Oliver Kahn shaped this 2002 World Cup for weeks with his almost galactic performances. He is the all-important factor that Germany moves into the final. But then the ominous 67th minute came 20 years ago today - which should change everything.
"The mistake in the final, that crucial mistake, made him human again." The day after, the "Tagesspiegel" found the right words - and yet nobody could really understand what had just happened just before, on June 30, 20 years ago, in the final of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. The "Titan" had presented himself in the goal of the German national team for almost four weeks, too removed from the rest of the foot soldiers. "Die Hände Deutschlands" ("Sport Bild") had led a team into the final against Brazil that nobody had expected there before. But "King Kahn" had grown more and more from game to game. Until that one, all-important moment in the 67th minute, which was to change everything.
For days and weeks, the spectators in the stadiums and the observers on the home receivers had watched in disbelief as a man drove the attacking lines of the teams from Cameroon, the USA, Paraguay and South Korea to despair one after the other. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge's eyes lit up when he was asked to describe the great strength of his goalkeeper at FC Bayern and in the national team: "The striker's heart gets smaller with every step when he runs towards Kahn alone." And at home in Germany, the newspapers tumbled in their headlines and reports about the new “Titan” in the DFB-Elf box. The "Berliner Zeitung" wrote hymnically: "He's almost no longer a goalkeeper, he's a magician, a sorcerer, a Kahnibal. If a striker sprints towards his goal, it's enough that Kahn is Kahn. He eats the opponents with his presence alone."
It was undeniably his World Cup! What Oliver Kahn did at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea is still unparalleled today. And yet he was denied the really big triumph - because the line between hero for eternity and loser for the moment can sometimes be devilishly narrow. For almost a month, Oliver Kahn had saved every possible and many impossible balls at the World Cup ("When is a ball unstoppable? When the spectator thinks: Goal - and he's not in it", Oliver Kahn) and his team many a victory saved. And then came that ominous, legendary 67th minute in the final against Brazil. Afterwards, Miroslav Klose said to the men from the Sugar Loaf: "Actually, we already had you in the sack!" But as is well known, you can't buy anything for an "actually". And no one knew this better than Oliver Kahn himself on that day twenty years ago.
It was only a gross mistake in position and a completely unnecessary, lost duel that made Rivaldo's all-important shot possible in the first place. Kahn failed to catch the ball and let it ricochet forward. Brazil's top scorer Ronaldo, with quick wits, didn't let this pass pass by and pushed in easily to make it 1-0 for the team in the yellow jerseys and blue shorts. For Kahn it felt as if the work of weeks, months, even years was suddenly destroyed. His sensational performances in all the previous games didn't count from one second to the next. All the hopes and dreams were shattered - because of one unfortunate moment.
The goalkeeper of FC Bayern Munich really wanted this title. Even on his birthday he had skipped a beer with his teammates. There was only one goal for him, the World Cup triumph - no matter how and by what means. Accordingly, the "Titan" reacted angrily when the German media criticized the way the DFB team played and praised other teams for their attractive appearance. Kahn burst his collar when he heard the "nagging" of the press and made it clear that the other teams could not be a role model for the German team for a specific reason: "Because they've been on the beach for two weeks again." And it wasn't the DFB keeper's fault either, as Franz Beckenbauer remarked candidly as usual after the arduous quarter-final win over the USA: "If you put everyone except Kahn in a sack and hit them, you always find the right ones."
But then came the final - and the 67th minute that turned everything upside down. Nobody knew at the time that Oliver Kahn was already playing with a torn ligament in the knuckle of his right hand. But maybe that wasn't even that important. Finally it was the moment that put everything a little straight again. The Spanish newspaper "AS" wrote afterwards: "Germany bit the dust because Kahn the Terrible is only human." That's the way it is. The "Titan" had arrived among us mere mortals again. Because of an error. Kind of calming too. Probably even for Kahn himself.