World Cup 1974

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  • Story of West Germany '74

        The 1974 tournament in West Germany marked the start of a new era in World Cup history for several reasons. Firstly, a new trophy was introduced because Brazil had won the Jules Rimet Cup for their third time four years earlier in Mexico, which meant they got to keep the trophy forever according to guidelines created already in 1930. The new cup was simply called FIFA World Cup, identical with the tournament's official name.

        Secondly, a new FIFA president was elected just days before kick-off in the finals. Sir Stanley Rous went out after 13 years in the hot seat and in came Brazilian Joao Havelange. He was the first non-European to hold the post since FIFA was founded in 1904.

        Thirdly, the tournament set-up changed format again. A second phase groupstage replaced the knock-out rounds after the preliminary round. It guaranteed half of the teams at least six games in the finals. The four groups of four teams would become two groups of four teams in phase two. Both winners of the second phase groups would play in the World Cup Final itself, where as the two runners-up would meet in the bronze match.

        And fourthly, security was tighter than ever after the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972 where 11 Israeli athletes were murdered. A lot was at stake for both hosts and visitors at this 10th World Cup. Thankfully, football stole all the headlines as the tournament went on. Well, almost...

        Unlike Mexico '70, a tournament baked in sun, the 1974 World Cup was to be plagued by torrential rain. Many matches were played in bad conditions, particularly the game between West Germany and Poland with a place in the Final at stake. The pitch in Frankfurt was water-logged and the city's fire department was called in to soak up the better part of the water - to little avail. What could have been a classic encounter between two of the best teams in the finals turned out to be a farce. Luck was more the decisive factor than skill.

        West Germany were hot favourites to win the cup, in 1972 they had won the European Championships in a convincing way, and as hosts in 1974 with virtually an identical team, they looked like certain finalists although their confidence got a knock when East Germany beat them in the first round. West Germany's central line with Maier, Beckenbauer, Overath and Müller looked frightening and ultimately won them the tournament. Gerd Müller retired from the national team after the Final with his classic matchwinning goal, his 68th in only 62 appearances. It was also his 14th goal in the World Cup finals overall - a record which still stands to this day.

        Two other countries which hadn't even qualified for any World Cup after World War II prior to 1974, went on to play leading roles in these finals; Netherlands and Poland. The Dutch with inspirational captain Johan Cruijff played some of the best football seen in a World Cup ever - despite the wet conditions. The phrase "Total-Football" became well-known due to the performances of the 'Clockwork Orange'. Memorable wins against Argentina and Brazil laid the foundations for a well-deserved place in the Final against West Germany. To this day many people felt the best team lost in that Final.

        Poland lined up a well-drilled team very much similar to the one that won the Olympics two years earlier in Munich. It included the World Cup's topscorer Grzegorz Lato, a speedy winger who went on to score seven goals as Poland beat teams like Italy and Argentina on their way - and England in the qualifiers. This fine team mastered by Kazimierz Deyna in midfield scored more goals than any other team in the finals and captured the bronze medals with a deserved win against Brazil.

        Brazil, despite a fourth place finish in the end, was the big negative surprise of the finals. Pelé was no longer in the team, but with Rivelino and Jairzinho still present, fans around the world expected much more than they got. Brazil failed to score a goal in four of their seven appearances and of their six goals scored in total, three came against Zaïre, the undisputed minnows of the World Cup. With time running out against Netherlands in what effectively was a semifinal, Luis Pereira hacked down Johan Neeskens from behind in frustration with one of the ugliest tackles in World Cup history. Red card was inevitable.

        Brazil's opponents in the 1970 Final, Italy, failed to reach the second phase mostly because of the unexpected rise of Poland. Dino Zoff's proud defensive record of 1142 minutes without goals conceded in international matches was ended by Haiti's Emmanuel Sanon already in the first game, and even if Italy recovered and won that game, they couldn't progress further. For Haiti, Ernst Jean-Joseph created the first doping scandal in World Cup history when an illegal substance was found in him on a random test after this Italy-game. He was suspended from the rest of the tournament.

        Scotland, Britain's only qualified team, set some kind of World Cup record as they were eliminated in the first round without losing a match, they were infact the only unbeaten team in the 1974 series. Every other team with a zero in the column for defeats in World Cup history up until 1974, had ended up winning the whole tournament. For Scotland this was the first of five straight finals with 'oh-so-nears' and 'if-onlys' first round eliminations.

        Australia, Haiti and Zaïre all made their World Cup debutes in 1974. The Socceroos from 'down under' managed to hold Chile to a draw, it was the only point captured by these three debutants combined. The fourth, East Germany, showed more, but they were after all playing almost on home soil. South America had a poor World Cup by their standards. Uruguay, semifinalists last time, finished bottom in their group, while Chile finished third in theirs. Chile's Carlos Caszely became the first man in World Cup history to be sent off using the red card system after his foul against West Germany. The cards were introduced already to 1970, but no players were sent off in Mexico. Caszely saw red already on the tournament's second matchday. Uruguay's Montero-Castillo was sent off the following day against the Netherlands. Argentina's team in 1974 had certain qualities, but only Kempes and Houseman were found worthy of featuring in their championship winning team four years later.

        Of other highlights, Sweden made impression with excellent goalkeeper Hellström and Edström up front and Yugoslavia had Dzajic in sparkling form. Despite the bad weather, it was a World Cup which gave much more than people could expect under these conditions. Even the introduction of the second phase groupstage was considered a success. FIFA would keep that format also in 1978 when incidents occured that perhaps gave them second thoughts on that subject...




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