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Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 15:06 GMT
World record awaits Matthaus

Hey-day: Matthaus led Germany to victory in the 1990 World Cup

German footballing legend Lothar Matthaus is set to become the most capped footballer in the world.

Matthaus will earn his 144th cap when he plays in a friendly against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

Coach Erich Ribbeck has named him in the German team for the match that will give him one cap more than former Swedish keeper Thomas Ravelli with whom he currently holds the record jointly.

Matthaus: Has 143 caps
But the 38-year-old shrugged off the focus of the world's media ahead of the momentous match.

"It's a bit of a nuisance that all the attention is being focused on this record," said the Bayern veteran who will soon head to the USA to play for New York/New Jersey Metro stars.

"It's not all that important. What counts much more is the way we're going to play,"

Matthaus insisted it was easier for him to reach the record mark than some of his illustrious predecessors.

"I am sure the record could have been attained by another player such as Johan Cruyff as today there are many more international matches," he explained.

The sweeper has played in five consecutive World Cups
Matthaus, who captained West Germany to World Cup victory in 1990, may lack the pace which made him so dangerous during his prime - but he is still one of the most intelligent footballers ever to have graced the international stage.

Victory in last season's European Cup would have been a fairytale ending for his twilight years in the Bundesliga.

But his dreams were dashed by Manchester United's astonishing late comeback in Barcelona.

A member of the elite number of professionals to have been voted Footballer of the Year by Fifa, Matthaus epitomises the combination of grit and intelligence that has made Germany a world superpower.

Yet he is also known as a good sport.

A thorn in the side of the England football team for more than twenty years, his caring conduct in the wake of Germany's World Cup semi-final victory at Italia 90 won grudging respect from even the most hardened opponent.

In the most nerve-twisting of penalty shoot-outs, Chris Waddle missed to send Germany through.

Matthaus will earn a reported 12,000 a week in America
While Matthaus could have joined in his team-mates' celebrations he chose instead to console Waddle, a gesture which later contributed to him being voted Player of the Tournament.

He dropped out of international contention in 1994 and suffered from a high-profile falling out with Bertie Vogts, but forced his way back at the age of 37 with a series of impressive performances for Bayern.

When he played for Germany in the 1998 World Cup, his first cap for four years, he became the only player since Mexican Antonio Carbajal to appear in five World Cup finals.

(Carbajal appeared between 1950 and 1966)

The sweeper played in Germany's opening 2-0 victory over Iran but his country's hopes ended with a disappointing defeat to Croatia in the semi-finals.

Matthaus was one of seven players aged 30 or over in Vogts' "Dad's Army".

The sweeper returned to Germany and continued to perform - going on to be voted 1999 German footballer of the year.

His inclusion in the friendly against the Dutch is not down sentiment - Ribbeck has hinted he will have no hesitation in picking Matthaus for his Euro 2000 side, despite the fact he will be approaching his 40th birthday.

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