The gods were not smiling on Germany as they prepared for the first Asian football finals. Rudi Voeller's side was cruelly stripped of a number of key players just weeks before the tournament began prompting many so-called experts to write off the Mannschaft's chances. But they had reckoned without their goalkeeping saviour - Oliver Kahn.

Korea/Japan 2002 record

Leading from the back, Kahn's reflexes, personality and sense of occasion propelled his nation to the brink of victory at the ultimate sporting occasion finally succumbing to Brazil in the final. Up until that point, the blonde rock had stood like a colossus in the East heroically beating off attack after attack and, in doing so, adding to his reputation as the best in his business. In Korea/Japan, he picked up the Yashin Award for the tournament's top goalkeeper as well as the crème de la crème, adidas Golden Ball Award, as the competition's best player.

Chiselled features
Thanks to these performances and his consistency at the highest level with club side Bayern Munich, Oliver Kahn became the first goalkeeper to be shortlisted for the FIFA Player of the Year 2002 Award in its 12-year history. The chiselled-featured custodian goes up against France's Zinedine Zidane and Brazil's Ronaldo at the star-studded festival in Madrid on December 17.

Kahn began his football odyssey in 1976, in his native town, Karlsruhe. A year later, he was playing for Karlsruhe FC's youth team. He worked his way up through the youth teams but never quite made it into the international youth set-up. He subsequently made his Bundesliga debut in the autumn of 1990 and left an indelible mark from the outset.

It took him only three seasons to establish himself as one of the best last lines of defence in the Bundesliga and his excellent displays were rewarded with a call-up to the national team in October 1993. He was drafted into the German squad at the 1994 FIFA World Cup USATM as reserve keeper to Bodo Illgner, but never made the starting line-up.

He was signed by Bayern Munich at the beginning of the 1994/5 season, with whom he has gone on to win a host of honours, both at domestic and international level. The 2.5 million euros paid by the Bavarian club was a record fee for a goalkeeper at the time, and from the word go Kahn was made Bayern's first-choice keeper.

Mental strength
His career was interrupted in November 1994, when a torn ligament injury sidelined him for five months. This enforced absence did, however, have a positive effect. Kahn returned a much stronger individual mentally and quickly found his best form.

His international debut came in a match against Switzerland in June 1995. He had to still make do with being the reserve keeper at the 1996 UEFA European Championship in England. More frustration was to follow at France 98. He had to play second fiddle for the third successive major international tournament. And it was not until Andreas Köpke announced his retirement at the end of the tournament that Oliver Kahn was finally became the Mannschaft's unquestionable number one. And boy did he take his chance!

Kahn was voted German footballer of the year in 2000 and best European goalkeeper. The 2000/2001 season brought more glory. Having won a fourth German League title, he was to go on and lift the UEFA Champions League trophy the same season. And his outstanding performances were one of the major factors that helped Germany book their ticket to the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.