FIFA World Cup

A brief history of Fifa World Cup: West Germany 1974, when the hosts won a battle of total football

It was the year the new World Cup trophy came along, marking the end of Brazilian domination in more than one way.

It’s that time again! The greatest show on earth is upon us. Ahead of the Fifa World Cup in Russia, we look-back at the 20 tournaments before and the standout aspects from them.

In 1974, the football map changed, as Joga Bonito was replaced by Total Football as the flavour of the tournament.

West Germany 1974

It was the year the new World Cup trophy came along, marking the end of Brazilian domination in more than one way. With Pele gone, Brazil were no longer the proponents of playing attractive football at a time Ajax and Bayern Munich were revolutionising club football in Europe.

The 1974 World Cup in West Germany also saw a new format, with the quarters and semi-finals scrapped in favour of two group phases. It also saw the birth of “total football” – the Netherlands of the brilliant Johan Cruyff, and Franz Beckenbauer’s West Germany, were the leading exponents of the new art which involved players switching positions at will to open up defences.

The highlight of the first round came when East Germany shocked West Germany 1-0 in Hamburg, Jurgen Sparwasser scoring the goal. It would later emerge that there was plenty of discord within the West Germany camp. The result, however, meant the hosts avoided the Netherlands and Brazil in the next round.

“All hell broke loose in our training camp when we lost. Helmut Schon was in a right mood, and we were up till the early hours trying to work out how we had lost. It shouldn’t have happened. We should have beaten them,” said Gerd Mueller, about that defeat, adding, “although with hindsight, it was a good thing we lost. Otherwise, we’d have been in the other group. If we’d won, we’d have been in the same group as Holland and Brazil.”

The Dutch were a delight as they romped into the second stage, and victories over East Germany, Argentina and Brazil secured them a place in the final. There they faced West Germany, who had seen off an impressive, free-scoring Poland in the other group.

Barely a minute from the start the Dutch went ahead when Cruyff won a penalty, scored by Johan Neeskens. However, Paul Breitner equalised after 25 minutes and just before half-time Gerd Muller scored the clincher.

Stats and trivia

  • The trophy that Beckenbauer held aloft after the final was a replacement for the Jules Rimet Cup that Brazil had retained after 1970, for having won the World Cup thrice.
  • The penalty that Holland won in the opening minute of the final was the first in the history of title-deciding clashes of the World Cup.
  • 14: Mueller finished his World Cup tally with 14 goals, the last of them being the tournament clincher. And all 14 came from inside the penalty area, while 50% of them were headers (5) or volleys (2). His seven goals from inside the six-yard box is a World Cup record, with Miroslav Klose scoring six. Der Bomber was a true fox in the box.
  • Helmut Schon, the West Germany coach in three World Cups (’66, ’70 and ’74) is the only one to led a country to three top-three finishes – second place in 1966, third four years later and gold in 1974. Schon also holds the record for most World Cup matches as coach.
  • Haiti’s Ernst Jean-Joseph became the first player to fail a dope test at the World Cup, and was reportedly beaten up by his own squad officials after the test results came in.
  • TWO: Believe it or not, only twice have the reigning continental champions gone to win the subsequent edition of the World Cup and West Germany were the first in 1974. Spain followed suit in 2010.
  • While players have been sent off before, Carlos Caszely of Chile became the first player to be shown a red card in a World Cup match. The yellow-red system was only introduced in 1970.
  • Leading goal-scorer: Grzegorz Lato (Poland) – 7 goals
  • Total number of goals score in the tournament: 97 (2.6 goals per match) 

For your viewing pleasure

The final between two European powerhouses


Official poster

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