FIFA.com: What's your first memory of a FIFA World Cup?
When did you experience one for the first time?
Franz Beckenbauer: The first World Cup I remember was 1954, when I was nine. There was a lot of public attention and Germany won the Cup. At the time we had a street football team and of course we replayed the Final between Germany and Hungary on the street. When the final whistle blew, there was tremendous jubilation throughout the country. We didn't really appreciate the enormity of what it meant to win the World Cup. We just joined in the celebrations, and had our own game after the match. At the time, I was lucky enough to claim the number 10. We sewed the numbers on ourselves, and thought they looked very, very smart. That was my first contact with a World Cup.
Did you go for the number 10 because of Fritz Walter?
Yes, of course. Fritz Walter was my idol, and that's why they let me have the No10 in our street team.
You were very young when you first appeared at the 1966 FIFA World Cup. How did it feel at that age?
Yes, 1966 was one of the real highlights of my career. Not only was it my first World Cup, we also went to England as real outsiders. Not many people bet on the German team and everyone was very surprised when we reached the Final and fought so hard against England. The score was 2-2 after 92 minutes, and we only lost the match in extra time as a result of that third goal, which remains debatable to this day. These are the memories that stay with you forever.
Then you won the FIFA World Cup in 1974. How did you feel about the tournament in your own country?
It was the first time we were under real pressure. There were virtually no problems in 1966, or in 1970. I'm talking about the security situation. Things had changed completely in 1974. Sport had become an entirely different world after the attacks on the Munich Olympics in 1972. From that time on, the players were not as free as they had been before. That was definitely a stress factor.
We were fairly lax in our approach to this tournament and the result was defeat to East Germany. That woke us up and we finally started to work together as a team. At the end of the day, it turned out to be enough to win the World Cup. But if you were compiling a list of the most 'beautiful' World Cups, the winner would have to be Mexico or England. There were just too many problems in 1974.
How was the atmosphere in the dressing room? There's talk of a bust-up after the match against East Germany.
There were many arguments within the team, but we kept them to ourselves. The main arguments were about the East Germany match and of course about bonuses. There were a lot of unpleasant scenes which I hadn't experienced in my two previous World Cups.
Thinking back to the Final, at what point did you start believing you could win?
After Gerd Muller made it 2-1, I was relatively certain we'd protect our lead through to the end. Perhaps it was a good thing Holland took the lead in the first minute, perhaps they weren't as focused for the rest of the match as they had been before. That gave us a chance to come back into the match, through Paul Breitner's equaliser after Holzenbein won the penalty, and then the 2-1 lead just before half-time. It was a great psychological advantage to take the lead at that point.
Then Johan Cruyff was shown a yellow card for dissent. Those were all signs that made me think the Dutch were getting nervous and that we'd survive the second half. The Dutch reshuffled their team and put their libero, Arie Haan, into midfield. That gave them another option in midfield. We kept it very tight in defence, although they increasingly forced us deeper and deeper. But despite this spell of pressure, we still had a few good openings and might have scored another goal or two.
Paul Breitner reckons the Dutch became a touch arrogant after scoring the first goal and fell victim to overconfidence.
I'm not sure it was overconfidence. After taking that early lead, they may have thought things were going to plan and that it was their day. They weren't as determined after that and gave us the breathing space needed to find our way back into the game.
You were the first player ever to lay hands on the current FIFA World Cup Trophy. What sort of a feeling was that?
The old Jules Rimet Trophy had been stolen and never found, so FIFA had to replace it. So we knew the winning team would be the first to lift the new trophy.
Was it a special honour for you as a player?
No, it was just the icing on the cake. Winning a World Cup was the special thing.
You also won a FIFA World Cup as coach, in 1990. How was that tournament and the victory? Was it different from being a player?
You have more responsibility as a coach. You see a match or the World Cup from a completely different perspective. First, we had a very good team. Second, we were fortunate in having a very strong group in Italy. Yugoslavia and Columbia were opponents calling for the utmost concentration. Our first match was against Yugoslavia, a very strong team at the time and rated among the favourites by some people. We had to prepare well right from the start and we were very focused going into the game. We won 4-1 and things worked out for us from that point on.
Did you always believe your team was going to win, or did you have moments of doubt?
I was convinced right from the start. The team was very well prepared and the mood in the dressing room could hardly have been better. It was a harmonious team from the first minute to the last. There were virtually no arguments or differences of opinion. There was a very pleasant atmosphere, and in the final analysis, I think we deserved to win the World Cup because we played the best football.
There's a story that you once lost your temper in the dressing room and slammed the door in someone's face. What was the reason?
Yes, that's right (laughing). It was after the quarter-final against Czechoslovakia, as it then was. We were leading 1-0 after 70 minutes, and it would have been more if the Czechs hadn't cleared the ball off the line three times. At any rate, we were dominating the game and then one of the Czechs was sent off, so we had 11 men against their ten. From then on, we just played sloppily. We let the Czechs back into the game in the last twenty minutes. It had even become a close-run thing by the end. Czechoslovakia had a chance or two and it could easily have ended in a draw because we were so careless. That's what I couldn't accept.
What do you think was the key to your success? You have suggested it was the game against Yugoslavia.
Well, it certainly threw the door wide open. The first game is always very, very important because it tells you how well you've prepared, and how you've come off the blocks. We really got off to a fabulous start in Milan.
After the Final you famously walked the length of the pitch alone. What were your thoughts?
Well, it was the end of an era for me. It was my last match in charge of the German national team. Naturally, I was overjoyed at winning the biggest prize in my last match. At the same time, you're bound to feel sadness after six years. We'd been very successful. We were World Cup runners-up in 1986, we made the European Championship semi-finals in 1988, and then finally the crowning glory in 1990. I wanted to be alone at that moment, and the only place I could be alone was on the pitch.
The Argentine coach Carlos Bilardo, who won against you in 1986, said he didn't hold the Cup in his hands on that occasion, and regretted it afterwards. He said he had wanted to make good the omission in 1990, but lost his nerve. What would you have said if he had come to you and asked you to let him hold the Cup?
I'd have said "of course". Everyone can look at the Cup and hold it, that's what it's there for.
For you, which FIFA World Cup victory was the best or most significant, 1974 or 1990?
There's nothing more momentous than winning a World Cup, as there's no bigger sporting event in the world. If you come out on top, you've really made it to the pinnacle. I'd rate the 1990 victory just a little higher, because you have greater responsibility and more to do as coach. The players just have to concentrate on their performance, and that's that, but the coach is responsible for the entire organisation.
May I hand you the Trophy? How does it feel to have it in your hands again? Lothar Matthaus seemed deeply moved when he held it again.
Does it have special significance for you?
I always enjoy it. I have to say it's not got any lighter (laughs). Yes, it's nice to hold the Trophy in the knowledge you've won it twice, once as a player and once as a coach. It's a tremendous feeling!
What do you think of the Trophy from a purely aesthetic point of view?
Well, I think it looks a lot better than the old Jules Rimet Trophy. That Cup was certainly very significant for its time and was also very attractive. But this one is much better from the point of view of design and style. I must say it was certainly a fantastic achievement on the part of the designer.