Uwe Seeler - Germany's footballing pride

Uwe Seeler, the short and stocky West German, played as an inside forward, but possessed a ferocious shot that could surprise the best of goalkeepers.

Uwe Seeler, the man who was Mr. Football in Germany before Beckenbauer came along.   -  The Hindu Archives

He was the strong and silent type. A master strategist, who adjusted to the needs of the team. Uwe Seeler, the short and stocky West German, played as an inside forward, but possessed a ferocious shot that could surprise the best of goalkeepers. No wonder then that he was the country's most prolific scorer until the arrival of Gerd Muller.

Seeler played in four World Cups between 1958 and 1970, appeared in 21 Cup matches which was a record until fellow countryman Lothar Matthaus upstaged it in 1998. The Germans made the semifinals in '58, the quarterfinals in '62, the final in '66 and finished third in '70. Seeler made the last of his 72 international appearances against Hungary in Nuremberg in 1970, finishing with 43 goals.

Read: Geoff Hurst, only footballer to score a treble in World Cup final

Born on November 5, 1936, Seeler was the country's footballing pride and joy for well over a decade. Interestingly, he stayed with his home club, SV Hamburg, through his entire career, not in the least tempted by the lucrative offers from Florence and Milan. He won four league championship titles between 1956 and 1961 and played 239 games in the Bundesliga which was founded in 1964. In the same year, Seeler also figured in the European scratch team against Yugoslavia.

Seeler was called into the National squad just after West Germany's triumph in the '54 World Cup. As a 17-year-old he was tried in four internationals, but failed to impress. The word went around that he lacked the necessary height (was 1.68 m tall) to spearhead the attack.

Recalled in 1958, owing to the efforts of Sepp Herberger, Seeler scored the crucial goal in the opening game against Argentina in the World Cup in Sweden, the first of his many match-winning performances.

He played magnificently in England '66, especially in the final against the home team - a contest that could have gone either way.

 

In the following World Cup, Mexico '70, Seeler played a deeper role, complementing Muller wonderfully. At Leon, in the grudge match (quarterfinal) against England which the Germans won 3-2 in extra-time, Seeler scored with an extraordinary header. With his back to the goal, he leaped mightily to meet Schnellinger's lob and sent it over England goalkeeper Bonetti in a tantalising parabola.

In the semifinals in Mexico City, Germany lost to Italy 3-4 in extra-time in a thriller. Seeler was at his magnificent best, setting up a goal for Muller, as the Germans displayed their famed resilience, especially after that draining quarterfinal, followed by another setback when Franz Beckenbauer had to play with an arm strapped for most part after the Azzurris chopped him down.

In the end though, Seeler would miss out on the ultimate honour, the World Cup winner medal, which the country won as host in the next edition.

Gallery of Greats: Sportstar series on World Cup heroes

  Dugout videos