Sunday 30th June saw the 1974 World Cup get down to the business end as all four second phase matches took place on a single day. The results effectively set up two semi-finals but also showed the weakness of a second round robin phase as the results left the four other sides forced to take part in dead rubbers.
Once again three matches took place in the afternoon, with the West Germans left for the prime time evening slot. The most attractive looking of the afternoon fixture was the all South American clash between Brazil and Argentina, although based on Brazil’s performances so far in the tournament, that was a questionable statement, so much so that neither ITV or BBC took the match live.
They missed Brazil’s best performance of the competition as the heroes of their fabulous triumph in Mexico four years earlier came to the fore. In unfamiliar blue, it was the familiar faces of Rivelino and Jairzinho who inspired Brazil to victory.
Just past the half hour mark it was Rivelino who fired Brazil ahead, unleashing another long range strike but they were pegged back just three minutes later with Miguel Brindisi flighting a free kick over the wall.
Jairzinho grabbed the winner three minutes after the interval. The top scorer from four years ago burst into the penalty area and claimed a penalty as he went down under a challenge, but as the protests were waved away, he quickly got to his feet as Argentina failed to clear and he was alive to react to the cross from Ze Maria to head in from six yards out and put Argentina out of the tournament.
ITV decided that they would show the most attractive side in the tournament as their choice of afternoon match as Holland took on East Germany in Gelsenkirchen. Hugh Johns and Sir Alf Ramsey commentated on a game which saw Holland cement their position as favourites for the tournament.
It took the Dutch just seven minutes to open the scoring, Johan Neeskens following up a clearance off the line to fire home. The second goal was one of real quality as Holland broke away down the left hand side and the ball was rolled across the penalty area for Rob Rensinbrink to drill home.
Flowing football was difficult to produce on another afternoon where the pitch was sodden with driving rain and Holland were happy to save their legs knowing they would need just a draw against Brazil to progress to the World Cup final for the first time.
The BBC, after having their fingers burned by the Brazilian snoozefest last time out selected Poland vs Yugoslavia for the afternoon match and were rewarded with an entertaining clash. Viewers back home were feeling a little bit better about England being eliminated in qualifying by the Poles, as they had shown themselves to be one of the best sides in the competition, with victory here almost certainly putting them just a win away from the final.
The opening goal was one of the strangest in the tournament with a bizarre incident handing the Poles a penalty. They had harmlessly drilled a free kick into the wall and were moving away from the penalty area when Stanislav Karasi inexplicably kicked Andrzej Szarmach, which was clearly spotted by referee Rudi Gloeckner who had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Skipper Kazimierez Deyna calmly rolled the spot kick home, waiting for Enver Maric to commit himself before placing the ball in the opposite corner.
Poland should have been 2-0 up when Robert Gadocha burst through the defence, managing to round the keeper but could only fire the ball into the side netting. It could have been a costly miss as Yugoslavia levelled just before half time. It was Karasi, redeeming himself for his moment of madness earlier, by using clever movement to evade his marker to latch onto a through ball before swiveling his hips to sit Tomaszewski on his backside to fire home.
Poland though were not to be denied and Grzegorz Lato continued his rich goal scoring form by heading in on the hour, meeting a corner at the near post and deftly diverting the ball into the net for the win which eliminated the Yugoslavs.
The BBC also had coverage of the evening match as the hosts, West Germany, took on Sweden in classic encounter with Barry Davies the commentator.
Torrential rain in Dusseldorf made conditions incredibly difficult but knowing that a win would leave them in a virtual semi-final with the Poles, the Germans were at it right from the off.
Wearing their change strip of green shirts and white shorts, West Germany had tested Ronnie Hellstrom inside 20 seconds, Wolfgang Overath firing in an effort from the edge of the area.
West Germany were dominant in the early stages, Hellstrom denying Gerd Muller with a smart save at his near post before Sweden took a shock lead against the run of play on 24 minutes.
It was a stunning strike which rocked the hosts with a rising star of this campaign, Ralf Edstrom, delivering the blow which silenced the crowd in the Rheinstadion. A free kick from the left hand side was floated into the area which the Germans only half cleared by heading into the air. The ball dropped to Edstrom on the edge of the area who met the clearance with a flashing volley which flew past Maier into the top corner of the net.
Sweden held the lead into the break which saw emergency repairs being carried out on a field already sodden with the deluge it had soaked up in the first half. Conditions were therefore incredibly damp at the start of the second period, 45 minutes which would prove crucial for the hopes of the host nation.
Franz Beckenbauer knew he had to lead from the front and it was “Der Kaiser” who was first to test the Swedish keeper in the second period, firing and effort from the edge of the area which Hellstrom saved. However within seven minutes, the game had been turned completely on it’s head.
First of all Overath equalised, capitalizing on a piece of miscontrol from team mate Muller to collect the ball and drive in from the edge of the box. A minute later a carbon copy goal saw West Germany ahead, this time the ball bouncing off Muller into the path of Rainer Bonhof on the edge of the area. The midfielder’s shot came off the inside of the post and rolled along the goal line before nestling in the net after kissing the inside of the opposite post.
It was cruel luck for the Swedes who knew a win could see them still have a chance of qualifying for the final, and they pushed forward for an equaliser. A rare mistake from Beckenbauer handed it to them, a flighted ball from midfield skimming off the West German skipper’s head into the path of Roland Sanberg who drilled the ball home from the right hand side of the penalty area.
West Germany were not to be denied and fifteen minutes from time they regained the lead. Once again Muller was the creator, holding the ball up inside the penalty area before feeding England’s tormentor from four years earlier, Juergen Grabowski, who smashed the ball home.
The final minute gave West Germany the insurance they needed as they grabbed a fourth goal. Muller may have ended the game without a goal, but he was key to all four that West Germany got on the night, this time going down inside the area under the very merest of challenges, but doing enough to con the referee into giving the penalty. Uli Hoeness calmly stroked the ball home and West Germany were just a point away from the final, thanks to their superior goal difference compared to their next opponents Poland.