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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

A Breakdown of Italian and German Football Teams

Oliver Kahn of Munich waves his hand during his lap of honor at his farewell match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Germany 
(Photo by Tsutomu Takasu, Flickr)
Oliver Kahn of Munich waves his hand during his lap of honor at his farewell match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Germany (Photo by Tsutomu Takasu, Flickr)

Germany and Italy are both historically great footballing nations. Both have won four World Cups, tied for second after Brazil with five. Written by two students with Italian and German backgrounds, this article explores each country’s rich football history through forming a starting XI with the best players the countries have produced.


Goalkeeper: Oliver Kahn

Oliver Kahn was born in June 15, 1969 in Karlsruhe, West Germany. Oliver Kahn began playing as a six-year-old with his local football club, and then made his upper-division debut with Karlsruher SC in 1987. He is considered one of the best German players and one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. He was named world goalkeeper of the year on three occasions, and in 1994 Bayern Munich signed him in a $2.5 million transfer. In Kahn’s 14 years with the team they collected eight Bundesliga championships and six German Cups. He also led Bayern to wins in the 1996 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Cup and the 2001 UEFA Champions League.

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Right-back: Philipp Lahm

Lahm is considered by many as one of the best full backs of his generation, and was included in the World Cup team of the tournament, UEFA Team of the tournament, and UEFA Team of the year multiple times. He has also won the Bundesliga 7 times, the Champions league in 2013 with Bayern Munich, and the World Cup in 2014 with Germany.

 Centre-back: Matthias Sammer

Sammer is best known for his great defensive awareness, leadership, and consistency. He led Germany to the 1996 UEFA Euro and was named the most valuable players of the tournament (a rare accolade for a center back). He also went on to win the Ballon d’Or that same year.

Centre-back: Franz Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer is arguably the best German footballer of all time. He is one of the most complete footballers of all time as well as one of the most decorated figures to ever play the game. Beckenbauer won the Bundesliga 4 times with Bayern Munich as well as the World Cup and Euro with West Germany in 1974 and 1972 respectively. Beckenbauer has also received many individual accolades including winning the Ballon D’Or twice in 1972 and 1976.

 Left-back: Andreas Brehme

Andreas Brehme is best known for scoring the winning goal for Germany in the 1990 Fifa World Cup Final against Argentina from a last minute penalty kick.

 Holding midfield: Matthias Sammer

There has rarely been a better player than Matthias Sammer during his time at Borussia Dortmund. He was the last German sweeper, as even the Beckenbauer country moved on to the back four. Sammer was not eligible to play for Germany in 1990, having been born in Dresden, the former East. Sammer however won the Euro 1996. However his career was cut short after suffering a career ending knee injury.

Midfield: Lothar Matthaus

Lothar Matthaus is one of the most versatile midfielders in the world. He captained West Germany to a World Cup victory in 1990 and was named the first ever FIFA World Player of the Year. He completed in 5 Fifa World Cups (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998) – more than any other outfield player in men’s football – and he also holds the record for most World Cup matches played by a single player (25 games). He also won the UEFA Euro in 1980.

 Midfield: Michael Ballack

Ballack is the best scoring midfielder of the German national team’s history, and with 42 goals he is the 3rd top goal scorer for the German National team. He was selected by Pele as one of the 125 greatest living players and named UEFA Midfielder of the Year in 2002. He also won the German Footballer of the Year award three time (2002, 2003, 2005) 

Forward: Gerd Muller

Gerd Muller is the greatest German attacker of all time. He scored 68 goals in only 62 appearances. Muller won the FIFA World Cup with Germany in 1974 and the European Championship in 1972. He also received multiple personal accolades including winning the European Golden Boot 4 times (1970, 1972,1974, 1978) and the Ballon D’Or in 1970.

Forward: Jupp Heynckes

The Monchengladbach-born attacker is one of the most successful German players of all time. He spent most of his career at his hometown club, and was one of the famous Foals. He won four Bundesliga titles, the German Cup, the UEFA Cup and the European championship in 1972 and the World Cup in 1974.

 Forward: Miroslav Klose

Klose is best known for his performances with the German National Team. He was part of the 2014 FIFA World Cup winning team. He is the top goalscorer in the history of the FIFA World Cup and is considered one of the most dangerous strikers in world football in his prime.


Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon

An inevitable argument when discussing the best Italian goalkeeper of all time is whether Dino Zoff or Gianluigi Buffon deserves the title. The two are practically identical statistically, both winning one world cup, one UEFA cup, six Serie A titles, and two Coppa Italia trophies. Dino Zoff is most memorable for his longevity, and he was the oldest player to ever win the World Cup in 1982.

However Buffon deserves the spot, because while Zoff was able to be elite for such a large amount of time, Buffon simply dominated more at his peak, which is why he is the most expensive goalkeeper of all time, transferring to Juventus from Parma in 2001 for a fee of £33 million. It also should be mentioned that Gianluigi Buffon is on pace to surpass Zoff’s historical longevity. The Serie A saw Zoff play for 22 seasons, however Buffon is currently in his 21st, and still competing at an elite level and considered one of the best at his position.

 Right back: Gaetano Scirea

Italian defenders are famous for their brutal aggressiveness and physical style of play. This typically comes with a reputation of being “dirty” and unsportsmanlike. However Scirea is recognized for being both one of the best Italian defenders of all time and having honorable sportsmanship, never receiving a red card throughout his career. Acquiring seven scudetti and two Coppa Italia titles with Juventus, Scirea’s domestic success translated to international dominance as he helped Italy win their third world cup trophy in 1982. In addition to these accolades of performance, the Premio Nazionale Carriera Esemplare “Gaetano Scirea”, which is awarded to Serie A players for both their skill and personality, pays tribute to Scirea’s fair play. 

Center back: Fabio Cannavaro

One of the most memorable Italian defenders in recent history is Fabio Cannavaro. He is one of the few Italian footballers to have had success both domestically in Serie A as well as abroad with Real Madrid in La Liga. Cannavaro enjoyed his success in Italy at Parma, where he won two Coppa Italia finals and one Supercoppa Italiana. While at Real Madrid, he won two La Liga titles and a Spanish Supercopa.

The pinnacle of Cannavaro’s career came in 2006 when he won the World Cup as the captain of Italy, won the Ballon d’Or, FIFA World Player of the Year, Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year, Serie A Footballer of the Year, Serie A Defender of the Year, World Soccer Player of the Year, UEFA Team of the Year, and the FIFA FIFPro World XI.

Center back: Paolo Maldini

Arguably the greatest defender of all time, Maldini embodies world class talent, loyalty, and leadership. Maldini was a complete defender, intelligent with his tactical awareness, positioning, and timing when tackling, and physically dominant with his athleticism, technical skill, and ability to push forward with the ball. He was also extremely calm and composed, only picking up one red card throughout his time as a player. Maldini spent all 25 seasons of his career at AC Milan, becoming a club legend and favorite.

At Milan he enjoyed 7 Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, 5 Supercoppa Italiana trophies, an incredible 5 Champions League victories, 5 UEFA Super Cups, and one FIFA Club World Cup. Maldini was close to becoming a World Cup champion in 1994, but Italy fell to Brazil 2-3 in penalties. Maldini won many individual awards, and is one of the most famous Italian players of all time – undoubtedly deserving of a spot on this list.

 Left back: Giacinto Facchetti

In addition to being an incredible defender with his powerful strength and technical ability, Facchetti was known for his skill on the ball, speed and grace moving the ball forward, and distribution. He scored 75 goals as a left back in 634 official matches over 18 seasons at Inter Milan. There Facchetti claimed four Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, two European Cups, and two Intercontinental Cups. With Italy he was able to win one European Cup in 1968, and nearly won a World Cup in 1970, but lost to Brazil in the final.

 Holding-midfield: Andrea Pirlo

One of the most elegant players of all time, Andrea Pirlo started his career in a more attacking-midfielder role, but his lack of pace and physical presence caused him to drop to a more deep-lying playmaking role. He excelled at this position, using his fantastic vision, insane free-kick accuracy, passing and distribution talent, intelligence, and grace to become one of the greatest midfielders of his generation.

Pirlo began his long career with Brescia in Serie B in 1994, and won a league title there in 1997. The next club Pirlo collected silverware at was AC Milan, where he won two league titles, two Coppa Italia trophies, one Supercoppa Italiana, two UEFA Champions League titles, and a FIFA Club World Cup. He then moved to Juventus in 2011, where he won four league titles, one Coppa Italia, and two Supercoppa Italiana trophies. He won the 2006 World Cup with Italy, where he had the most assists of any player.

 Midfield: Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio is regarded by many as the best Italian Footballer of all time. He was an amazing attacking player, with great passing skills and a prominent goal scorer and creator. Baggio one UEFA Cup, one Serie A title, and one Coppa Italia trophy with Juventus, and one Serie A title with AC Milan. Baggio almost won a World Cup with Italy in 1994, but infamously missed the penalty that lost the final to Brazil. Individually, Baggio was also very successful, winning a Ballon d’Or and World Soccer Player of the Year in 1993, and making the FIFA World XI twice, in 2000 and 2002.

Forward: Paolo Rossi

Paolo Rossi is an incredible Italian forward, as he makes up for his unphysical style of play with his intelligent positioning and agility. He scored 103 goals in 251 appearances in Italian league football, and scored 20 goals in 48 appearances for the Italian national team. He began his success at Vicenza, where he won a Serie B title in 1977. At Juventus he won two scudetti, one Coppa Italia, and one European Cup. In 1982 he led the Italian national team to a World Cup title, where he won the FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe and Golden Ball. He also won the Ballon d’Or this year and was named the World Soccer Player of the Year.

 Forward: Giuseppe Meazza

Arguably the best forward in Italian football, Giuseppe Meazza scored 271 goals in 463 Italian league appearances, and 33 goals in 53 appearances for the national team. He won the Serie A three times and one Coppa Italia with Inter Milan. He then played for AC Milan from 1940 to 1942, where he won a Coppa Italia trophy. To honor his fantastic play for both Milan clubs, the stadium shared by the two teams has been named after him. For Italy he won two consecutive World Cups in 1934 and 1938.

 Forward: Francesco Totti

The symbol for loyalty in football, Francesco Totti has been an icon for soccer in Italy for the past two decades. He has switched from an attacking midfielder to a false nine at Roma, and is one of the best playmakers of his generation, with great vision and distribution. He is also a great goalscorer, using his accuracy, power, and personal chip-shot to net 300 goals in 747 appearances over 24 seasons for Roma. He is extremely technical, physical, and intelligent with his experience and vision. With Roma he has won the Serie A once, two Coppa Italia trophies, and two Supercoppa Italiana titles.

Totti is considered to be one of the greatest captains ever due to his loyalty to his hometown club, as he been recognized as an elite player for years, but has never considered a transfer to a bigger club. Many believe he could have achieved much more at a better club, as he was never surrounded with many other world class players to be one of the best teams in the world. His leadership and ability to work with his teammates in Rome should be recognized, as Roma came in second place eight times with him in Serie A, five times in the Coppa Italia, and three times in the Supercoppa Italiana. He also won the World Cup with Italy in 2006. Still competing at a top level of football at the age of 39, Totti’s loyalty, passion, and love for his city and country make him the deserving captain of this best Italian starting XI of all time.

By Julian Klingen and Anthony Mavrogiannis


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