Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 8-West Germany Halt ‘The Clockwork Orange’ (1974)

Franz Beckenbauer lifts the 1974 World Cup

We actually haven’t mentioned the wonderful Dutch side of 1974 but you always save the best for (near) last. They were entertaining to say the least on their road to the final with a side that had players who could play anywhere and beat anyone with the talented and equally cocky and arrogant Johan Cryuff as the leader. The concept of ‘total football’ was for all outfield players in all positions to be able to switch and play in any position. It was developed by Rinus Michels (after learning it from Englishman Jack Reynolds) when he was coach at Ajax and from 1965 to 1973 they managed to win 5 titles and went through two seasons without dropping a point at home.Ajax also won three European Cups in a row using the tactic with many seeing it as the only way the ultra defensive Italian tactic ‘Catenaccio’ could be stopped after beating Inter Milan in one of the finals.

In their group their entertainment overshadowed some of their other frailties and defeated Uruguay 2-0, drew with Sweden and then belted Bulgaria 4-1. In the second round in another set of three games they really took up a notch thrashing Argentina 4-0, East Germany 2-0 and then another South American giant in Brazil 2-0. Cryuff and Neeskens were laying waste to many defences to take Holland to their first ever final in what was only their third World Cup. Holland had now taken the tournament by storm with their decadent long haired hipster stars with their lovebeads running amok all over West Germany.

In the final they would face the hosts West Germany who always seemed to complete opposite in the eyes of the average fan. Holland were now favourites most forgot the fact that the West Germans were European champions for 1972 and also a hard working and innovative side who had been very close to winning the cup in both 1966 and 1970. Their commitment to this new total football was less cavalier than that of the Dutch, the mobile sweeper and inspirational captain Franz Beckenbauer playing behind the defence rather than in front as was generally the case with Haan. Berti Vogts, Georg Schwarzenbeck, Paul Breitner and Beckenbauer made up the defence, with the one and only Sepp Maier (another 1966 veteran) in goals.

It had taken a couple of false starts in this tournament for their midfield to get settled, but there’s no rule against that, and in Wolfgang Overath, Uli Hoeness and Rainer Bonhof, they now surely boasted three of the strongest midfielders in the world. They had the extraordinarily prolific Gerd Müller up front, with Jürgen Grabowski and Bernd Hölzenbein flanking him, although neither could truly be described as out and out strikers. They included in their team no less than six players (Maier, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Breitner, Hoeness and Müller) from the Bayern Munich team which had just won the European Cup, and they were of course playing at home. Their wins in the semi final stage of the tournament were safe but dour with none of the flair of their opponents after their loss to East Germany in the first round and wins over Chile and Australia.

The World thought how could anybody, even West Germany, expect to beat Holland?

The Dutch side was the same for the fourth game in a row and were ready for action even with an injury cloud hanging over the head of Rensenbrink and the German press doing what they could to unsettle the team. Trashy German mag ‘Bild’ had claimed that the Dutch were up all night partying before the final and were alleging drug use and wife swapping at said party. This has never been proven or disproven. The West German side had no such problems with injuries or drug fuelled bonding sessions and were ready with their car keys well away from any bowls.

The final would be played at the quite LSD inspired Olympic Stadium in Munich with the kick off delayed due to the fact that the corner flags were misplaced after the closing ceremony. Were the Germans really guilty of not being efficient for once or were they just trying to play mind games with Dutch, probably the latter. It was again teeming with unseasonable rain which brought the sides even closer together and bogged down the flowing style of the Dutch. The little mind games and gutter journalism didn’t seem to harm the Dutch from kick off with the Germans not even touching the ball before they were 1-0 down. Cruyff, who, with typical disrespect for convention, was the deepest Dutch player on the field when he received the ball, strolled upfield, accelerated suddenly and dashed into the penalty area. Although Vogts was pursuing him, trailing in his wake, it was Hoeness who made the desperate challenge and he needed to, as Cruyff was by now virtually certain to score one of the goals of the competition.

Cruyff duly went flying and referee Jack Taylor pointed to the spot. Beckenbauer is said to have turned to the referee and said, “You are an Englishman”, an undeniably accurate statement  as you could hardly be more English than Jack Taylor but also it was a cunning piece of spontaneous footballing psychology designed no doubt to increase the pressure on the honest referee should, say, Germany have a penalty claim in the near future. Johan Neesken didn’t miss from the spot and with a plume of dust coming up from the painted dot he nailed the penalty, 1-0.

Vogts decided to kick out following the kick off again with two lumps being kicked out of Cryuff which showed how out of sorts they were thanks to that early goal but they did eventually get it together. What helped was Cryuff was playing deeper to help out some of the players who were half fit with the defence having to actually defend and not set up plays. The temperature on the pitch between the players got more and more heated with Muller almost coming to blows with his marker before he bolted to the linesman to complain. The Dutch then held on to possession toying with the Germans and showing cocky arrogance, they were leading and much like ‘The Viper’ wanting a confession out of ‘The Mountain’ in their battle in ‘Game of Thrones’ they needed to just finish the job and not mess around.

Then midway through the first half West Germany were back on level terms. History tells us that Hölzenbein cut into the Dutch penalty area, Jansen made contact with him, and the referee gave a penalty to the home side. The Dutch accused Hölzenbein of looking for the penalty, of drawing the foul from Jansen. Well, Jansen clearly lunged at the ball, clearly missed it, and clearly made contact with the German, a player who, to be polite, was not exactly famous for riding tackles. (Chris Freddi, in The Complete Book of the World Cup, describes Hölzenbein as “a notorious diver in the Bundesliga”, but concedes that Jack Taylor could not have been expected to know about this reputation.)

Breitner lined up the penalty and sent the keeper the wrong way with his save, 1-1 and Holland had conceded their first goal for the entire tournament. The Dutch were now looking inwards and questioning themselves, their mojo had been knocked off course and perhaps were looking to hang on to half time so Michels could give them some instructions and get them back on track. The Germans smelt the fear and confusion and went on the attack, Vogts having a shot saved brilliantly after he went for a run down the left wing. Three more chances came for the Germans with the Dutch keeper Jongbloed either punching the ball away desperately or seeing a defender like Rep clear the ball after he had made a save and the soggy Bavarian crowd found their voice.

It wasn’t all West Germany though with Cryuff and Rep breaking through the midfield to be 2 on 1 with Beckenbauer the only one back. With the Kaiser committing to Cryuff with the ball he passed off to Rep instead of shooting but Rep’s shot went straight at the keeper. The conspiracy was that Cryuff passed because he shirked from challenging the German captain. Another psychological win for the Germans. After the big chance to Holland the Germans again dominated with one goal being denied by the linesman and possession being given away cheaply by the Dutch.

The second, decisive goal came just before half time, as Bonhof went away down the right with sweeper Haan, not Krol, in pursuit, and cut the ball back into the box, taking Rijsbergen out of the play. Müller swiveled effortlessly away from the isolated last defender Krol, and poked the ball past Jongbloed, who stood rooted to the spot, even though the ball missed him by about a foot, as if he didn’t realise the other team were allowed to shoot at him. 2-1 at half time and an unbelievable scoreline. The goal by Muller was vastly underrated over time too. The angle that he got to get power behind the shot was very athletic for a very un-athletic man. One of the great World Cup goals. The Dutch machine was wilting.

In the second half the Dutch were trying to get their brilliant system back in to order with the defence playing quick one touch passes to each other and then lobbing it forward but it would go straight back to the Germans and the pressure would be back on. Cryuff started to play a more attacking role but the gaps that were gaping in the German defence in the first part of the game were now welded shut and the Dutch panicked more as the Germans got close to their elusive winning third goal time and time again. Occasionally Muller reminded everyone he was out there with a foul or attempt to behead a Dutchman while Beckenbauer was the supreme on-field leader and marshaled his defence well. In the final desperate minutes the Dutch bombarded the German defence but Holzenbein broke away and was tackled in the box, a clear penalty for West Germany not given. Another bollock dropped by the English referee.

Full time blew and the Dutch had done a Hungary, they had gone all the way and looked unbeatable before being denied by West Germany. Like Hungary they would also been seen was a mystique of what might have been and to purists (football hipsters) they would be seen as ‘The People’s Champion’.

West Germany win the 1974 World Cup

This was very unfair on the proper champions. The Germans hadn’t defended their way to glory, they had played enterprising and thoughtful football that had thought outside the box. West Germany had always been seen as party poopers too. In 1954 they had denied Hungary a deserved World Cup when that Hungarian side was starting to split apart and rely on a continually unfit Puskas in hindsight. In 1990 they were clearly the best side and one of the few not playing boorish defensive football in the tournament but people forget this because of an awful final against Argentina.

Again in 1974 they were seen as a side that had denied others much more deserving when in actual fact they done their homework and beaten the Dutch and beaten them well. West Germany, after a controversial loss in the 1966 final and loss in the epic 1970 semi final, were deserved World Champions in front their home crowd with Beckenbuaer lifting the new World Cup trophy for all to see.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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