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So rare is it a goalkeeper can be considered a legend,

that to pass up on the chance to write about one was too good to resist.

International Legends, Oliver Kahn – GermanyThere are plenty of Germans that could have been written about; Bierhoff, Hamann, Ballack, but I have opted for Oliver Kahn. Once considered as the world’s best goalkeeper, why not eh?

The beginning

Initially called up as a late replacement for the 1994 World Cup, Kahn actually made his debut in June 1995 in a 2-1 win against Switzerland, two months after recovering from a cruciate ligament injury. A case of always the bridesmaid, never the bride continued, as for the 1996 European Championship and 1998 World Cup, Kahn was Andreas Kopke’s understudy.

However, on Kopke’s retirement, Kahn was to take over as German’s number One, and things got better from there for Oliver, as he took the captaincy from Oliver Bierhoff after the highly embarrassing European Championships in 2000.

Germany 1 England 5 – The 2002 Qualifiers

Munich, 2001, Germany were heavy favourites against a young England side. Having already won 1-0 in England earlier in the qualifying campaign, a thrashing was expected for the Three Lions. That was not to be the case though. A Michael Owen hat-trick, along with goals from Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey condemned the Germans to a 5-1 defeat. It was arguably Kahn’s worst performance in a Germany shirt, and bought about fears of a repeat of the debacle of the previous year.

In spite of this, Kahn kept his place in the squad, and Germany eventually qualified via a play-off versus Ukraine. Later that year, Kahn received the prestigious IFFHS Goalkeeper of the Year for the second time in his career.

South Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup

Considering the route of qualification, and performances years previous, big things were not expected of Kahn and the German side. However, they were to reach the final, conceding only three goals along the way.

In the final, Kahn played with torn ligaments in one of his fingers, and was culpable for Ronaldo’s 67th minute winner. Fumbling Rivaldo’s effort right into the strikers path, Kahn’s fitness was called into question. Though he didn’t blame his misfortune on his injury, and won’t to this day.

Kahn received the Lev Yashin Goalkeeper of the Tournament, and became the first ‘keeper to win the Golden Ball for an individual performance. He also became the first German goalkeeper to keep 5 clean sheets in a World Cup tournament.

2004, the battle for number one

After another disappointing showing at a tournament (Germany were eliminated in the group stages once more), Kahn relinquished his captaincy and gave it to Michael Ballack. And a new captain also heralded a new boss, Jurgen Klinsmann taking the reins from Rudi Voller, and a new policy.

Klinsmann elected to rotate his starting ‘keeper between Kahn and Jens Lehmann – then of Arsenal, in a bid to discover who he would take into the 2006 World Cup as his main choice. On the 7th April 2006, Klinsmann publicly announced it would be Lehmann, not Kahn, who would indeed be first choice.

Germany 2006 World Cup – Kahn’s last hurrah

Going into the tournament, it was rumoured Kahn would retire, however, he elected instead to stay on as backup to Lehmann. Despite a somewhat acrimonious battle for the starting spot, Kahn accepted Klinsmann’s decision to choose Lehmann, and the two embraced and shared words of encouragement before the penalty shoot out versus Argentina. Kahn even came out and publicly praised Lehmann for his 2 crucial saves in the shoot out.

Germany were eliminated in the semi-final by eventual winners Italy, and in the third place play-off Kahn was to start in what was the last of his 86 caps for his country. He was also made captain in the absence due to injury of Michael Ballack. Were it not for a sensational performance by Bastian Schweinsteiger, Kahn would have taken all the plaudits for his own heroics between the sticks, keeping numerous Portuguese attempts out, most notably from Pauleta and Deco.

The end

Kahn announced his retirement after the match against Portugal, and it bought a career spanning 12 years, and seven tournaments. It bought Kahn 86 caps, 49 as team captain, and numerous individual awards.

Although Kahn never won a competition, he was runner up once (2002 World Cup in Japan/South Korea) and third place once (2006 World Cup in Germany). It was to be the end of a sparkling career of one of the best goalkeepers of our generation, both on a club and international level, and he is arguably one of the best players to not receive an international honour.

Read More:
International Legends, Zinedine Zidane – France
International Legends, David Beckham – England

Originally published at voomfootball.wordpress.com

Post written by Matthew Henderson, Twitter: @matt_hendo12
for Voom Football, Blog: Voom Football, Twitter: @Voomfootball

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