Two defeats in 84 matches is the astounding record that current FIFA World Cup™ holders Germany can boast in World Cup qualifiers. The four-time winners of the tournament have averaged an incredible 2.5 points and 2.96 goals per match en route to the various final phases, statistics which back up the notion, shared by fans and pundits alike, of ruthless German efficiency. When it comes to the crunch, this is a team that knows exactly what it takes to qualify.
Portugal and England are the only sides to have defeated Germany in qualifiers, and they managed to do it the hard way. In October 1985, Carlos Manuel scored the only goal of the game against a Karl-Heinz Rummenigge-led Germany in Stuttgart, while in September 2001, Oliver Kahn and Michael Ballack were powerless to prevent a 5-1 thrashing at the Olympic Stadium in Munich at the hands of arch-rivals England. Michael Owen was only 21 at the time but he wrote his name in the annals of English football that night, bagging a hat-trick.
And that is the sum total of Germany's defeats in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup – not so surprising when you consider that this is the country which has produced such legends as Fritz Walter, Uwe Seeler, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and Lothar Matthaus.
Calm under pressure and mentally strong
But what are the secrets to this incredible run of success? "In the past, Germany was a successful team and that success gives impetus to the generations that follow," said Philipp Lahm in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com back in October 2009, just before his country's decisive World Cup qualifier away to Russia. "Look at how Germany have done at the big tournaments: in 1954, 1974 and 1990 we won the World Cup and in 1972, 1980 and 1996 we won the Euro, and we also made the final on at least as many other occasions. You could say that we grew up with the knowledge that Germany can always make it through to the final."
Germany won that match in Moscow 1-0 thanks to a goal from Miroslav Klose, inflicting Russia's first-ever home defeat in World Cup qualifying and booking their place at South Africa 2010. Matches like those have made Germany what they are – a giant on the world footballing stage, feared by the competition. Little wonder that England centre forward-turned-pundit Gary Lineker described football as a game in which "22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win."