As the 2018 FIFA World Cup approaches, DFB.de takes you on a journey back through West Germany’s previous appearances at the tournament, bringing you everything from historic matches to unusual anecdotes. Today, we look back at 1970...
The 1970 FIFA World Cup was the first edition of the tournament to not be hosted by a European or South American country and was also the first World Cup to be broadcast live in colour. Die Mannschaft travelled to Mexico only 19 days after an exhausting season with an exceptional number of rearranged fixtures. There were several key areas which grabbed the headlines in Helmut Schön’s squad selection. Luckily, the question of who would be the team’s main playmaker was answered for him, as Borussia Mönchengladbach playmaker Günter Netzer was injured. The fascinating question of who would play centre-forward – Uwe Seeler or Gerd Müller – also had to be answered; Schön addressed this by moving Seeler back to become an attacking midfielder – a role he accepted without complaint.
Ahead of Die Mannschaft’s opening 1970 World Cup game against Morocco the public were only talking about one thing – the margin of West Germany’s win. The previous two fixtures between the sides had ended 4-1 and 5-1 in the Germans’ favour.
West Germany kicked off their 1970 campaign at 4pm local time, with the thermometers showing 39 degrees Celsius. Ticket prices were expensive for the local public, costing 30 times more than a visit to the cinema, so the stands were relatively empty. Seven players who had played in the infamous final at Wembley four years previously started the match for West Germany. Despite the expectations on West Germany, Morocco took the lead only 21 minutes into the game as Höttges’ header to goalkeeper Sepp Maier fell too short and Morocco’s Houmane capitalised to score easily from five meters out. All of a sudden, Morocco had the upper hand and Houmane forced a spectacular save from Maier to avoid falling further behind. It appeared that the positioning of Seeler and Müller also had a downside – the team lacked wingers. The team went into the dressing room 1-0 down to be met by an agitated Schön: “It can’t carry on like this. You have to take control of the game!” Then came the first ever substitution in Germany’s World Cup history, as it was allowed for the first time. Jürgen Grabowski came on for Haller, who would never make an appearance on the World Cup stage again. When the referee blew to start the second half, three Morocco players were missing, including the goalkeeper. However, Siggi Held failed to recognise this and use the advantage, so there was no great effect on the game. Uwe Seeler got his name on the scoresheet to equalise the game ten minutes later after a squared pass from Gerd Müller. Hannes Löhr joined the action in the 75th minute and hit the crossbar with a header just one minute later; Gerd Müller headed the rebound home to hand Germany a 2-1 win in their opening game of the campaign.
The mood in the German camp was tense following the game against Morocco and the travelling fans were upset. Haller was physically attacked and Seeler was verbally assaulted. Helmut Schön reacted to the criticism by bringing in a new pair of wingers – Libuda and Löhr replaced Haller and Held. West Germany’s next opponents, Bulgaria, had their backs against the wall; they had lost 3-2 to Peru in their opening game and needed a win. The representatives of the socialist world had brought the iron curtain with them to Mexico – no interviews were given, all training sessions took place behind closed doors and the team were nowhere to be seen at the banquet following the opening game. When the players took to the pitch, the experts were astounded to see a completely new back four. The match kicked off at noon in an incredibly hot half-empty stadium; it didn’t have the feel of a World Cup, but the 2,000 German fans created some atmosphere nonetheless.
Despite having chances in the opening ten minutes, Germany went into an early deficit for the second time in two matches as Nikodimow scored with a low driven shot from an indirect free kick, which Maier couldn’t save. Reinhard "Stan" Libuda equalised from an impossible angle just eight minutes later and this was the start of a flood of goals for West Germany. A goal from Gerd Müller was followed by a penalty also scored by Müller in the second half. Bulgaria goalkeeper Simeonow got his fingers to the ball, but could not stop the powerful penalty from going in. Beckenbauer “rounded three or four men as if they were inanimate objects” (Kicker), but was denied by the keeper. However, Seeler managed to grab a fourth for West Germany, sliding home to convert a cross from Müller – further proof that the Müller-Seeler combination was working. Müller scored again in the final minutes with a header before Bulgaria clawed one back with arguably the best goal of the game.
West Germany’s final group stage game saw them face Peru and it was a first-half thriller. Peru’s Fuentes missed an opener by centimetres before Gerd Müller scored the first goal at the other end “as fast as lightning” (Kicker), finishing low into the far corner. Next, Löhr danced around his opponents magically and delivered a cross to Müller, who finished with his left foot this time. All that was missing for the perfect hat-trick was a header, and indeed that came. Müller’s roommate and attacking partner Seeler sent in a cross to him which seemed too high, but Müller somehow managed to reach it and headed home to complete his perfect hat-trick and give Germany a 3-0 advantage after only 39 minutes. However, Peru weren’t a team to give up and accept defeat and continued to fight hard. They were awarded a free kick at the edge of the box shortly before the end of the first half and West Germany conceded another goal from a free kick, which was taken quickly and instinctively by the Peruvians, converted by Cubillas. Kicker attributed the win to West Germany’s switch to attacking down the wings, replacing the previous, more direct style.
As group winners, Germany had the right to stay in their “home” city for the tournament, Leon. There, they faced England, who of course they had famously lost to in the final of the 1966 World Cup four years previously. The Germans had not forgotten the loss or the controversial third England goal in extra time. West Germany had beaten the motherland of football for the first time in 60 years in 1968 after two draws and ten losses. England finished second in the “group of death” after losing 1-0 to Brazil. “We have to beat them this time,” said West Germany chancellor Willy Brandt.
The stadium was finally sold out for a World Cup game and the crowd certainly got their money’s worth in entertainment. 1,000 England fans and 3,000 German fans had made the trip as well as 20,000 locals, who were mainly on West Germany’s side after the team had captured the hearts of many young local fans with their friendly attitudes and attractive style of football. Five players on each side had been present in the Wembley final four years ago.
Despite being tipped as favourites, West Germany fell a goal behind after half an hour when Alan Mullery scored. Things looked even worse for the Germans as England doubled their lead through Martin Peters shortly after the start of the second half. West Germany let their heads hang low and Müller and Beckenbauer started to discuss the flight home already. However, Stan Libuda’s shot inspired the Germans and they began to fight back. Franz Beckenbauer’s shot from distance and a header from Seeler saw the game level again. Beckenbauer wanted to finish the game within the 90 minutes, but his effort hit the outside netting and the score was 2-2 at the end of normal time. A wonderfully worked volley from none other than Gerd Müller won the game in extra time and the team marched on into the semi-finals.
Die Mannschaft were exhausted after the quarter-final win against England in 55-degree Celsius heat. Gerd Müller asked for a day off training, while Uwe Seeler questioned where the team would draw the strength to win from. The semi-final was Germany’s first game away from Leon at the World Cup and the air was noticeably thinner at the higher altitude. The Italians had the advantage heading into the game – they had not needed to go into extra time to win their quarter-final and had already acclimatised to the high altitude.
The thunder and rain set the mood at kick-off of a game which would go down in history. The Italians took an early lead through Boninsegna, who scored from outside the box in the eighth minute of the match. Beckenbauer was brought down in the box and injured his shoulder, but played on through the pain with his arm bandaged up. Finally, West Germany scored in the last minute of normal time to level the match. Schnellinger scored the goal and West Germany erupted with celebration.
The real game started in extra time. A World Cup record five goals were scored in the two 15-minute halves. Despite it being very late in Germany (00:45), the entire country stayed up to watch. Müller’s first goal came four minutes into extra time from a corner to give West Germany a 2-1 lead. Two Italian goals from Burgnich and Riva gave Italy the advantage back in the 98th and 104th minutes. Gerd Müller headed home from a Seeler-headed assist in the second half of extra time to pull the match level for a third time. 3-3. Whoever put the kettle on at this moment missed the decider – the Italians scored a fourth and final goal through Rivera only 14 seconds after the restart and West Germany had lost what was dubbed the “Game of the Century”.
Schön made five changes to the semi-final side for the third-place play-off, two of which were for injuries. Only three outfield players sat on the bench as Willi Schulz had forgotten to bring his boots along to the match. Captain Uwe Seeler became West Germany’s record player, making his 71st appearance. Uruguay had lost their semi-final against Brazil 3-1 despite a strong performance and taking the lead initially.
Gerd Müller missed a golden chance early on and finished a match without scoring for the first time in the tournament. Regardless, he still finished the World Cup as top scorer with three more goals than anyone else (10) and, in doing so, became the first German player to win the Golden Boot at a World Cup tournament. However, Wolfgang Overath made up for the miss shortly after to give West Germany a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute. Goalkeeper Horst Wolter made an excellent save to secure third place for West Germany in the dying minutes. The team was celebrated by around 60,000 people in Frankfurt upon their return to Germany.
West Germany 2-1 Morocco - 3rd June 1970, Estadio Nou Camp, Leon (12,942 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Houmane (21'), 1-1 Seeler (56'), 2-1 Müller (78')
West Germany 5-2 Bulgaria - 7th June 1970, Estadio Nou Camp, Leon (12,710 spectators)Goals: 0-1 Nikodimow (12'), 1-1 Libuda (20'), 2-1 Müller (27'), 3-1 Müller (52' pen.), 4-1 Seeler (67'), 5-1 Müller (88'), 5-2 Kolew (89')
West Germany 3-1 Peru - 10th June 1970, Estadio Nou Camp, Leon (17,875 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Müller (19'), 2-0 Müller (26'), 3-0 Müller (39'), 3-1 Cubillas (44')
West Germany 3-2 England - 14th June 1970, Estadio Nou Camp, Leon (23,357 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Mullery (31’), 0-2 Peters (49'), 1-2 Beckenbauer (68'), 2-2 Seeler (76'), 3-2 Müller (108')
Italy 4-3 West Germany - 17th June 1970, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City (102,444 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Boninsegna (8’), 1-1 Schnellinger (90'), 1-2 Müller (94'), 2-2 Burgnich (98'), 3-2 Riva (104'), 3-3 Müller (110'), 4-3 Rivera (111')
West Germany 1-0 Uruguay - 20th June 1970, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City (104,403 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Overath (26’)