to Trapattoni at Stuttgart were less successful. Still, as the third man to score a World Cup-winning goal for Germany and one of the most influential players at Inter, Brehme’s footballing legacy was beyond doubt.

Former team-mates were deeply saddened by the 63-year-old’s premature passing, due to a cardiac arrest on Monday night. “I can’t speak, I’m in shock,” fellow 1990 World Cup winner Guido Buchwald told the SID news agency. “Andi was always positive, he radiated life. He was a great human being, a great friend.”

Inter, who will wear black armbands in their Champions League home match against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night, posted: “Ciao, Andy. Forever a legend.”

Germany shares the sentiment.

(Top photo: Staff/AFP via Getty Images)


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