The 1974 World Cup was the beginning of a new era for FIFA’s flagship competition. Following Brazil’s third triumph in 1970, the Jules Rimet trophy was replaced by the brand new FIFA World Cup trophy, the solid gold prize still fought for today. A change in the competition’s format saw the quarter-finals replaced with a second group stage, which would see the two sides topping those tables meet in the final at Munich’s Olympic Stadium.
As holders Brazil had the honour of getting the tournament underway on Thursday 13th June in Frankfurt against Yugoslavia. The match was of significant interest to viewers in the UK as the two sides, along with Zaire made up Scotland’s opponents in Group B. Both BBC and ITV broadcast the game live, with David Coleman and Hugh Johns calling the action for their respective stations. In very wet conditions it was Brazil who had the better of the chances, with the hero of the 1970 campaign, Jairzinho, who came closest to a goal. However having scored in every game in Mexico, the striker was unable to break the deadlock and the match ended as a 0-0 draw.
The following afternoon saw the hosts enter the action with their first fixture against Chile. The South American nation had just seen a change of government with a military coup installing General Agustin Pinochet as the new dictatorial leader. The match at the Olympiastadion in West Berlin was overshadowed by protests against Pinochet which included, in a stadium forever associated with the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler after the 1936 Olympic Games, the unveiling of a huge Swastika banner down one side of the stadium. Barry Davies described the action on the BBC and he saw West Germany open their campaign with an unconvincing 1-0 victory thanks to a Paul Brietner rocket shot from 25 yards.
All eyes now turned to Dortmund, where Scotland were ready to open their campaign against the mysterious qualifiers from Africa, the unknown quantity of Zaire.