What was the first World Cup you can recall watching?
It was the 1978 tournament in Argentina when I was eight. I remember enjoying the matches and seeing the passionate support of the Argentine fans, with their ticker-tape reception at the start of the final against the Netherlands, which they won of course. It was a disappointing World Cup for Germany as we lost against Austria in the second group stage, so didn’t finish in the top two and went out.
Who were the stars you remember from that tournament?
Mario Kempes was the star of the show for Argentina, different class and scored so many great goals for them. He was a fantastic player and I remember his great haircut! I met him at the Lane last season, he was here with Ossie Ardiles for one of our matches.
Have you ever been to a World Cup match as a supporter?
Yes of course, in Germany in 2006! I went to three games together with my son. The first was England against Sweden in Cologne, then Argentina v Netherlands, and of course the final between Italy and France. It was fantastic to watch a few games with my son, he really enjoyed it.
If there was one World Cup game you could have gone to, which one would it be and why?
I remember one fantastic match between Italy and Brazil in 1982 in Spain. What an amazing game that was. Brazil were the favourites to win the tournament with Zico, Socrates, Falcao, Eder etc, but then along came Italy and beat them 3-2. Paolo Rossi scored a hat-trick for Italy and he proved to be the main man for them in the end as they went on to beat West Germany in the final.
Have you ever represented your country at the World Cup before?
No, because in 1998 I was in the Germany squad but the day before the tournament started I picked up a calf injury which ruled me out of a few games. By the time I was fit again, we played Croatia in the quarter-final and I was on the bench but we lost 3-0. I didn’t make it on and that was the end of Germany’s World Cup. I was close to making the squad in 1994 and then in 2002 I was here at Spurs but coming back from injury. But to be involved in ’98 was something special. It’s a dream for any footballer to be part of your country’s squad at a World Cup and, although I didn’t play, it was still a fantastic experience.
What are the best memories you have of your own country at the World Cup?
It wouldn’t be one game or tournament in particular but just Germany’s drive and ambition at every World Cup, where the minimum requirement is to at least reach the semi-finals. To beat Germany before the semis is very difficult – it happens of course, but not very often. It’s a belief but also the pressure when you play for Germany at a World Cup to reach the top four, anything less is regarded as a failure.
What has been the best match you’ve ever seen at the Finals?
There have been so many but I remember the semi-final in 1982 between West Germany and France. It was 1-1 after 90 minutes but then France scored twice in extra time. Still the Germans came back though – Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Klaus Fischer scored to make it 3-3 and then we won on penalties. A great game.
And what has been the best goal?
It would have to be Diego Maradona’s amazing solo dribble against England in 1986...a truly magnificent goal from a genius.