History Of The World Cup (1974)

This is the ninth in a weekly series of World Cup history lessons brought to you by our very own “Professor” Guy Bailey. He is not actually a professor; the only professor on staff is Jamie Clary. Well, sort of.

The 1974 World Cup

The 1974 World Cup was held in West Germany and was the first where the winners would be presented with the current trophy snappily titled The FIFA World Cup Trophy, created by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga.

The qualifying tournament threw up a few surprises with several big guns including England, France, Spain and Hungary sitting this one out. The Cup Competition also took on a strange shape as the winners and runners up from each of the four First Round Groups would then go into two Second Round Groups of four. The winners of these groups would contest the Final, the runners-up the 4th/4th place playoff.

The Tournament took place in some of the worst weather conditions on record with most matches being played in the rain.

Group One saw the hosts and reigning European Champions West Germany edged into second place by blood-brothers East Germany who won the first ever competitive meeting between the two by a single goal. They both beat Australia, making their tournament debut and West Germany overcame Chile to progress.

Group Two had an unfamiliar look as Yugoslavia topped the table on a three-way points tie with Brazil and Scotland. All three teams beat newcomers Zaire like a red-headed stepchild, Scotland by two, Brazil by three and Yugoslavia wailing on them by an incredible 9-0. The Scots drew with Brazil and the Yugoslavs and ended up eliminated by a single goal. Holders but Pele-less, Brazil snuck through despite two 0-0 draws.

Group Three was an altogether brighter affair as the rise of the Orange revolution took hold. The dazzling Dutch overcame Uruguay and Bulgaria with their flowing, total-football style and could afford to take the afternoon off in a goalless draw with Sweden who would qualify behind the Oranje in second. Total Football was pioneered at Ajax of Amsterdam and virtually abolished positions for outfield players as everybody took responsibility for defence, midfield and attack as and when the situation called for it.  This could easily have descended into farce and 5-year-old everyone chase the ball tactics but as well as being supremely gifted athletes, the Dutch were also incredibly intelligent and aware, even for footballers, and implemented the system to a level which has never dared been repeated.

Group Four saw Haiti playing in their first World Cup and being treated to a dose of reality when the powerful Poles but seven past them without reply. Poland also beat the other heavy hitters in the group, Argentina and Italy to go through as winner. Despite a 1-1 draw between the teams, Argentina edged the Italians for second with a superior Goal Difference.

Group One in the second phase saw Holland turn the screw on their ponderous opponents beating Brazil, East Germany and Argentina with Johan Cruyff pulling the strings for the group winners, demonstrating his unique piece of skill, the Cruyff Turn. Brazil went through to the playoff by beating the East Germans and old enemies Argentina 2-1 with strikes from Rivelino and Jairzinho but this Brazil was no  free-flowing footballing machine, more a pragmatic, jersey-pulling, Pepsi to the Coke of four years previous. The final match between Holland and Brazil being a de-facto Semi Final, where Neeskens and Cryuff scored to deprive Brazil of their prize 2-0.

Group Two saw West Germany march inexorably towards their destiny, beating Sweden and Yugoslavia on their way. Poland also won twice, helped by goals from the tournament’s top scorer Grzegorz Lato, who would finish with seven. Curiously, the final match in this group was also a winner-take-all semi with West Germany facing the Poles in Frankfurt. The game was decided by veteran World Cup Sharpshooter, Gerd Muller in the 76th minute.

Poland and Lato secured honor for the Poles over Brazil in the 3rd place playoff and the scene was set for the titanic tussle between two of Europe’s hottest rivals.  To say the Dutch dislike the Germans is to say that the Yankees aren’t the most popular visitors to Fenway Park. Despise is not to strong a word. Many Dutch fans, to this day, take pictures of and in one case, an actual bicycle to a match to hold up and taunt the Germans with. Because of the allies rapid advance into the Netherlands during the liberation of Europe in 1944, many Germans in Amsterdam, deciding the game was up, adopted a novel form of retreat. They grabbed whatever bicycles were nearby and made off on them in the direction of The Fatherland.  Thus whenever Holland play Germany in any match, you can hear the full-throated rendition of “Mijn grootvader wil zijn fiets terug!” – “My Grandad wants his bike back!”

The 1974 World Cup Final took place on July 7 1974 in the huge Olympiastadion in Munich. Holland started as they had much of the tournament with an insightful passing game which resulted in English referee Jack Taylor awarding them a penalty in the first minute after that man Cryuff was brought down in the box. Johan Neeskens putting the penalty away and allowing Sepp Maier to be the first German to touch the ball in the match after he picked it out of his own net.

Holland were now seemingly set up for their inaugural victory. Of course football doesn’t work like that and one should never write off any opponent, especially the Germans, who duly equalized in the 25th minute with a penalty kick of their own. Breitner the scorer. You wait 44 years for a penalty to be awarded in a World Cup Final and two turn up at once. Typical.  Germany pushed forward again and got their reward as Muller put them in front in the 43rd minute.

The second half was a cut and thrust affair from both teams but Germany had the better of it, Muller having a goal ruled out for offside and Holzenbein being denied a third penalty when felled in the box with five minutes remaining. The score line remained the same and West Germany were crowned World Champions, the only team to consecutively hold the titles of World and European Champions.

Guy Bailey is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at guy@yanksarecoming.com.

Filed Under: April 2010

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