West Germany 1974 World Cup

In 1974, the Tournament returned once again to Europe and was granted to 1954 winners West Germany.  Brazil once again returned to the competition as holders but for the first World Cup since 1958 were without the inspirational Pele.  After hugely successful finals in Mexico, the ’74 competition was a comedown for FIFA.  Attendances were low as few Western European nations failed to qualify, fans from the Eastern European’s were unable to travel due to political or economic reasons and the games were mostly played in bad weather.  Again, sixteen teams qualified for the tournament but for the first time in the past 20 years FIFA changed the format.  The teams were drawn into four groups as before, but this time the top two would proceed to a second group stage where once again the eight teams would be drawn into groups of four.

The ’74 World Cup saw the issue of the first ever red card shown to a player.  Players had been given their marching orders in previous finals and red cards were available to referees in 1970, yet in the Mexico World Cup no player was sent off.  The unwanted place in World Cup history was given to Carlos Caszely of Chile.  This tournament also saw the rise to prominence of “Total Football,” a technique pioneered by Dutch club Ajax and applied to the Dutch national team whose star man was Johan Cruyff.  The Dutch began the tournament, their first, in style with wins over Uruguay and Bulgaria and a draw with Sweden.

Brazil was drawn in a group with Yugoslavia, Scotland and massive underdogs Zaire.  It seemed that the attacking flair for which Brazil were so famous for had appeared to have deserted them as they drew their opening two games nil nil with Yugoslavia and Scotland respectively.  A final three nil victory over Zaire, including goals from Jairzinho and Rivelino, was enough to take Brazil through to the second round on goal difference.  This result was put into context when compared to Yugoslavia’s massacre of the African nation by nine goals to nil.

The reigning champion’s were drawn in a second round group with the Netherlands, South American rivals Argentina and East Germany.  Brazil began with a narrow victory by one goal to nil over East Germany with Rivelino the goal scorer.  In the other match, the Dutch further underlined their class by thrashing Argentina 4 – 0.  Cruyff bagged a brace whilst Krol and Rep were the other two goal scorers.  In the match up between the two South American giants it was Brazil that emerged victorious.  Goals, once again, from Jairzinho and Rivelino presented the defending champions with a hard fought two one victory.  The Dutch’s second game saw them emerge as victors by two goals to nil to set up a last match shoot out with Brazil to determine who would progress to the World Cup final.  It was the European’s that triumphed to end the Brazil’s reign as World Champions as goals from the two Johan’s, Neeskens and Cruyff were enough to take Holland to the final at their first attempt.  In the second group, West Germany and Poland both beat Yugoslavia and Sweden to set up yet another last match shoot out.  In a tight clash it took a 76th minute goal from Gerd Muller to separate the teams and to send West Germany through to their second World Cup final.  Poland went on to beat Brazil by a single goal to finish third.

The final would see a clash between two of Europe’s biggest teams and fiercest rivals.  The Germans, lead by their talisman Franz Beckenbauer and backed by the home fans would clash with Holland, Johan Cruyff and the Total Football system.  The Dutch got off to the perfect start when they were awarded a penalty after just one minute which was converted by Johan Neeskens.  Amazingly the German’s hadn’t touched the ball and were already a goal down.  After such an early set back, the German’s struggled to regain a foothold in the game until they were awarded a controversial penalty by English referee Jack Taylor which was converted by Paul Breitner to level the match.  The German’s then pushed for a second and were rewarded when Muller put them 2 – 1 in front.  It turned out to be the goal that settled the World Cup as both teams missed a number of chances.  It was Muller’s 14th goal in World Cup finals and took him past Just Fontaine’s total of 13 from the 1958.  It was a record that would stand until 2006 when Ronaldo would score to take his personal tally to 15.  West Germany were the champions for the second time in front of a passionate home crowd.

Statistics:

Matches: 38
Goals: 97 (average 2.6 per match)
Attendance: 1 768 152 (average 46 530)
Golden Boot Winner: Gzregorz Lato (Poland) 7 goals

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