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World Cup Icons: Franz Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer is one of only two men in history alongside Frenchman Didier Deschamps to win the World Cup as both a captain and a manager, in 1974 and 1990 respectively.

1966 World Cup

Eventually emerging into one of the finest defenders of all time, Beckenbauer spent the early part of his career as a central midfielder. A player with real poise and composure on the ball, a 20-year-old Beckenbauer impressively scored two goals in his first World Cup match in a 5-0 win for West Germany against Switzerland in 1966.

With the Germans comfortably progressing through the group stages at the England Finals, Beckenbauer was on the scoresheet again as West Germany overcame two-time winners Uruguay in the quarter-finals.

Nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser’, Beckenbauer registered his fourth goal of the tournament as West Germany defeated the USSR in the semi-finals to set up a blockbuster final against hosts England.

Competing in his first World Cup final, Beckenbauer would be on the losing side as England secured their only major tournament triumph to date in a 4-2 win after extra time. Despite this heartbreak, the 1966 Finals allowed a young Franz Beckenbauer to announce himself on the world stage, finishing the competition as joint-top scorer.

Both standout players in their own right, Beckenbauer and England's own midfield master Bobby Charlton were instructed to man-mark each other during the Wembley final. This underlined how respected Beckenbauer was even at this fledgling stage of his career, with himself and Charlton essentially cancelling out the influence of each other during this famous clash.

1970 World Cup

The German icon would partake in his second World Cup Finals four years later in Mexico, at this point an established key player in the side.

Having breezed through the group stages with three victories over Morocco, Bulgaria and Peru, West Germany set up a repeat of the 1966 World Cup final against England in the quarter-finals.

2-0 down in the second half and in need of a miracle to rescue their World Cup hopes, an outstanding goal from Beckenbauer in the 69th minute reduced the arrears to help West Germany on their way to a stunning 3-2 comeback completed in extra-time.

England boss Sir Alf Ramsey was left lamenting his decision to substitute star man Bobby Charlton shortly after Beckenbauer made it 2-1, seemingly as a means of resting the Manchester United legend ahead of a semi-final which ultimately never arrived for the English.

The semi-finals of the 1970 World Cup would see Beckenbauer and co lose 4-3 after extra-time to Italy in an encounter described as the ‘Game of the Century’. Beckenbauer would valiantly complete the match in a sling after dislocating his shoulder, with West Germany having already used their two allocated subs.

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1974 World Cup

After coming agonisingly close to World Cup glory in both ’66 and ’70, a West Germany team captained by Beckenbauer were desperate to take the final step and secure the nation’s second title in a home Finals in 1974.

Settling into a centre-back position for his country, Beckenbauer was at this stage revered as one of the best footballers in the world on the back of a European Cup win with Bayern Munich in May 1974 and having received the Ballon d’Or two years previously.

With the ability to dictate the play and launch attacks from defence, Beckenbauer was credited for having invented the position of the modern sweeper.

Despite shockingly losing to and finishing below East Germany in the first round, West Germany snuck through into the second round where their class started to show. 

Der Kaiser certainly exerted great influence upon this West German team, who won their group section in the second round with ease to seal their place in the World Cup final against a hotly-tipped Netherlands side famed for their eye-catching ‘Total Football’ style of play.

With the Dutch having put both Argentina and Brazil to the sword in the second round with the mercurial Johan Cruyff at the fore, the Germans knew they would face a tough test in the final in Berlin.

Beckenbauer would play a pivotal role in the final, carefully marshalling a German rearguard which effectively nullified Cruyff and co to stifle their usually swashbuckling tempo.

Despite going down to an early penalty from Johan Neeskens, West Germany rallied on the day to earn a hard-fought 2-1 victory. As Beckenbauer lifted the famous Jules Rimet Trophy aloft, West Germany became the first team in history to hold the status of European and world champions at the same time.

The 1974 World Cup would see Beckenbauer named in the official team of the tournament for the third consecutive time, having also been recognised for his performances at both the ’66 and ’70 finals.

1986 World Cup

Beckenbauer’s glorious World Cup journey is not solely defined as a player on the pitch, having also achieved marked success from the dugout as German national team manager.

After finishing his playing career in the United States with New York Cosmos, Beckenbauer returned to his homeland to take on the role as Germany manager in September 1984 following the poor performance of the team at the Euros that summer.

The Bayern Munich legend would lead West Germany into the 1986 World Cup Finals in Mexico, with his charges making it all the way to the final before succumbing to a 1-0 defeat to a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina.

1990 World Cup

Beckenbauer and West Germany would have their revenge over Maradona and Argentina four years later, however, with the German icon leading his country to their third World Cup title in Italy with a 1-0 win over the South Americans in the 1990 final.

Der Kaiser’s World Cup success as both a player and a manager makes him the most iconic figure in German football history in the eyes of many, with Beckenbauer carrying himself with real class and decorum throughout the duration of his decorated career.

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