Scotland entered this clash in a quandary as to how to approach the match. Following their 2-0 stroll against Zaire in their opening fixture, they were now up against the World Champions from four years earlier. The Brazilians had struggled in the opening match only earning a goalless draw with Yugoslavia. With the Yugoslavs taking on the minnows of Zaire, they knew that a point here would leave them in the position of knowing what they needed in their final game. Before the group had started Scotland would have been delighted to accept a point from this match, now they knew that the draw would leave them at the mercy of Zaire in the final round of fixtures.
Scotland made two changes from the team that had beaten the Africans, Martin Buchan replacing Jeff Blackley at the heart of the defence and Willie Morgan coming in for the ineffective Denis Law. Brazil were much changed from the free flowing side which captivated the world in Mexico four years earlier, with only Rivelino and Jairzinho remaining from the side who had lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in the Azteca Stadium. What would become clear in this match was that the flair of Mexico 1970 had been replaced by functionality in West Germany 1974.
There were 62,000 fans packed into the Westfalen Stadion in Frankfurt, with millions more glued to their TV screens at home. Once again both BBC and ITV broadcast the match live with the same commentary teams of David Coleman and Jock Stein for the Beeb and Hugh Johns and Alf Ramsey for ITV. Unfortunately the copy I have has no audio feed.
What it does have is crowd noise and right from the off it appeared that the majority of spectators in the stadium were there to cheer on the South Americans, as whistles and boos greeted an early back pass to David Harvey.
Brazil’s goalkeeper Leao obviously had a problem with his dead ball kicking, as a bizarre incident unfolded in the second minute. Instead of driving the ball downfield, he played the ball backwards towards a defender on the goal line at the edge of the box for him to bring out. However he misplaced his pass slightly and the ball rolled behind for what should have been a corner, but instead was allowed to retake the goal kick, the referee having judged that it had not travelled outside the penalty area.
It was the first in a number of poor decisions by Dutch referee Arie Van Gamert whose failure to punish the Brazillians would lead the game to descend into a kicking match, with both sides happy to foul and kick whenever they were allowed to.
It was a foul that led to an early chance for Brazil in the third minute, Nelinho curling a free kick wide from 25 yards. Scotland responded in kind, and in Peter Lorimer they had someone who could more than match the South Americans in dead ball situations. In the fourth minute he was given the opportunity to have a crack from 35 yards, his powerful shot forcing the keeper into a simple save, the ball directed straight at him.
The tone for the brutality which would set in was set by a surprising figure. Top scorer in 1970 Jairzinho, now sporting a huge afro, had a wild kick at the ankles of Joe Jordan, the first in a sequence of increasingly violent challenges.
Brazil came close to opening the scoring on 13 minutes. A superbly dipping and swerving effort from the skipper Wilson Piazza saw David Harvey produce an excellent save, turning the ball behind his goal at full stretch. From the ensuing corner Leivinha met the cross sweetly on the volley, beating Harvey but seeing the ball crash against the crossbar allowing Scotland to scramble it clear.
Neither side had really settled in the opening 15 minutes, a battle quite literally unfolding in midfield. There was little action in either goalmouth. On 26 minutes Brazil had another effort go close, Marinho Chagas cutting across the ball from the edge of the D, arcing the ball away from David Harvey but wide of the goal.
Scotland began to push forward themselves and David Hay was crudely taken out in full flight by Rivelino. The Celtic midfielder got up with fist raised but managed to restrain himself, giving him a mouthful of the Glasgow vernacular instead. Scotland half-heartedly claimed a penalty on the half hour. Lorimer crossed the ball to Kenny Dalglish whose shot was half blocked, possibly with a hand before going through to Leao who gathered comfortably.
The tackles were getting spicier, but Scotland had now settled, defending impeccably and now gaining in confidence to push forward themselves.Brazil though were still a threat, Leivinha looping a header goalwards that Harvey held easily.
Rivelino went into the book on 31 minutes, for taking a wild hack at Bremner in the middle of the park. Brazil had picked the wrong side to get into a brawl with, the Scottish side filled with Leeds United players not known for being shrinking violets. Marinho Chagas decided he would try to wind Joe Jordan up, slapping the big striker on the back of the head, an action which only earned the Brazilian a talking to.
It was another Leeds player who would be next to feel the steel which had been added to the World Champions, Lorimer taken out by a blatant bodycheck by Luis Pereira as he burst through the defence. Mr Van Gemert was going to produce a card, instead settling for a stern rebuke.
By now the crowds affections had certainly turned in Scotland’s favour with Brazil’s heavy handed tactics short changing a crowd who had obviously turned up to see a display of Samba soccer. The half ended with Bremner dishing out the type of retribution he was known for, absolutely cleaning out an opponent on the halfway line before walking away without batting an eyelid.
The second period started in the same vein, Scotland the aggressors in terms of football, Brazil leaving their aggression to the strength of their tackles. Boos and whistles greeted every foul of a team who were so far removed from the side who charmed the world four years earlier.
Brazil were there for the taking, a truly awful team but Scotland were just not able to get moving in the opening stages of the second half. On 56 minutes Scotland tested the keeper, Hay’s shot from 30 yards pushed over the bar by Leao. From the corner Jordan arrived at the back post, Leao getting down well to save the strikers header at the near post.
The Scots were now being cheered to the rafters by the Frankfurt crowd whenever they went forward, the allegiance definitely changed in their favour since the start of the match. Brazil were being restricted to long range efforts, none of which seriously troubled Harvey in the Scotland goal. Rivelino was getting involved in a running battle with Bremner, and was seriously pushing his luck with his repeated attacks on the Scottish captain.
Scotland now were very much in the ascendency and over the next ten minutes would go agonizingly close to breaking the deadlock. David Hay forced Leao into a scrambling save before Lorimer tested the keeper from long range, a more comfortable save for the keeper.
Then came a moment which would be pivotal, as Scotland carved out a chance which was made in Leeds. Lorimer once again aimed a corner for the head of Jordan, this time the striker heading down forcing the keeper to make a desperate save, parrying the ball into the path of Bremner. However the ball came so quickly to the Scottish captain that he could only poke at the ball and somehow pushed the ball past the open goal from just three yards out. Scotland’s golden opportunity had gone.
Scotland were like the lion on their flag, rampant, at this point giving the World Champions a chasing. Brazil looked hopeless and continued to resort to brutality to keep the blue shirts at bay, another Davie Hay run curtailed by a blatant bodycheck 30 yards out.
Scotland though were drawn into a kicking battle in the closing stages, frustrated by Brazillian fouls preventing them from getting anywhere near their opponent’s goal, they retaliated in kind and the closing stages descended into a peevish battle of cynical fouls, laced with violence.
Brazil were happy to take a point, making no effort to go forward and with news coming through of Yugoslavia’s thrashing of Zaire were even more content to take their chances of outscoring the Scots against the minnows. The last real incident of note was Rivelino’s lucky escape from a red card. After spending most of the night kicking Billy Bremner around the pitch, the mustachioed maestro reacted badly when Bremner bit back with a spiteful kick just outside the penalty area, raising his hand to Bremner’s face but avoiding any further retribution.
Moments later the final whistle blew and left both sides knowing that they would need a win in their final fixture to definitely progress to the second phase, a result which was much more pleasing to the Brazillians than it was to the Scots.