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Germany Celebrates 100 Years of International Soccer

One hundred years have passed since the German national soccer team took to the field in Basel to play Switzerland in its first competitive international game -- but it might as well be a million.

The German national team at its first international match on April 5, 1908

Pre-match beers and reticent fans marked Germany's international debut in 1908

Around 3,500 spectators turned out to see Germany's fledgling Eagles take on Switzerland on April 5, 1908, a fraction of those who now regularly support the national team on away matches. The atmosphere was also light years away from today's regularly raucous celebrations. Spectators at the Landhof ground were told to refrain from making loud calls and female fans were treated to complimentary chocolates.

The Swiss, who had played their first game as a national team three years earlier, ran out 5-3 winners after 19-year-old Fritz Becker had opened the scoring for Germany to become his nation's first ever international goal scorer.

Fast forward to March 26, 2008 and 38,500 rowdy spectators watched Germany's return to Basel in their 800th game, where current coach Joachim Loew's visitors trounced the home side 4-0.

Switzerland's Stephan Lichtsteiner, left, and Germany's Miroslav Klose fight for the ball

100 years on, Germany exacted revenge in Basel

Instead of sharing a few beers with the opposition before the game as was the case in 1908, the Germans spent the pre-match preparations in the company of their team of doctors, sports psychologists, physiotherapists, media specialists and even own their own cooks.

Pre-match boozing, free sweets for the ladies and reticent fans have long been consigned to the history books, along with Germany's early habit of losing too many consecutive matches.

After the first game and defeat, Germany waited over a year for their first victory, a 1-0 revenge win over the Swiss in Karlsruhe. Since then, while there have been losses -- and thrashings, the largest being a 9-0 reverse against England two weeks before the national team's first win -- Germany has built a reputation for well-disciplined success, even when not playing particularly well.

Germans cut from a different cloth

"All Germans come from the same factory, presumably the ironworks," Argentina's World Cup-winning coach Cesar Luis Menotti once noted, commenting on the resilience of a long list of legendary players who never gave up and who are responsible in part for building a soccer legacy over the past 100 years.

Fritz Walter after Germany's 1954 World Cup win

Fritz Walter, one of the 1954 World Cup winners

Players such as Franz Beckenbauer, Uwe Seeler, Fritz Walter, top scorer Gerd Mueller and Lothar Matthaeus, Germany's most-capped star, have come to epitomize the Teutonic spirit that was forged in those early forays on the international scene and which eventually brought the national team World Cup titles in 1954, 1974 and 1990 as well as European Championship triumphs in 1972, 1980 and 1996.

As well as success in international tournaments, Germany has been involved in some of the most memorable landmark matches in soccer history: a 3-2 triumph over Hungary in the 1954 World Cup final, the 1966 final they lost 4-2 against England, the heroic battle with Italy they lost 4-3 in the 1970 semi-finals.

Germany also won the first penalty shoot-out at a World Cup, against France in the 1982 semis. Fourteen years later Germany also won the first major championship final decided by a Golden Goal, at Euro 1996 over the Czech Republic.

DFB celebrates a successful run

Germany have won 457 of the 800 matches played so far, with 164 draws and 179 defeats. German teams scored 1,782 goals and conceded 965. In addition, an East German national team played 293 matches between 1952 and 1990 -- famously beating West Germany 1-0 at the 1974 World Cup.

Germany, the 1990 World Champions

Franz Beckenbauer's 1990 World Cup-winning team

"We've had quite a successful run," German Soccer Federation (DFB) President Theo Zwanziger told the federation's Web site. "Just think about which accomplishments were triggered by soccer in Germany, especially following World War II. Soccer always moved the people living here, whether because of the many major triumphs or defeats. We have really had an incredible journey."

Consistency has always been a part of Germany's century of success. The national team has only had 10 coaches in its 100 years of international competition, the legendary Sepp Herberger being the longest-serving. The coach of the "Heroes of Bern" -- Germany's first World Cup winners in 1954 -- held the post for 28 years. His successors held tenures of ever-shortening length; the last manager to leave office, Juergen Klinsmann, lasting just two years in another sign of how times have changed.

Team and federation grows together

It hasn't been just the national team which has developed into a success over the last 100 years. The DFB was founded eight years before the national team was created but has enjoyed remarkable success in tandem with it over the past century.

Germany celebrates after winning the final of the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup

Women's soccer in Germany has exploded in the last century

"Obviously the DFB has grown in the last 100 years," said Thomas Hackbarth, director of communications at the DFB. "It is now one of the biggest sporting associations in Europe, employing over 200 people across 21 regional offices and boasting 6.5 million members. These are people who are or who have been actively involved with German soccer, both in a professional and amateur capacity.

"Another huge development in the last 100 years is the growth of women's soccer and the DFB now has over 1 million female members," Hackbarth added. "This is one of the reasons the 2011 Women's World Cup was awarded to Germany because the growth in the women's game here has been phenomenal."

A century of organizational progress

Aside from the on-field success, Germany and the DFB have become synonymous with preparatory perfection in the world of soccer. As the game has developed over the last 100 years, both the team and the organization behind it have adapted to a changing landscape, culminating in the hugely successful hosting of the 2006 World Cup.

Thousands of soccer fans celebrate the start of the World Cup 2006 at the 'Fan Mile', a public viewing zone in Berlin

The "Fan Mile" was a landmark in World Cup evolution

"The 2006 World Cup was a great success, not just with the national team's performance, but the whole event," Hackbarth said. "The DFB proved that it could handle the organization of such a massive event and create an atmosphere of inclusion, humor and safety.

"The 2006 World Cup was unrecognizable from the first World Cup Germany participated in 1934," he added. "Maybe in the next 100 years, the same thing will be said about 2006."

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