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Andreas Brehme, scorer of West Germany's winning goal in the 1990 World Cup final, dies at 63

Associated Press Tuesday, 20 February 2024, 10:59 Last update: about 3 months ago

Germany’s 1990 World Cup hero Andreas Brehme has died.

Brehme endeared himself to the nation in the final when he scored a late penalty after team captain Lothar Matthäus’ boots broke to give West Germany a 1-0 win over Diego Maradona’s Argentina.

Brehme’s partner Susanne Schaefer told Germany’s dpa news agency on Tuesday that he died “suddenly and unexpectedly” in the night from a cardiac arrest. He was 63.

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“I can’t believe it at all. The news of Andreas’ sudden death makes me incredibly sad,” national teammate Rudi Völler said. “Andi was our World Cup hero, but for me he was much more. He was my close friend and companion to this day. I will miss his wonderful love of life.”

Known affectionately as “Andi” Brehme, the Hamburg-born player was a star of German soccer in the 1980s and 1990s. He played mostly as an attacking left back and will always be associated with the 1990 World Cup triumph.

He scored in the semifinal against England, which West Germany eventually won on penalties, and his penalty decided the final. Winning the title brought a wave of national celebrations across Germany, which was in the process of reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall the year before.

Brehme’s title-winning goal in Rome was also celebrated a short distance away at Inter Milan, the Italian club he was playing for at the time as part of a formidable German trinity including national teammates Matthäus and Jürgen Klinsmann.

As captain, Matthäus would normally have taken West Germany’s penalty in the final, but the No. 10 broke his boots in the first half and didn’t feel confident as his replacement boots were too big.

“It was a smart decision to let Andreas Brehme take the penalty,” Matthäus later said.

“Someone has to step up. And for us, it was a case of whoever was feeling confident,” Brehme said in a FIFA interview in 2017. “The main thing is that the penalty goes in and we become world champions.”

Brehme acknowledged the penalty decision was “dubious” though that didn’t stop him from tucking away the spot kick against the previously unbeatable Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea in the 85th minute. West Germany had dominated the game but found Goycochea in inspired form.

“That night at the Olimpico, facing up against Sergio Goycochea, a fearsome goalkeeper who had already kept out Donadoni and Aldo Serena at the San Paolo, Brehme opted to take with his right (boot). A placed effort, almost caressed towards goal: he zipped it along the floor, right into the bottom left, unstoppable,” Inter wrote on the club website.

Brehme, who wheeled away and jumped in celebration, had already helped Inter to the Serie A title in 1989. He would go to win the UEFA Cup with the club two years later.

“A magnificent player, a true Interista. Ciao Andy, forever a legend,” said Inter, which announced that it would wear black armbands during its Champions League match against Atlético Madrid later Tuesday.

Brehme won two Bundesliga titles, first with Bayern Munich in 1987, then in improbable fashion with promoted Kaiserslautern in his final season before retirement in 1998.

Altogether, Brehme played 10 seasons for the Red Devils over over two stints. He won the German Cup with Kaiserslautern in 1996 – the same season it was relegated from the Bundesliga. Brehme cried as he was consoled by Bayer Leverkusen's Völler upon his team's relegation. But he had a happy end with the club's Bundesliga win two years later.

Kaiserslautern said on Tuesday it was “deeply saddened” by Brehme's unexpected death and it had tributes planned for the coming days.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge played with Brehme for West Germany at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

“Andi was a great team player, very loyal and dependable. His love of life was contagious and it makes me so sad that he had to leave us at 63,” Rummenigge said.

Brehme also played for Real Zaragoza in Spain before rejoining Kaiserslautern for his second stint.

He went into coaching after winning the Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern, first with the same club, which he led to the semifinals of the UEFA Cup in 2001, and then second-division Unterhaching. His last coaching role was at Stuttgart as assistant to coach Giovanni Trapattoni in the 2005-06 season.

Brehme’s death comes the month after that of his friend Franz Beckenbauer, who coached the World Cup-winning team in 1990.

“As a young boy I had, like probably every boy in Germany had, a Franz Beckenbauer poster hanging above my bed,” Brehme told dpa last month. “Later, he became my boss and I could work with him. And in the end we became close friends. So I have a lot to thank Franz for.”

Brehme played 86 international games for West Germany and unified Germany.

“One of Germany’s greatest and best players of all time," German soccer federation president Bernd Neuendorf said. “German football owes him a lot.”

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