1974 World Cup – Part 3
Part 3 of my 1974 World Cup series, written to celebrate my 10 years writing this Blog and 40 years to the month of me watching in awe men in coloured shirts kicking a football around on a tiny television screen in my front room.
1974 World Cup – Part 3
I remember almost every game was played in torrential rain and this was decades before covered seating and prawn sandwiches at half-time. For the television viewer sat at home, the soddy pitches and downpours only made the games more exciting.
It was the Dutch who starred in the 1st Round. They arrived without any kind of fanfare after struggling through the qualification stages, and having no previous Finals pedigree. The Oranje’s last appearance at a Finals was in the 1930’s, but the appointment of Barcelona manager Rinus Michels as coach just three months before the tournament was the catalyst for this momentous side of 1974.
Michels was a former Ajax coach and he built his team around the stars of the all-conquering Ajax club side and they cut a swathe through the group stages, their unique and spellbinding brand of ‘Total Football,’ had fans around the world looking on in awe and in the process won the hearts of a whole new generation of football fans.
The Dutch topped Group 3 after beginning with a 2-0 win over a physical Uruguay in rare sunshine. Johnny Rep scored both goals and then the Dutch finished off with an impressive 4-1 rout of Bulgaria, who spent the majority of the 2nd half chasing orange shadows around the pitch. The win was enough for The Netherlands to top the group and qualify for the last eight along with the Swedes.
The moment every football fan remembers from those Group 3 games though was during the goalless Netherlands v Sweden match. With the Swedes playing for a point, the game ordinarily would have easily been forgotten except for the television premiere of the ‘Cruyff Turn’.
Receiving the ball just outside the Swedish area, Cruyff’s control at first appeared to have let him down. Facing away from goal, he looked as if he was about to try and pass the defender on his left, a right back called Gunnar Olsson. Cruyff feinted to move back away from the goal, but then in a deft movement he swivelled his entire body in the same direction and took off to the luckless defender’s right, towards the Swedish goal-line. The move came to nothing but that clip will never get old to me, and that tiny moment in time memorialized Cruyff to football fans the world over.
The Poles also stood out in the 1st Round as they stormed through Group 4 with maximum points. They beat Argentina 3-2 in their first game, which was more comfortable than the scoreline suggested before sweeping aside Haiti scoring 5 goals in the space of 34 minutes. Szarmach scored a hat-trick as the Poles won 7-0.
Poland had already qualified before they met Italy, who only needed a draw to make the 2nd Round. However by half-time the 1970 World Cup runners-up were facing a shock exit. The Poles led 2-0 with goals from Szarmach and a brilliant snap shot by Deyna.
Italy could only grab a late consolation through Capello which meant that Italy were out. After the match, the Italian fans pelted the team bus with missiles and 3,500 angry fans waited for the disgraced Azzurri at Milan airport to greet them.
With Italy losing, Argentina only had to beat Haiti to earn an unexpected passage to the next round which they did despite a spirited Haitian display. Argentina were fortunate to make it, especially as their time in Stuttgart had been blighted by a rape claim against Roberto Telch, accused of raping a 17-year old hotel chambermaid, but subsequently not charged.
Haiti’s pre-tournament coverage had been mostly been about their voodoo rituals, but they endeared themselves to me never before knowing where this tiny nation was, but upon research their one moment of football glory was marred by defender Ernst Jean-Joseph’s failed drug test. He left West Germany to never be heard off again, but national hero Emmanuel Sanon, the scorer of both Haiti’s 1974 goals including the one that gave them a six minute lead against the mighty Italians (photo above) was forever a hero in his homeland.
Whilst Holland became my obsession during that summer of 1974, it was to the north of the border that I hung my scarf. In major competitions I have always had a soft spot for the home nations, even at an age when I should know better, and this all began in Dortmund when in England’s absence Scotland carried the flag for Britain opening up with a rather fortunate win against the flair of Zaire.
The game wasn’t great often descending into a bit of a kicking match, although with the likes of Lorimer and Bremner, the Scots could handle themselves against a surprisingly spiteful Brazilian side. As the game progressed the crowd’s favour turned against the Brazilians who had charmed everyone four years previously and towards the Scots as they got on top. Then in a moment that Scotsman will painfully remember Billy Bremner missed an open goal when it seemed easier to score (photo).
The game ended 0-0, which with Yugoslavia thrashing Zaire 9-0 meant that qualification was still wide open.
I remember thinking how great the Yugoslavians were in that game, but I now understand that Zaire were so poor. The Slav’s 9-0 win was the biggest at a Finals until 1982, when Hungary defeated El Salvador 10-1 and the Balkans humiliated the sub-Saharan African nation, yet the Leopards regained their pride in their last game with much more courageous performance against Brazil. After departing the world stage, the Leopards returned to become nobodies again in their homeland as political strife ensued. There is a great article here on Zaire’s 1974 World Cup.
That Brazil win over Zaire and Scotland’s failure to beat Yugoslavia in their last game meant the Scots had to pack their bags. It was a glorious failure, unbeaten, but a team that contained Daglish, Bremner, Jordan, Lorimer, Harvey, McGrain, Jardine, McQueen and Denis Law should’ve done better and allowed the Tartan Army another week in the West German rain.
Both the German teams had won their opening game, the hosts against Chile in front of 83,000 in Berlin, a city divided by a wall, Carlos Caszely of Chile becoming the first player to receive a red card at a World Cup Finals in that game. Meanwhile East Germany won against Australia in front of just 10,000 spectators in Hamburg.
The West Germans also beat Australia with Gerd Müller getting his name on the scoresheet for the first time in the tournament. Chile held the DDR to a 1-1 draw, meaning that the hosts place was already secure before their final game against their ‘brothers’ from behind the Iron Curtain.
The West Germans started the games as favourites. Besides being at home, they were defending European champions, and had a core of players from the Bayern Munich, the European Champions.
The game took place in Hamburg and only 1,500 specially selected East German fans were allowed to travel to Hamburg by train for the match watched by a crowd of 60,000.
The game was not unexpectedly staid, but in the 77th minute Sparwasser got in between three West German defenders and dinked the ball over the legendary Sepp Maier to give the DDR a surprise victory that meant they topped the group.
Paradoxically that gave the East Germans a tougher route than the West Germans, but it was a win that those 1,500 fans in particular will never forget.
A few years later match winner Jürgen Sparwasser defected to the West before the fall of the Berlin Wall.