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Football World Cup - 1974: West Germany

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The World Cup: An Introduction | 1930: Uruguay | 1934: Italy | 1938: France | 1950: Brazil
1954: Switzerland | 1958: Sweden | 1962: Chile | 1966: England | 1970: Mexico
1974: West Germany | 1978: Argentina | 1982: Spain | 1986: Mexico | 1990: Italy | 1994: USA
1998: France | 2002: Japan and South Korea

A new trophy, known simply as The FIFA World Cup, was created by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga to replace the Jules Rimet Cup, now the property of Brazil following their third World Cup triumph in 1970. There was no shortage of teams wanting to get hold of the new trophy. Ninety-eight countries took part in the qualifying tournament, and as usual there were some high-profile failures on the road to the finals. England were among them, having lost out to Poland in their qualifying group. France, Spain and Hungary also failed to reach the finals. First-time qualifiers included East Germany, Haiti, Australia and Zaire, the first team from sub-Saharan Africa to reach the World Cup finals.

The 1974 World Cup finals saw a change in the format of the tournament. The first round remained the same: four groups of four teams, with the top two teams from each group progressing to the second round. But that second round was now also played in groups of four. The top teams from each of the two second-round groups would contest the final, while the runners-up in the second-round groups would play off for third place.

The Tournament

Two teams made a particularly powerful impact on the first round. The Netherlands demonstrated the 'total football' techniques pioneered by the top Dutch club Ajax, in which specialised positions were virtually abolished for the outfield players, and individual players became defenders, midfielders or strikers as the situation required. The Dutch marked their World Cup finals debut by topping their first-round group, with wins over Uruguay and Bulgaria and a draw with Sweden.

Poland, meanwhile, took maximum points from a group containing two of the favourites for the tournament. They beat Argentina 3-2, trounced Haiti 7-0, then beat Italy 2-1 - a result that knocked the Italians out of the Cup.

Group 2 was a particularly close-run thing. Brazil, Yugoslavia and Scotland all beat the group's whipping boys Zaire. Every other game played in the group was drawn. So the three top teams all finished with four points, and what separated them was their respective margins of victory against Zaire. Yugoslavia hammered them 9-0. Brazil beat them 3-0. Scotland could only manage a 2-0 margin, and so were edged out of the tournament on goal difference1. After holding the mighty Brazil to a goalless draw, and going through the group unbeaten, the Scots were entitled to feel very unlucky to be eliminated.

Group 1 contained both East and West Germany, and they both progressed at the expense of Chile and Australia. But the clash between the two Germanies caused a sensation, as the poor relations from the east pulled off a 1-0 win. The embarrassing result caused panic in the West German camp, despite the fact that they were safely through to the quarter-finals. Team captain Franz Beckenbauer held a crisis meeting with his team-mates, and appeared on television to try to explain what had happened to a shocked West German public.

Ironically, the two second-round groups both produced matches that were, in effect, semi-finals. In Group A, the Netherlands and Brazil met after each had taken maximum points from their previous two matches. In Group B, the same was true of West Germany and Poland - so the winners of these two games would contest the final.

In Group A, two goals from the inspirational Johan Cruyff helped the Dutch side thrash Argentina 4-0. East Germany were then beaten 2-0 to set up a decisive match with Brazil, who'd beaten the East Germans 1-0 and Argentina 2-1.

The crucial match between the Netherlands and Brazil turned into another triumph for 'total football', as second-half goals from Johan Neeskens and Cruyff put the Netherlands in the final.

Meanwhile, in Group B, West Germany and Poland both managed to beat Yugoslavia and Sweden. The crucial game between the Germans and the Poles was goalless until the 76th minute, when Gerd Muller scored to send the hosts through 1-0.

The final could hardly have started any worse for West Germany. The Netherlands attacked right from the kick-off, and Cruyff was fouled as he ran into the German penalty area. Johan Neeskens converted the resulting penalty, and the Germans were a goal down before they'd even touched the ball.

But West Germany fought back, and in the 25th minute they won a penalty of their own, which Paul Breitner converted. Beckenbauer, Wolfgang Overath and Berti Vogts2 began to dominate the midfield, and kept Cruyff under control. Shortly before half-time, Gerd Muller struck to put West Germany ahead.

There were no more goals in the second half. West Germany were world champions for the second time, 20 years after their success in Switzerland, and Franz Beckenbauer became the first team captain to lift the new World Cup trophy.

Tournament Trivia

Haiti didn't do particularly well in their first World Cup finals, losing all three of their games. But they did have one moment of glory. In their game against Italy, they managed to take the lead with a goal from Emmanuel Sanon, before eventually losing 3-1.

Scoring against Italy was no mean feat. Sanon's goal brought to an end Italy's record-breaking run of matches without conceding a goal. Before their encounter with Haiti, Italy had gone through 12 matches without a single goal being scored against them. They'd played a total of 19 hours and two minutes, or 1,142 minutes, without anyone managing to score against them before Sanon struck.

Scotland may have been disappointed to go out in the first round, but they did have the small consolation of ending the 1974 World Cup finals as the only unbeaten team. The Scots went out despite not losing a match, while eventual winners West Germany progressed despite losing their 'local derby' with East Germany.

For The Record

First Round

Group 1
  P W D L F A Pts
East Germany 3210415
West Germany3201414

Group 2
  P W D L F A Pts
Yugoslavia 31201014

Group 3
  P W D L F A Pts
Netherlands 3210615

Group 4
  P W D L F A Pts
Poland 33001236

Second Round

Group A
  P W D L F A Pts
Netherlands 3300806
East Germany3012141

Group B
  P W D L F A Pts
West Germany 3300726

Third Place Play-Off
Poland 1 : 0 Brazil

West Germany 2 : 1 Netherlands

Tournament Top Goalscorer
Lato (Poland) - 7 goals

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1 Goal difference is a formula used in many football competitions to separate teams with the same number of points. To find a team's goal difference, you simply subtract the number of goals they've conceded from the number of goals they've scored. In this instance, Yugoslavia had scored ten goals and conceded one, giving them a goal difference of nine. Brazil had scored three and conceded none, so their goal difference was three. Scotland had scored three and conceded one - so their goal difference was two, and they were out of the Cup. 2Who became manager of Scotland in March 2002.

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