Now mature and at the age of 15, this World Cup produces far fewer memories than one would expect. The reason might be that at the age of puberty, the opposite sex suddenly exerted a fascination triggered by apparent aloofness? While at previous ages the whole thing seemed quite unproblematic to me and I could easily admit to infatuations even at the age of 10, 11 or 12, it was at 15 — when you gradually found out that at some point you would also have to “do” something physical besides kissing — that approach seemed inconceivable to me. The irrevocable separation and divorce of my parents may have contributed to the fact that other things became the focus of my life, or even that my entire world view swayed a little. Last but not least, it should be mentioned that I had learned to play chess in the meantime and had become addicted to it instead of being a girl.
In this respect, I would like to highlight here only the really fascinating moments that simply had to imprint themselves on my memory, even if it is only mine. For I do think that many a consideration has not yet been made publicly, but guaranteed not vocally, and could cause some amazement.
A World Cup in Germany (politically correct, of course, would be: in the FRG…) could be considered something very special, especially for a football enthusiast, as I was for a long time, that matches take place in one’s own country and one has the chance to watch them live. It should also be mentioned in passing that the best players in the world were here. Not only did matches take place in our own country, but one match of the German team was even played in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin! Nevertheless, this aspect left me surprisingly cool. I didn’t want tickets. For me it had something to do with the sporting value. For me, the case was clear that Germany would get through the preliminary round. There was no tension in that sense that I felt. The fact that the group opponents of the Germans, Chile, Australia and the GDR, who were even then less well-known, were either the luck of the draw that so often occurred later on or whether they were “thrown” at them once for this tournament of all tournaments, did not matter to me. They will make it through the preliminary round, one way or another. And in this case there are neither “ifs” nor “buts”….
The first two games were won in absolutely colourless performances. Against Chile 2:0, against Nobody Australia 3:0, but I don’t look into the database for that either. If any of the results are wrong, please send complaints to my e-mail address. Especially since for the explosive last duel against the GDR I would also have to know with which result the GDR finished these two games, just so that I would know whether a draw would have been enough for the West German team to finish second. Does that fall under the so-called polemics? I think it would not have been enough and a defeat was necessary….
But first things first: So FRG versus GDR was the name of the “explosive duel”. And such an international match could only be played under such circumstances in the times of the Cold War. The circumstances were that it was a compulsory match. For any other encounter, the term “enemy game” would probably have had to be added to the linguistic usage. In any case, the winner of this encounter on that memorable evening in Hamburg was in for a rich “reward”. In the intermediate rounds, the winner was treated to a couple of real walkovers: Brazil, Argentina and the Netherlands. The loser, on the other hand, got into a really tough group. Now, I could imagine that the aspect of spectator interest was rather subordinate. So the losers had such illustrious names as Sweden, Yugoslavia and Poland.
In view of these top-flight players, it’s not a bad idea to list their successes: Sweden reached the final once. That was at the World Cup in ’58 and, surprise, surprise, it took place in Sweden. The Yugoslavs were certainly in the semi-finals once, and even the Poles managed to reach it once. Whereas in the other group, nobody Brazil had five titles, Argentina only two and the Netherlands had none at all!
Under these circumstances, can anyone seriously believe that Germany’s footballers would tear themselves apart to finally meet Brazil? Who can really believe that this prestigious duel, which for decades went down as a highlight in the history of the GDR and is regarded as a disgrace for the Federal Germans, was conducted with identical commitment, with the same will to win? The GDR had achieved its dream goal with the legendary victory. They were only outsiders in the tournament anyway and could pin this great victory on their flags. But the FRG team? They were happy to leave glory and honour to their opponents in that game. They had another declared goal: to win the title of football world champion. And when the GDR kickers were unable to crack the West German “defensive bar” for a long time, they were even helped along a bit by Sepp Maier, among others, falling down on Sparwasser’s shot attempt in the 79th minute, rather like the model “railway barrier”. Afterwards, in obvious agony over the carelessness of his back-men – well, front-men from his point of view – he pulled off a much better save. Immediately after the ball hit the ground, he threw himself on the ground again in anger and indignation. My theory is that he didn’t want to let on that he was laughing, so he plunged his face into the ploughed-up ground. The other German footballers were better actors, their joy and relief was hardly noticeable…
The intermediate round, which was still being played at the time, consisted of four teams, each of which had to play against the other, and the two winners of which met in the final, as expected. The GDR collected their defeats and finished last in the group. The Dutch team, which was very strong at the time, was not even surprisingly able to prevail against the South American players from Brazil and Argentina, who were often not so convincing on our continent. With the outstanding Johann Cruyff, they had an absolutely gigantic leader of a perfectly rehearsed squad.
In a really great match, the German team defeated the Swedes 4-2 in a rain-drenched battle, defeated Yugoslavia 2-0 as expected, and only needed not to lose to Poland in the last group match to secure their place in the final. The fact that this match had a memorable character for a World Cup is not so much due to the explosive nature of the match or the drama of its course, but rather to the fact that the weather was unkind to the organisers just this once. There was even talk of postponing the match because the turf was simply unplayable after thunderstorms and other extreme rainfall. I still remember seeing the numerous helpers rushing across the pitch with their huge rollers, trying to tame the masses of water. The German team was lucky in that the game started under irregular conditions – so as not to jeopardise the schedule – and the opponents would have had to score a goal to win, while the Germans only had to keep the score at 0-0. And a goal was really not to be expected, since you could usually only move the ball forward a few metres, unless you managed to shoot it high. Only, such a game-building strategy is usually unsuitable for scoring a goal. The Germans were then awarded a penalty, in the 81st minute as far as I know, which was then converted by Gerd Müller to make it 1-0. Germany was in the final. Thanks to the class enemy and his self-sacrificing effort!
The opponent there was the truly outstanding Dutch team, who simply deserved to win. I watched the game a few times later and may I just say: the worse won. Now this is not necessarily an absolutely curious exception. They weren’t that much worse. But it always hits the same team that had to claim luck for their victories. And little by little it becomes noticeable….
The following little things were curious about this game: Before a German player had even touched the ball once, Johann Cruyff had already entered the German penalty area with one of his irresistible solos. He was unstoppable. Berti Vogts and Uli Hoeneß (!) tried it together and you can certainly win some bets with that: It was indeed Hoeneß who caused the equally surprisingly awarded penalty. Johann Neeskens had a strategy for converting that was not copied so often later: He hammered the ball with full force onto the goal. The main thing was to hit the goal. And let someone hold it from a distance (to bear witness once again at this point to my chaotic state of mind with its numerous erratic associations, but also to my football knowledge: There was a repetition of such a penalty tactic: at the 1996 European Championship in England, France was paired against the Czech Republic in the semi-finals. And there it came to a penalty shoot-out. The Czechs all just hammered the ball at the goal with Neeskens-like force, while the French played out their technique and converted precisely. The Neeskens tactic worked after the 6th penalty, all converted. One Frenchman missed).
In the 1974 match between Germany and Holland, one only had to wait for “equalising justice”. Because a penalty against the host nation in the first minute? That was quite audacious. And indeed: I hate to say it, but the grass was probably badly mown at this point when Hölzenbein entered the penalty area and tripped over a protruding blade of grass… The referee let himself be softened up, gave the penalty, the 1:1, then “Knubbel” Müller in his inimitable way with his lightning turn and the ball into the far corner for 2:1 before the break, after that the Dutch continued to press for a half, but Sepp Maier, who was really outstanding this time, held on to the victory.
I couldn’t really rejoice, that much I remember. For me, everything remained bland. The opponent was better, that was obvious. And why then, over and over again, should Germany be the winner in the end? It wasn’t that far yet, but …
At any rate, one has to chalk up as luck in this tournament that they had got an extremely easy preliminary round group. Then that there were two such unequal final groups. And that they could “aim” for whichever one they preferred. How would the FRG have fared against Brazil, Argentina or Holland in the intermediate round this year? And the final victory itself only came about under fortunate circumstances. Is God German after all? Today, at the end of 2009, the same can be said of the Pope. And sometimes it’s even enough to have him in your pocket, as rumour has it…