That Andreas Brehme played a leading role the last time Germany won the FIFA World Cup™ is common knowledge among football fans, especially as he scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the Final against Argentina at Italy 1990. Less well known, however, is that he was also a crucial cog in the last German team to beat France at a World Cup.
FIFA.com chatted with the 53-year-old about that encounter, the current tournament in Brazil and the forthcoming quarter-final between his compatriots and France in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
FIFA.com: Have you been following the World Cup closely so far?
Andreas Brehme: Of course! I’m a footballer through and through and have experienced tournaments like this myself. It’s only natural to watch what’s going on there.
Which teams have impressed you most?
Honestly? I’d have to say the Netherlands. They had some difficulties against a very strong Mexico side but otherwise I think they’re the ones with the clearest system and structure. I’ve enjoyed watching France too, though. Our team will have to improve another 100 per cent if they want to win on Friday.
So you have not yet been entirely convinced by Germany?
I didn’t say that. Our team hasn’t played badly so far and they deserve to be in the quarter-finals. But if we play as we did against Algeria then France will definitely knock us out. They’re a different calibre of opponent.
Does that mean you view France as favourites to win the match?
No, because our team know that it’s crunch time now. Germany have always been a tournament side. The lads have got a huge game on Friday so they’ll be focusing on putting in a top-class performance there. As a German player you know when it’s time to step up.
Can you remember Germany’s last victory over France at a World Cup?
Yes, that was in the semi-finals at Mexico 1986. France had a very, very strong team, especially in midfield: [Michel] Platini, [Luis] Fernandez, [Yannick] Stopyra and [Bruno] Bellone were all quality players. Fortunately, we managed to beat them 2-0.
Maybe a world-class player like Manuel Neuer will be the deciding factor. The way he played against Algeria was incredible.
And you scored the all-important opening goal in the ninth minute…
I still remember it well. We had a free-kick on the right-hand corner of the penalty box. Felix Magath teed me up and my shot went in the bottom right corner. I think the French goalkeeper [Joel Bats] could probably have done better with it.
What characterises matches between Germany and France?
Games like that are always classics. It’s always a special occasion when the big European nations such as Germany, France, Spain, Italy and England meet at a major tournament. The players feel that too. Those kinds of matches live long in people’s memories and you’re well aware of it as a player.
What sort of game are you expecting?
If our team can improve, which I really hope and expect they will do, it’ll be a very evenly-balanced match. Both teams have got fantastic players with great quality. At the end of the day, maybe a world-class player like Manuel Neuer will be the deciding factor. The way he played against Algeria was incredible. In my opinion, he’s been one of the players of the tournament so far.
Who else would you include in that category?
That’s a tough one because there are quite a few. I’ve been very impressed by the Netherlands’ Memphis Depay, and Arjen Robben is in sensational form as well. I’d have to add Colombia’s James Rodriguez too. Nobody had him on their radar before the tournament started but he’s a superb player.
To conclude, which team are your favourites to lift the title?
It’s difficult to say this year because no team has been at their best all the way through. As I said earlier, the Netherlands and France have impressed me the most but our team is also in the running. You can’t discount Brazil because they’ve got wonderful individual players and as hosts they have the support of the fans behind them. Argentina are vulnerable in defence but are unbelievable in attack. I think we’ve still got a lot of exciting games to look forward to.