Facts About German Soccer

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Soon after its 1863 founding in England, soccer hopped the English Channel to all the nations of continental Europe. In Germany, “fussball” took hold rapidly, and by the 1920s rated as the nation’s most popular sport. In 2014, the German men’s national team sits atop the FIFA world rankings, with the women in the No. 2 spot behind the U.S. Both tall and superbly technical yet fluid squads can be counted on at the World Cup to challenge for the top spot or come very close.

World Cups

  • Germany’s men snagged their fourth World Cup championship in 2014, with earlier wins in 1954, 1974 and 1990. The team has also finished second in four additional World Cups out of a total of 18 appearances, as of time of publication, making Germany the top squad in total appearances, eight, in the World Cup final. In 2014, Germany slaughtered Brazil, the host nation, 7 to 1 in the semifinal, on its way to dispatching Argentina in the final, 1 to 0. The German women won the Women’s World Cup, held six times as of publication time, in 2003 and 2007, and came in second in 1995.

Famous Male Players

  • Franz Beckenbauer, a sweeper for Bayern Munich, tops all lists of star players for his defensive prowess and his wins as both a player and manager in the World Cup. Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, also with Bayern, was part of eight German Bundesliga championships and a ferocious presence at the 2002 World Cup, keeping a depleted “Mannschaft” -- as the team is known by home fans -- in contention. Miroslav Klose holds Germany’s scoring record in international competition, with 71 goals, besting Gerd Muller’s 68. Ageless dynamo Lothar Matthaus drew kudos as an all-world midfielder, and played in five World Cups. Center forward Jurgen Klinsmann, who played with Matthaus at Inter Milan, also found the goal for Germany’s men in Italy in 1990; in 2011, Klinsmann became the U.S. men’s coach.

Top Female Players

  • Germany’s woman are famous for strong goalkeepers, including Nadine Angerer and Silke Rottenberg. Up front, striker Birgit Prinz has been voted FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year on three occasions. She slotted home 128 goals in 214 national team appearances. In addition to their two World Cup victories, the German women also have eight European championships as of time of publication.

National Leagues

  • Formed in 1963, Germany’s Bundesliga brings together the top 18 professional teams, including Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, VfL Wolfsburg, FC Augsburg and FC Schalke. Another 12 teams comprise the women’s Bundesliga. Two tiers of professional men’s teams in smaller markets, “2. Bundesliga” -- the second division -- and “3. Liga” -- the third division -- complete the pro leagues.

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  • Photo Credit Jordan Strauss/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
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