West Germany became the first team to be European and World Champions at the same time as their professionalism overcame Dutch arrogance to clinch their second World Cup win with victory on home soil.
After a sometimes rocky road to the final the West Germans recovered from a disastrous start to capitalise on a sloppy Dutch performance before hanging on for a win which was fully deserved on the day.
The afternoon of Sunday 7th July was thankfully absent from the monsoon conditions which had blighted the tournament throughout. Despite the failure of England to qualify and Scotland to progress beyond the group stages, the final of the competition saw some British interest, with Jack Taylor of Wolverhampton selected to referee the match.
Industrial action at the BBC threatened to black out their final coverage, but they did manage to broadcast the match with David Coleman in the commentary box whilst ITV had Hugh Johns calling the action.
As the teams prepared to kick off, Mr Taylor just called a temporary halt to proceedings, having noticed that the German’s reputation for meticulous organisation had let them down at the last minute with no corner flags having been put in place.
When the game did commence it produced a start that defied belief. Holland had proved themselves to be the best footballing side in the competition and produced 70 seconds of compelling evidence to back up that claim. From the kick off the Dutch side passed the ball around, probing for a gap in the German defence to exploit. Back and forth and from side to side the ball went but there was no breach to be found. Having seen enough, Johan Cruyff dropped back to be the deepest Dutch player and collected the ball midway inside his own half. He set off into German territory and his driving run saw him inside the penalty area. In desperation Berti Vogts, who had been tasked with effectively man marking the Dutch skipper desperately lunged for the ball and only succeeded in taking out the man.
“Brought down, penalty in the first minute of the World Cup and rightly so” screamed David Coleman as Jack Taylor showed no hesitation in making such a crucial call so early in the match. It was Johan Neeskens who stepped up to take the penalty and he smashed home the spot kick right down the middle of the goal prompting Coleman to exclaim: “One Nil … The goal scored after just 80 seconds.”
The Germans had yet to arrive at their own party and Coleman correctly pointed out that “I’m not quite sure that any German touched the ball in those 80 seconds.” Shaken by the disastrous start, the West Germans struggled to make an impression in the early stages, except on Cruyff’s ankles, Vogts compounding his own dreadful start by collecting a yellow card for “persistent fouling” after just three minutes!
Holland continued to pop the ball about the field, but tellingly without any real penetration and it was the Germans who had the next effort on goal, Paul Brietner cutting in from the right hand side but blazing the ball over the bar. Brietner then picked out Bernd Holzenbein with a throw into the area, the winger collecting the ball turning but firing wide.
Holland were in a real groove in terms of possession and were producing a demonstration of their total football philosophy, Cruyff’s appearance at left back leaving David Coleman flabbergasted: “The interchanging between these Dutch players is quite incredible.
After 20 minutes the Germans started to gain a foothold in the game and started to get under the skin of the Dutch. Gerd Muller showed his displeasure at not getting a free kick by squaring up to Wim Van Hannegam who pushed the German striker away, Muller throwing himself to the floor and sparking a minor squabble. Taylor, after consultation with his linesman, booked the Dutchman.
Five minutes later Germany were level. As he had done in the “virtual” semi-final Bernd Holzenbein drove in from the left hand side and once again produced a similar dive when a challenge came in . This time is was Wim Jansen that was suckered into making a lunge for the ball, and although replays eventually showed that contact, if any, was minimal, Jack Taylor once again had no hesitation to point to the spot.
With Hoeness having missed against Poland, it was full back Paul Brietner who stepped up to take the spot kick and he casually rolled the ball past Jan Joengbloed, David Coleman saying “One One” before the ball hit the net.
The Dutch whose early start had probably made them thing the game was won were rocked and having been so complacent in the preceding 25 minutes were now rocking. West Germany by contrast were now full of confidence and took the game by the scruff of the neck. A wonderful break saw Berti Vogts of all people pop up on the left hand side of the area to fire a shot goalwards. He was denied by a stunning save by Joengbloed who reacted well to brilliantly turn the ball wide. “Joengbloed produces a moment even Gordon Banks would autograph.”
The Dutch keeper was an interesting character. Aged 34 he was an amateur before the tournament, running a shop, but was poised for a move to Ajax at the end of the competition. Expected to be third choice, his mobility allowed him to act as an additional sweeper and he was brought into the side to enhance its Total Football concept. At this moment he was the man keeping his side in the final.
West Germany were rampant and Uli Hoeness was the key man, running riot down the left hand side of the field. He was aided by Jurgen Grabowski on the opposite flank who was coming more and more into the game, Coleman noting that he was “showing the touches which undid England four years ago.”
Marshalling the German resurgence was “Der Kaiser”. Beckenbauer was probing and prompting from his sweeper role and almost put his side in front with a chipped free kick, Joengbloed forced to tip the ball over the bar acrobatically.
Responses from the Dutch were spasmodic but they should have regained the lead when Cruyff and Jonny Rep worked themselves into a two on one situation with a counter attack, Cruyff feeding Rep who was denied by Sepp Maier rushing out to block the shot. David Coleman recognised the importance of the save as he commented: “Chances like that don’t come easily…Holland should lead 2-1.”
It was to prove a critical moment. The Germans were now playing Total Football themselves, Hoeness on the right now firing in a shot well held by Joengbloed. The keeper was powerless though two minutes before the break when West Germany went in front. Rainer Bonhoff was the creator bursting down the right hand side and firing the ball across the goal. It was collected by Muller who failed to control the ball properly but typically turned to steer the ball goalwards past an upright Joengbloed into the corner of the net.
It was almost too much for Johan Cruyff to take who spent the remaining minutes of the half berating Jack Taylor, and continued to do so as the half time whistle went and the players walked off the pitch. Taylor had heard enough and booked the Dutch skipper. It was clear that the Dutch were rattled and had been knocked out of their stride. The question was what could they do during the interval to get back on track?
The Dutch started the second half slowly, allowing Bonhoff a free header from a corner early on, lucky to escape with the effort flying just wide of the post. Holland needed something to kick start their comeback, and it was some German theatrics that sparked them into life.
Again it was Cruyff who was at the centre of the action, this time going in for a 50/50 ball with Maier in the German area. The Dutch maestro caught the keeper who, sensing an opportunity to get Cruyff sent off, rolled around on the floor several times. This saw a gaggle of German players surround the Holland skipper, trying to provoke the reaction that would remove the biggest danger to their World Cup dream.
In fact the opposite occurred as the Dutch woke from their slumber and took the game by the scruff of the neck. Maier almost gifted Holland an equalizer with a wild punch from a corner, the ball almost flying into his own net, Brietner saving the keepers blushes by heading the ball off the line.
Another foul on Cruyff, this time by Overath, gave Holland a free kick which was drifted into the area. Stealing in on the blind side of Beckenbauer, Van Hannegan headed goalwards but was thwarted by Maier’s comfortable save.
Muller offered the Germans a threat still at the other end and did get the ball in the net, but was clearly offside. It was a brief respite for the hosts as wave after wave of orange shirts flooded goalwards in an effort to grab an equalizer. Brietner again was in the right place at the right time to prevent Cruyff from getting an effort on goal, putting the ball behind for another corner.
Neeskens was the next to be denied, a superb volley at the back post pushed behind by Maier. Moments later the keeper was at work again, perfectly positioned to handle a long range effort from substitute Theo De Jong.
Desperation was now setting in for the Dutch and they squandered a golden opportunity with Jonny Rep once again the culprit. This time the striker just failed to touch the ball into the net as the ball flew across the face of goal, Coleman prematurely calling the goal: “Yes Rep” before coming to the realisation that the chance had gone begging, “Oh how did he miss.”
Still the Dutch kept coming, Cruyff winning the ball superbly in the midfield before finding Rep with an exquiste pass executed with the outside of the right foot. Once again though Rep was wasteful, slashing his shot right across the face of the goal and just beyond the far post. David Coleman could see that the hosts were barely hanging on, observing “West Germany living on a tightrope.”
The safety of the final whistle was within reach for the West Germans though, and they made one last desperate lunge for glory. Once again it was Holzenbein who burst into the Dutch box, Jansen once again diving in to make the tackle. Incredibly Jack Taylor waved this one away, perhaps realising he had had the wool pulled over his eyes in the first half, handing the Dutch a final chance.
They so nearly took it, Neeskens flashing an effort just past the post but it was not to be for the Dutch. Despite reinventing the game and writing themselves a lasting legacy in the history of the sport, they could not take the ultimate prize. The exultant cry of “West Germany are the Champions of the World” from Coleman signalled the beginning of German dominance of world football which would last for the next 20 years. For Cruyff, the greatest talent of his generation, it would be his final hurrah on the world stage. Whilst his career would continue for club and country, he would never play in a World Cup again.