CZECHOSLOVAKIA 2 WEST GERMANY 2 – 1976 European Championship Final – The Red Star Stadium, Belgrade – 20th June 1976

A truly iconic football image. The moment the Panenka was created

West Germany had come to dominate the football world over the four years from 1972 to 1976.  They had become European Champions in 1972 and World Champions in 1974, and Bayern Munich’s three consecutive European Cups had seen them become the dominant force in European Club football.

However in Belgrade in June 1976, the first cracks in this footballing empire began to appear. They had been run incredibly close in the semi-final by Yugoslavia (see previous post) and in the final against Czechoslovakia they would lose the first of their crowns to a moment that has entered the footballing lexicon.

One of the central figures in the Bayern/West Germany axis was Der Kaiser himself. Franz Beckenbauer had lifted all five of the trophies earned by the two teams over the last four seasons and the 1976 European Championship final would be his 100th cap, the first German to reach this landmark. It was fully expected that he would complete this personal milestone with another triumph.

Czechoslovakia though were not going to be a pushover. Since their 3-0 defeat to England in their opening qualifier back in October 1974, the Czechs had been unbeaten, knocking Don Revie’s side out of the competition as well as seeing off the Dutch in the semi-finals.

The Czechs were forced into one change from the semi-final win over Holland after Jaroslav Pollak’s red card, Jan Svehlik coming into the side. West Germany made one change, an inevitable one giving hsi semi-final heroics, as Dieter Muller came in for his first international start in place of Dietmar Danner.

Unusually the BBC did not have any coverage of the game whatsoever (preferring to show The Onedin Line and the film The Battle of Britain) so ITV had the field to themselves, Brian Moore on duty live from Belgrade.

He had a goal to describe inside eight minutes as  Svehlik put the Czechs ahead. It came from a mistake by Berti Vogts who gave the ball away carelessly inside his own box to the goalscorer. His initial effort was palmed away by Sepp Maier into the path of Zdenek Nehoda who pulled the ball back across the face of goal for Svehlik to sidefoot into the empty net.

Unlike in the semi-final, where they had been played off the park in the opening stages, West Germany looked to hit back immediately and a lovely ball down the inside right channel but Erich Beer in on goal, but he was denied by a block from the onrushing keeper, Ivo Viktor.

West Germany continued to pour forward and it was Viktor who would be the busier keeper. Rainer Bonhoff tested him with a powerful driving shot which the Czech custodian punched into the air.

Beckenbauer was in imperious mode at the back, starting most of the German’s attacks. One such pass out saw Herbert Wimmer attack down the right hand side. Hoeness was next in possession sweeping the ball across the box towards Beer, who cleverly left the ball giving Holzenbein time to steady himself and pick his spot. Incredibly though Viktor managed to get across the goal and produced a superb one handed save at full stretch to prevent the ball from arrowing into the top corner.

It seemed as if the stars were aligned for the Czech’s when they went 2-0 up on 25 minutes.  A free kick into the area from Marian Masny was headed away by Beckenbauer straight to the feet of Karol Dobias who rifled the ball back low and hard and into the net from 25 yards.

The Germans were stunned, and should have been put away for good just seconds later when Masny got away from Schwarzenbeck and slid the ball under Maier, only to see the ball roll agonisingly past the post.

That seemed to be the turning point in the game as West Germany pulled a goal back on 28 minutes. Herbert Wimmer made a great run from the midfield, feeding Bonhoff on the right hand side of the area and his cross found Dieter Muller who continued his incredible start to his international career by volleying home from eight yards out.

The holders would create one more opportunity before the break and it was Bonhoff involved again, bringing out another fine save from Viktor after bursting forward from midfield.

After the break  West Germany were sloppy in defence as they struggled to clear the ball from their box, allowing Svehlik to shoot just wide and prompting Brian Moore to comment that it was ” a muddleheaded start to the second half.”

Helmut Schoen had made a change at half time, introducing Heinz Flohe for the veteran Wimmer, and the substitute had West Germany’s first meaningful effort of the second period, cutting in from the right hand side and firing an effort wide of the post.

The Czechs found themselves under pressure for long periods of the second half as the West Germans pressed for an equaliser and Viktor was once again a busy man, rushing out quickly to block Beer who had linked up nicely with Muller.

Sepp Maier was not a spectator though and he was forced into a full length save to deny Jozef Moder who had bustled his way through the German defence to carve out a shooting opportunity.

The action flowed incessantly from end to end and Viktot again blocked an effort from Beer after the striker had made an excellent turn inside the area to create the space.

It looked as if the Gods were smiling on Czechoslovakia as they caught a lucky break to prevent the holders from levelling the match. Hoeness collected the ball after Viktor had punched the ball clear and returned the ball goalwards. The shot hit the back of Dobias back into the path of Hoeness who poked the ball back towards the goal only to see the ball cannon back of the post and he was unable to get a third bite at the cherry as Viktor pounced on the ball.

The Czech keeper was proving to be a wall that the West Germans were unable to breach a second time. First Bonhoff burst into the area and struck a rising shot that Viktor pushed away from point blank range. Then Beckenbauer was denied as his 35 yard shot was pushed away at full stretch.

Pushing forward so much left room for the Czechoslovakians to exploit at the back and with just moments to go Nehoda should have wrapped things up. Masny crossed from the right and found the Czech striker who had risen a la Pele against Banks in Mexico 70, only to see his downwards header come back off the upright.

Then, as would become so typical over the years, West Germany struck at the death to take the match into extra time. With the Czechoslovakians so close to victory, they simply switched off at a corner and allowed Holzenbein to rise up Viktor to head home from Bonhoff’s delivery with the last touch of normal time.

It would have been understandable had the Czechoslovakians crumbled in extra time, but to their credit they dug in and the extra half hour would see little in the way of goalmouth action. With both sides having agreed to forego a replay which would have extended a long season by another game, the match would be decided with a penalty shootout.

This would be the first international trophy to be decided in such a fashion, and Brian Moore had to explain the format to viewers. Marian Masny was the first to go and was successful, despite Maier being well off his line as the kick was taken. Bonhoff was first for the Germans, and was fortunate to see his spot kick go in off the inside of the post.

It was Uli Hoeness who would crack, smashing the eighth penalty of the shoot out high over the crossbar, leaving Antonin Panenka with the chance to win the European Championship should he hold his nerve, and score with the Czechoslovakians 5th kick.

The rest as they say is history, as Panenka waited for Maier to dive out of the way and calmly dinked the ball into the empty space that the West German keeper had left. “He’s done it and they’ve won it” said Moore as the man from Bohemians of Prague created a piece of football history and wrote himself into it’s folklore.

 

 

 

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