The story of Mario Götze (c.) 'showing the world he is better than Messi' at the 2014 FIFA World Cup final is just one of many in the history of Germany against Argentina. - © 2014 Getty Images
The story of Mario Götze (c.) 'showing the world he is better than Messi' at the 2014 FIFA World Cup final is just one of many in the history of Germany against Argentina. - © 2014 Getty Images

Germany vs. Argentina: A World Cup Klassiker


Germany and Argentina have met in three FIFA World Cup finals. After losing 3-2 in Mexico in 1986, Die Mannschaft triumphed in Italy in 1990 and Brazil in 2014, on both occasions by a 1-0 scoreline.

With the two countries renewing their rivalry at Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday (kick-off 8.45pm CEST/7.45pm BST/2.45pm ET), looks back at that trio of finals that have made this fixture a World Cup Klassiker.

June 29, 1986 – Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mexico
Argentina 3-2 West Germany
Goals: 1-0
Brown (23’), 2-0 Valdano (56’), 2-1 Rummenigge (74’), 2-2 Völler (81’), 3-2 Burruchaga (84’)

The showpiece event of one of the most memorable World Cups ever was a fitting thriller as Argentina and West Germany played out a five-goal spectacle decided only at the death of the 90 minutes. Diego Maradona had been the star man of 1986 and Germany coach Franz Beckenbauer tasked fellow Bayern Munich legend Lothar Matthäus with following the forward’s every move, biting at his heels and trying to reduce his influence at every opportunity.

It was no small ask and an hour into the game, Maradona’s Argentina were two goals to the good and appeared to be coasting to a second World Cup trophy in their history. However, a stirring comeback from the Germans was led by captain Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who turned home his first of the tournament with just over a quarter of an hour remaining.

Two legends of the game, Diego Maradona (l.) and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (r.), exchanged blows at the Estadio Azteca as Argentina and Germany met in the first of three World Cup finals. - imago images / Laci Perenyi

It had been substitute Rudi Völler whose header from Andreas Brehme’s corner out on the left had teed up Rummenigge, and both Völler and Brehme would be at it again with just nine minutes to go to set up a dramatic finale. This time Thomas Berthold would nod Brehme’s corner into Völler’s path for the Werder Bremen striker to level.

But with six minutes remaining, Maradona would supply a sublime through ball for Jorge Burruchaga to slide beyond Cologne keeper Toni Schumacher. It was a cruel end to the tournament for Beckenbauer’s side but one that came as no great surprise to the German coach, who did not hide his belief that his side weren’t quite ready to reach the same heights as Argentina. “Wait for us in four years’ time,” he said. Seven words that would prove to be remarkably prophetic.

Maradona and Argentina claimed first blood in this legendary rivalry by lifting the World Cup in Mexico City. - imago images / Laci Perenyi

July 8, 1990 – Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy
West Germany 1-0 Argentina
Goals: 1-0
Brehme (pen. 85’)
Red cards: Monzon (65’), Dezotti (87’)

Germany’s search for a third Jules Rimet trophy was finally ended after two successive World Cup final defeats, first to Italy in 1982 and then to the Argentinians in Mexico. Matthäus - the only man to play in all three of those tournaments - had by now taken ownership of the captain’s armband. Berthold, Brehme and Völler - this time starting from the off - were the other players to feature in the final four years prior, again setting out to defeat an Argentine side led by Maradona. Jürgen Kohler led the defence after a remarkable season at the heart of Bayern’s Bundesliga title win and run to the European Cup semi-finals, while Jürgen Klinsmann was another notable World Cup newbie, taking up his club partnership alongside Völler at Inter Milan to devastating effect with the national team.

Brehme converted a late penalty in Rome to give a third World Cup title just weeks before German reunification. - imago/Laci Perenyi

Brehme’s supreme set-piece delivery was once again a constant menace to the Argentine defence, with Völler twice going agonisingly close to putting Die Mannschaft ahead as a result of Brehme free-kicks. Germany were dominant throughout, even before the red card issued to Pedro Monzon with over an hour gone, and were finally in front through Brehme with five minutes remaining. Having seen those chances go begging from his crosses, Brehme went close with two long-range efforts of his own, the two-time Bundesliga winner a man possessed in single-handedly breaking Argentina’s resistance. And after Völler was felled in the box, there was only ever going to be one outcome from the resulting penalty as Brehme slotted home the matchwinner.

Der Kaiser, who announced prior to the tournament that this would be his last as national team coach, became only the second man in history - after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo - to win the World Cup as both a player and coach and the first to do so as captain and coach. Both records have only been added to once since, Didier Deschamps doing so in 2018, a whole 28 years on from Beckenbauer’s historic win. Beckenbauer would leave his role saying, “German football will be unbeatable for years to come.”

Beckenbauer (r.) made amends for Germany’s defeat in Mexico four years earlier and became the first person to lift the World Cup as a captain and coach. - imago/Laci Perenyi

July 13, 2014 – Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Germany 1-0 Argentina AET
Goals: 1-0
Götze (113’)

Germany would go on to win the 1996 UEFA European Championship, but would have to wait 24 years after that famous win at the Stadio Olimpico before adding a fourth star above their jersey’s badge. Defeat in the 2002 final to Ronaldo’s Brazil in South Korea and Japan would be followed by two consecutive third-place finishes at the home World Cup in 2006 and in South Africa in 2010. But Joachim Löw’s side would put their kit manufacturers to work with victory at the Maracana, once again seeing off La Albiceleste to end a stunning World Cup campaign as tournament victors.

The 2014 final was almost a retelling of 1990. Argentina again had a diminutive superstar that required constant attention, this time in the shape of Lionel Messi. And – in a play right out of the Book of Beckenbauer – it was another behemoth of German football that would do the bulk of the work restricting the most potent threat in Argentina’s armoury. Captain Philipp Lahm put his enormous ability that led him to become an eight-time Bundesliga winner with Bayern by inhabiting Messi’s shadow for the day, barely giving him an inch. Alongside Bayern teammates Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng, as well as Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and Schalke’s Benedikt Höwedes, Lahm & Co. put on a defensive masterclass that allowed the huge array of talent further up the field to go and win the game.

Lahm (l.) stayed close to Argentina talisman Messi (r.) before, during and after the final at the Maracana. - Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

That attacking talent had unceremoniously dumped hosts Brazil out of the tournament in a 7-1 thrashing just days earlier. Miroslav Klose – who became the record World Cup goalscorer in that victory with his 16th goal in his fourth and final tournament – once again led the line, with Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller in support and Bastian Schweinsteiger alongside Christoph Kramer in central midfield. But another enormously tense affair saw neither side break the deadlock in regular time, with Höwedes coming closest to scoring inside 90 minutes when his header came crashing off the post.

Watch: Relive Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph

Enter Mario Götze, an 88th-minute substitute with Löw’s instructions to “go and show the world you’re better than Messi and can decide the World Cup,” ringing in his ears. The then Bayern man would do just that, ending the night a national hero and with his name etched in footballing folklore. With just seven minutes left of extra-time – and penalties looming – Andre Schürrle’s clipped ball from the left found Götze free in the penalty area but with everything still to do.

The subsequent sublime chest control and volleyed finish into the far corner past Sergio Romero was worthy of winning any match and is one of the best goals in World Cup final history. It sent German fans in Rio and the world over delirious, and once again ensured World Cup glory at Argentina’s expense.