World Cups remembered: West Germany 1974
By Stephen Joyce
Last Updated: 07/06/18 10:24am
The Dutch delighted the neutrals, the hosts ran out winners while England failed to make the finals.
Hosts claim the crown in spite of Dutch courage
Way back in 1954, the greatest team on the planet came to the World Cup.
The team was Hungary and victory in the Switzerland finals seemed a certainty.
They had come to Wembley nine months earlier and beaten Stanley Matthews' England 6-3, the first overseas side ever to win at Wembley.
But they lost the World Cup final - to a vastly inferior West Germany side.
Some 20 years later, an eerie echo of that final was to be heard again.
British interest was diluted by England's infamous qualification failure against Poland but the Scots had made it and hopes were high.
They were handed a tough qualification group headed by Brazil but now Pele, Tostao and Carlos Alberto had all gone and an opening goalless draw with Yugoslavia showed that even the likes of Rivelino and Jairzinho were shadows of their former selves.
Scotland earned a creditable draw with both Brazil (0-0) and Yugoslavia (1-1, with a last-minute equaliser from Joe Jordan) but their downfall was only putting two past group whipping-boys Zaire.
The African minnows did their best to entertain, especially when one of their men dashed out of the wall at the referee's whistle to belt the ball 60 yards downfield while a bemused Rivelinho set himself to take the free-kick.
But when Brazil beat them 3-0 in their final game, they had edged the Scots out on goal difference.
Home hopes were sky high thanks to a cunning blend of youth and experience.
Political tension was stepped up when the hosts lost to their Communist neighbours from East Germany in the final group game leaving both sides of the Berlin Wall qualifying.
Poland, who were called lucky at Wembley with a clown of a goalkeeper, actually performed well having taken their place in the finals.
They beat a decent Argentina side 3-2, thrashed Haiti 7-0 and then maintained a 100 per cent record with a 2-1 win over Italy, leaving the Azzurri to go home from a World Cup early again.
But all eyes were quickly on Group C where the Netherlands team had unveiled their new brand of 'Total Football'.
Gathered from Feyenoord and Ajax, who between them had won four European Cups in a row, the Dutch swept through their group unbeaten with the goals of Johnny Rep, the industry of Johan Neeskens, the craft of Wim van Hanegem and the calm of Ruud Krol.
But above them all was the star of the moment Johan Cruyff, arguably a left-winger, who had pace, two feet, scored goals and chain-smoked his way to superstar status.
Netherlands went into a second-phase group with Brazil, Argentina and East Germany and simply toyed with them, scoring eight without conceding a single goal.
By now, the neutrals had found their World Cup winners and back home pundits struggled to find praise high enough for the men in orange.
In the other group, the West Germans went their methodical way, collecting three victories out of three including a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the talented Poles.
Instead of quarters and semi-finals, the group winners went straight to the final and in Munich's Olympic Stadium, the West Germans were primed to be another sideshow to a Dutch master class.
Netherlands kicked off, kept possession for 60 seconds with a bewildering array of interchanged passes, till Cruyff retreated to the halfway line, picked up the ball from Krol, played a one-two and burst through the narrowest of gaps in the German defence only to be hauled down by man-marker Berti Vogts.
English referee Jack Taylor pointed to the spot and Netherlands had a penalty inside one minute which Neeskens tucked away. The Germans had not even touched the ball!
Everyone sat back and waited for the extravaganza.
Well, everyone except the Germans, who harried, huffed and hustled their way back into the game.
It was not pretty and plenty of fouls were committed along the way with Cruyff being a notable victim.
Midway through the half, Holzenbein sprawled over Wim Jansen's tackle and the Germans levelled from the spot from socialist, human rights campaigner Paul Breitner.
The Germans now believed and the Dutch found their fluid total football running dry.
In the final moments of the first half, Germany raided down the right and the cross was only stabbed out by Krol's outstretched leg to Gerd Muller.
The pint-sized striker drove it home in an instant and Netherlands went in to hear Rinus Michels' half-time team talk.
The Dutch did revive in the second half and Neeskens, with the straggly hair and the sideburns, fired the best chance inches wide.
Germany, marshalled superbly by Franz Beckenbauer, grew more comfortable as the match wore on and long before the end, it was obvious the Dutch were going to blow the greatest prize.
It was a trait that was to reappear in major tournaments many times in the future while the Germans were to demonstrate time and again how to win despite being second best.
Player of the tournament: Johan Cruyff
He began answering questions in faltering English but by the day of the final, Johan Cruyff was almost fluent and a household name.
Greyhound thin and whippet-fast, Cruyff was the inspiration of the great Ajax side of the early 1970s and had once destroyed Liverpool, inspiring a 5-1 Anfield mauling.
In Germany, he was at his peak.
Whether zipping past defenders with blistering pace or cutting in from the left to unleash a ferocious shot, Cruyff was the undoubted star of the 1974 World Cup.
His innovative 180-degree turn inside his own stance not only mesmerised his marker in the Sweden clash but spawned a generation of playground imitators.
He scored 33 goals in 48 internationals and should have played a key role in the 1978 World Cup - where the Dutch were again runners-up - but was in dispute with the Dutch FA.
Unlike Moore and Pele in our previous trips down Memory Lane, he went back to Amsterdam after the 1974 final with only a loser's medal.
When Taylor blew that final whistle, millions sympathised with the distraught Cruyff.
Goal of the tournament: Cruyff v Brazil
There was some power shooting from Breitner, a superb volley from over his shoulder by Sweden's Ralf Edstrom but the winner had to be a Dutch goal.
Netherlands were the ultimate fluid passing team and their clinching second goal in their final second-phase match against world champions Brazil summed their philosophy up.
Rob Rensenbrink had drifted out to Cruyff's favoured position on the left, cut inside before releasing Rudi Krol down the left.
The cultured defender charged down the flank before looking up to see Cruyff sprinting down the middle trying to catch up with the speed of the move.
Krol's cross fizzed over at waist height and, without breaking stride, Cruyff blasted the ball into the top corner with a side-footed volley.
Brazil had come to Germany to play a physical European-style game and had been overshadowed by a European team with Latin American skills.
Match of the tournament: Netherlands 4, Argentina 0
Netherlands produced an array of dazzling performances but their 4-0 destruction of Argentina in the second phase was sensational.
Despite boasting South American Player of the Year Ruben Ayala, the British-born Rene Houseman and a young Mario Kempes, the Argentines were dismissed with barely a thought.
Cruyff pulled a shoulder-high ball down and skipped around the keeper to put the Dutch ahead and, despite playing the match in a downpour, Krol, Rep and Cruyff added further goals in a complete attacking display.
Unfortunately, when they needed it in the final, the magic went missing.
England failed to qualify for the tournament after finishing as runners-up behind Poland in Group 5.
Things could have been different for the Three Lions had they not been held to a home draw versus Poland in their final clash.
Wales were drawn in the same group as the English and ended up bottom of the standings with three points to their name.
Northern Ireland finished third out of four sides in qualifying Group 6 after they won just one of their six matches.
Scotland booked their place at the finals after they topped their qualifying group. The Scots won three of their four clashes.
They began the 1974 World Cup with a victory as they defeated Zaire 2-0 thanks to goals from Peter Lorimer and Joe Jordan.
Scotland then performed well versus Brazil as they battled for a 0-0 stalemate.
But their tournament ended despite Jordan snatching a late 1-1 draw versus Yugoslavia, as goal difference saw them finish third in Group 3.