Germany’s Euro heroes - from Netzer to Bierhoff

June 7th, 2008 - 3:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Hamburg, June 7 (DPA) Germany are not only record champions at Euro football tournaments with three titles, they have more than any other nation come up with players whose greatest moments came at the continental event. Guenter Netzer’s biggest moments in midfield came in the 1972 competition, Horst Hrubesch scored both goals in the final and Bernd Schuster pulled the strings in midfield in 1980 and Oliver Bierhoff came off the bench to decide the 1996 title match.

If that wasn’t enough, many will also remember Dieter Mueller scoring a hat-trick in his debut match and another goal in the 1976 final which Germany lost on penalties to then Czechoslovakia.

None of the four players mentioned played major roles at World Cups.

The Borussia Moenchengladbach and later Real Madrid star Netzer was one of Germany’s most gifted players when the number 10 was still reserved for a true playmaker.

But he was in a fierce duel with Cologne’s Wolfgang Overath, who on most occasions was the better man for the national team and a seasoned veteran of the 1966 and 1970 World Cups.

“Overath was the better team player. I always needed the safety net of a familiar environment and was at my best when as many Gladbach players as possible were in the team,” Netzer acknowledged.

The 1972 team was made up almost entirely of Moenechengladbach and Bayern Munich players, and it worked even more in Netzer’s favour that coach Helmut Schoen had to field him because Overath was sidelined with injury.

With Herbert Wimmer freeing Netzer from defensive duties, Netzer’s biggest moment came in the quarter-final first leg when he guided Germany to a first ever win at Wembley, scoring the goal for the 2-1 lead in the 3-1 win himself from the penalty spot.

He also fed Gerd Mueller for the first goal in the 3-0 victory in the final with the Soviet Union in Brussels.

The other famous team-mates like Mueller, Franz Beckenbauer and Sepp Maier went on to win the World Cup in 1974, but by then Overath was the preferred man again in midfield and Netzer played - below par - only in two games.

Cologne striker Dieter Mueller shot to stardom four years later in Yugoslavia when he came off the bench to score a hat-trick in the semi-final with the host nation as Germany rallied from 2-0 down to 4-2.

He also scored in the final but Uli Hoeness’ penalty high into the Belgrade sky let the Czechs lift the trophy. Mueller went on to earn 12 caps, but never got on well with Schoen was not in the same form two years later at the World Cup in Argentina.

“I was obsessed with scoring goals,” said Mueller, who later scored six goals in one league match which is still a Bundesliga record.

Hrubesch was the next Germany forward to shine at Euro four years later in Italy when it really mattered - according to popular myth with some possible divine intervention.

Hrubesch recalled a visit to the Pope in Rome: “He suddenly waved in our direction and held up two fingers as if making the victory sign. A Hamburg journalist said ‘Horst this means you have to score two goals.’”

The towering Hrubesch duly delivered in the final with Belgium, firing home a pass from Schuster early on and heading the 2-1 winner in the final seconds of regulation.

Hrubesch won only 21 caps and so did Schuster, the genius playmaker who starred at the tournament at aged 20 and is now Real Madrid coach. But he was soon at odds with coach Jupp Derwall and retired for good from the Germany team in 1984.

Bierhoff is the most-capped of the German Euro-wonders with 70 games but also had more glory at Euro than the 1998 and 2002 World Cups after joining the national team earlier 1996 through good club showings at Italy’s Udinese.

When the Germans and Czechs met again in the 1996 final at Wembley he came on in the second half, scored the equalizer and then also the first Golden Goal in a big tournament for the 2-1 winner - Germany’s last win at a Euro tournament until now.

“It just happens to be that people think about this Golden Goal when they hear the name Oliver Bierhoff,” he said.

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