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 1974...
Following a victory in the third place play-off against Uruguay in 1970, Helmut Schön’s West Germany went into the 1974 World Cup as hosts and reigning European champions having triumphed in Belgium in 1972.
For the first time in tournament history the Jules Rimet trophy was not awarded to the winner, as Brazil’s victory four years earlier had seen them claim ownership of one of sport’s most famous pieces of silverware with their third World Cup triumph.
Given that the competition was hosted in Germany it was perhaps fitting that 1974 would be the only time in history that West and East Germany both played at a World Cup before the country was unified in 1990. The East Germans would go on to claim bragging rights, beating their Western counterparts 1-0 in the group stages.
It would be West Germany, though, who had the last laugh.
16 teams qualified for Germany 1974 and were divided into four groups of four, before playing each other in a round-robin format. Two points were awarded for a win, one for a draw, with goal difference used to separate teams with the same number of points. In a change to the previous five tournaments, the second phase of the competition was also a group stage, as the top two sides from each first-round group were drawn out into two more groups for another set of round robin matches. The two group winners then faced off in the final, with the runners-up from each group playing off for third place.
“Rarely had a team been so unhappy and self-critical after a win,” wrote Franz Beckenbauer in his book years later to describe West Germany’s opening victory against Chile in front of 83,000 in Berlin’s Olympistadion.
The tournament hosts had to contend with stiflingly hot weather, but came through to get off the mark thanks to a dogged 1-0 win.
“I had expected it to be tough, but not that tough,” remarked head coach Schön after full time, as Paul Breitner’s first half strike was enough to separate the sides, though the victors and their expectant audience in the stands were far from happy.
“Not one of the eleven guys on the pitch gave anywhere near their best showing today,” said Beckenbauer.
Following the Chile game, Schön promised that his team would ‘have their shooting boots on’ against World Cup newcomers Australia for the second group game.
The result was never in doubt, with Wolfgang Overath, who had been booed once again when his name was read out before kick-off, opening the scoring before Bernd Culland and Gerd Müller made the final score 3-0 to give the hosts two wins from two group games.
But the public still wasn’t happy. The promised ‘shooting boots’ never properly materialized and a fractious relationship with the public was made worse when Beckenbauer appeared to spit out at the stands after conceding a corner.
Whatever the outcome or mood in the camp, West Germany had already done enough to book their place in the second round.
Despite effectively being a dead rubber as both teams had already qualified, this game was anything but. The first ever meeting of East versus West in front of a sold out Volksparkstadion was about more than just two points.
It was about history. It was about topping the group. It was about prestige.
Neither team sang the national anthem before kick off, and despite West Germany doing most of the pressing before half time, the game was decided by a Julian Sparwasser strike in favour of East Germany.
Former West Germany international Willi Schulz stated categorically after the game: “Playing like that you cannot be world champions.”
Beckenbauer would go on to say that the result helped his country wake up. “If we hadn’t have lost to East Germany, we would not have become World Champions.”
Though no one knew it at the time, the fact the sides would never meet again mean that East Germany will forever hold a positive head to head over West Germany in world football.
A storm was brewing in the Germany camp following the defeat to East Germany and an emergency player meeting, held long into the early hours of the morning without the presence of coach Schön, was called, in what was later dubbed ‘The long night in Malente’.
The talks prompted changes, and only the back four from the group games remained the same in the opening match of the second group phase against Yugoslavia in Düsseldorf. A beauty from Breitner gave the West German’s the lead, and Müller sealed the first win of the second phase with a late second.
Sepp Maier in goal was on top of everything that came his way and the entire stadium was behind the team from kick off, and for the first time in the entire tournament it looked as though home advantage would come into play.
“With support like that we can become world champions,” said Beckenbauer at full time.
West Germany had waited 16 years to have a shot at revenge on Sweden, and they got it in 1974. The second group game of the second phase was about so much more for the Helmut Schön’s side however.
“If we beat Sweden, there would be no excuse not to make the final,” remarked Müller, as the hosts geared up to face a side, who like themselves, had only conceded once in their first four games at the tournament.
But neither team had thoughts of defending their way to a win as two sets of 4-3-3 formations collided in Düsseldorf. Sweden had the lead at the break thanks to Ralf Edström’s first half volley, but the game came to life thereafter thanks to three of the most entertaining minutes of the tournament.
Germany turned the game on its head with two goals in as many minutes from Wolfgang Overath and Rainer Bonhof, but Sweden refused to lie down and equalized within sixty seconds through Roland Sandberg.
Then came the defining moment of the whole championships from West Germany’s perspective, as Jürgen Grabowski restored the hosts lead in the closing stages before Uli Hoeneβ coolly put away a spot kick to seal a final four place.
At full after beating Poland to secure a place in the World Cup final in front of their own fans, coach Helmut Schön ran straight to his goalkeeper Sepp Maier. The gesture said it all.
Never before had the man between the sticks played so well for his country, and it could not have come at a more crucial time.
Gerd Müller’s late strike won the game, but Maier was the hero, making save after sensational save to keep the Poles, who came out of the traps flying knowing they had to win to make the final, at bay.
The team spent the days leading up to the final in Munich in the Grünwald district of the city, and Beckenbauer, who lived in the area, invited the squad to an early evening drink with music on the Friday night, before watching a Western on Saturday and taking in the third-place play off.
The intention was clear: To keep each and every single one of the players as relaxed as possible before the biggest game in world football – the World Cup final. Only Beckenbauer and Overath had already experienced a tournament decider, the rest were about to step into unfamiliar territory.
Schön made no changes to his starting XI, and held ‘the quickest team talk I have ever done’ on the afternoon of the final. Nothing new needed to be said by that point.
Opponents the Netherlands had been the best team in tournament by far, seeing off Argentina 4-0 and East Germay and reigning champions Brazil 2-0 in the second round. The only point they had dropped was in a 0-0 with Sweden in the opening group stage.
All that preparation from the Germans, and they were behind after 63 seconds having not even touched the ball, as the Netherlands struck first with a penalty. It was the quickest ever goal in a world cup final and the first ever penalty scored in a championship match.
But for seventh time in World Cup final history, the team who scored first in the final would go on to lose as two goals before half time gave Germany their second World Cup triumph. Bernd Hölzenbein replied with a spot kick off his own to level things up before Gerd Müller struck what would prove to be the winner before the break, meaning Franz Beckenbauer became the first man to lift the new World Cup trophy.
Federal chancellor Helmut Schmidt proclaimed Beckenbauer the best player in the world after the game, while Johann Cruyff – a strong pretender to such a crown – declared: “Today we were missing a man like Gerd Müller.”
“I only cared about the result today,” said Schön at full time, perhaps alluding to how his team had been criticized for their style of play in the opening rounds, while Kicker wrote that Germany could be proud of the XI that day – the XI, who captured the second star.
Miss our 1974 review? Recap here
FIRST GROUP STAGE
West Germany 1-0 Chile - 14th June 1974, Olympiastadion, Berlin (83,168 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Breitner (16')
West Germany 3-0 Australia - 18th June 1974, Volksparkstadion, Hamburg (52,000 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Overath (12'), 2-0 Cullmann (34'), 3-0 Müller (53')
West Germany 0-1 East Germany - 22nd June 1974, Volksparkstadion, Hamburg (58,900 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Sparwasser (77')
SECOND GROUP STAGE
Yugoslavia 1-0 West Germany - 26th June 1974, Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf (66,085 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Breitner (16'), 0-2 Müller (82‘)
West Germany 4-2 Sweden - 30th June 1974, Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf (66,500 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Edström (24'), 1-1 Overath (51'), 2-1 Bonhof (52'), 2-2 Sandberg (53'), 3-2 Grabowski (76'), 4-2 Hoeneß (89', pen.)
West Germany 1-0 Poland - 3rd July 1974, Waldstadion, Frankfurt am Main (59,000 spectators)
Goals: 0-1 Müller (76')
Netherlands 1-2 West Germany - 7th July 1974, Olympiastadion, Munich (75,200 spectators)
Goals: 1-0 Neeskens (2', pen.), 1-1 Breitner (25', pen.), 1-2 Müller (43')