Another host triumph as the West Germans took the new FIFA World Cup for the first time with a quite exceptional display of the hard-running, interchanging style in a tournament remembered for the arrival of "total football".
The Netherlands, with Johan Cruyff outstanding, beat Argentina 4-0 and Brazil 2-0 to announce their arrival, but could not overcome West Germany in the final and went down 2-1, Gerd M?ller, "Der Bomber', typically scoring the winner.
20 years on...
West Germany, after a somewhat shaky start to the tournament, eventually ran into form to win "its" FIFA World Cup. In the final, led by the "Kaiser", Franz Beckenbauer, the West Germans were at the top of their game to beat a brilliant Netherlands side. The 10th FIFA World Cup tournament in Germany in 1974 was marked by the arrival of colour television! And as if to highlight this cultural revolution even more, the "Weltmeisterschaft 74" featured two other major changes. The first was a change in the tournament rules. The first round group system followed by knock-out in the second round was replaced by a group system in both rounds. The second change was the replacing of the Jules Rimet trophy - won outright by Brazil four years earlier after winning the FIFA World Cup three times (1958, 1962, 1970) - by a new solid gold statuette known as the "FIFA World Cup".
Like its predecessor, the new trophy, sculpted by Silvio Gazzaniga, was coveted by many, and 98 nations took part in the qualifiers. Notable first-time qualifiers for the finals were East Germany, Haiti, Australia and Zaire, the first sub-Saharan African nation to reach the FIFA World Cup proper. But Hungary, Spain, France and most surprisingly England all failed to make it through. As a prologue to its vanguard tournament, FIFA appointed itself a new President, the first non-European, when the Brazilian João Havelange replaced Englishman Sir Stanley Rous, who had held the post since 1961.
On the field, the favourites, West Germany, qualified for the second round, if rather unconvincingly. And following a defeat at the hands of East Germany in the first round, there was even a minor revolution: Beckenbauer, the team captain, was begged by his team-mates to urge coach Helmut Sch?n to make changes in the team's line-up and tactics.
For the team from the Netherlands, however, which included in its ranks Cruyff, Neeskens, Rep and Rensenbrink, it was all plain sailing as they qualified from both the first and second rounds, beating Argentina (4-0), East Germany (2-0) and Brazil (2-0) by playing the brand of "total football" made famous by the Dutch club side, Ajax. The revelation of the tournament proved to be the multi-talented Polish team which finished third, with its ace marksman Gzregorz Lato crowned as the competition's top goal-scorer (7 goals).
The Poles, however, could not stop the Germans from reaching the
final against the Netherlands. The final began dramatically as Cruyff
was brought down in the German penalty area following a solo run. The
Dutch took the lead from the ensuing Neeskens penalty before the
Germans had even touched the ball and with just a minute gone on the
clock. German pride was stung. Maier, Beckenbauer, Vogts - who
thereafter stifled Cruyff's influence - Hoeness and Overath soon fought
their way back into the game and finally triumphed 2-1 with goals from
Breitner (penalty) and M?ller. This was the Germans' second world
title, twenty years after their first victory in Switzerland in 1954.
Did You Know?
East Germany's 1-0 win over their political enemies from the west, on opposition territory too, may not have had much meaning in the sporting sense since both teams had already qualified for the next round. It certainly had an emotional effect, however: the West Germans were shaken and their captain Franz Beckenbauer reacted in a manner unusual for this part of the world - he held a crisis meeting with the team and later appeared on television to explain the situation to an unsettled public. With evident success - 20 years after the "Wonder of Bern" the West Germans went on to win their second World Cup.
Scotland, as has since become their wont, failed to qualify for the second round of the World Cup final tournament, but they came very close. One win and two draws in their group matches were still not enough and they were eliminated early. To add to their disappointment they finally proved to be the only undefeated team of the competition.
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