1974 World Cup – Part 4
Part 4 of my 1974 World Cup series, which I wrote to commemorate 10 years of this Blog and 40 years to the month of me watching in awe men in coloured shirts, particularly those in orange, introducing me to the beautiful game.
1974 World Cup – Part 4
In the 2nd round Group A was comprised of Argentina, Brazil, East Germany and Holland, with the glorious East Germans now finding themselves in an impossible group despite overcoming their neighbours in the 1st Round to top Group 1.
Poland, Sweden, West Germany and Yugoslavia were in Group B and with no semi-finals, the teams who finished top of their respective groups would go straight through to the World Cup Final.
Brazil began with something approaching their old swagger, beating East Germany 1-0, then Argentina 2-1, but they were on a different planet to the Netherlands as the second stage saw the Oranje really get into gear.
My young eyes watched wide open as Cruyff was at his mercurial best. First of all they hammered Argentina 4-0 in Gelsenkirchen, then eased past the East Germans and then compounded the new world order of international football by soundly beating the Brazilians, who had Luis Periera sent off. Mind you Brazil could have had 12 men, they could not get near the Dutch as Neeskens and Cruyff scored two memorable goals to put them into the Final.
Meanwhile, in Group B slowly but surely the West Germans had finally started to click. Spurred on by an inspirational Franz Beckenbauer, they beat Yugoslavia 2-0 and Sweden 4-2 to set up a crucial decider with Poland, a match the West Germans only needed to draw.
The Poles were good though with Grzegorz Lato sublime. They looked strong in seeing off the challenges of Sweden and Yugoslavia and were yet to be defeated in the tournament and in Lato they had the Finals’ top scorer. He had scored a vital second-half winner in the 2-1 victory over Yugoslavia that brought Poland face-to-face with West Germany for a place in the final
So Netherlands’ opponents would be decided in the last group game. Torrential rain caused the kick-off to be delayed due to a waterlogged pitch, as the Frankfurt fire brigade were brought in to pump water from the quagmire. Poland’s best chances came in the first half, Robert Gadocha and the prolific Lato forcing Maier into a couple of excellent saves before Bayern Munich’s Gerd Müller snatched West Germany’s winner 14 minutes from time.
The 1974 World Cup Final was set.
In the 3rd Place play-off Poland beat a reputation-tarnished Brazilian team as Lato scored his 7th goal to confirm his golden boot status in Munich’s Olympiastadion a day before everyone’s favourites the Dutch were to take on the hosts West Germany.