Bodo Illgner: The ‘baby’ goalkeeper who became a German World Cup hero

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Bodo Illgner is a German World Cup winner and former Real Madrid star

Illgner was the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in a World Cup final

At 23-years-old, he was also the youngest keeper to win a World Cup

CNN  — 

His first act as a teenage professional goalkeeper was to pick the ball out of the back of the net.

But it would not take long before the football world was in the palm of Bodo Illgner’s hands.

“I was a baby in the goal,” Illgner tells CNN’s Human to Hero series of his heroics for West Germany at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. “The goalkeeper usually joins the national team at the mid-twenties, the late twenties, even over the 30s maybe.

“I was very, very lucky to have the confidence of Franz Beckenbauer our coach in 1990.”

Illgner, aged just 23, became the youngest goalkeeper to win the World Cup.

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Bodo Illgner remembers 1990 World Cup triumph
02:56 - Source: CNN

He more than justified Beckenbauer’s belief in him as he famously denied England in a semifinal penalty shootout and then became the first goalie to keep a clean sheet in a World Cup final as the Germans beat defending champion Argentina 1-0.

Captain of that victorious team was Lothar Matthaus – the player who had fired a penalty past Illgner earlier when the 18-year-old came on as a substitute for Cologne in a Bundesliga clash with titleholder Bayern Munich.

The man he replaced that day in February 1986, Toni Schumacher, was twice a losing World Cup finalist for West Germany – but Illgner would not suffer such a fate.