Just freshly equipped with the Abitur and then still in a very fresh, but in the meantime firm love affair with Angie, which came about under very special, but nevertheless partly unpleasant circumstances, as they broke up another friendship – with me as the culprit –, the 1978 World Cup was rather just a highly enjoyable and equally welcome “side issue”.
In this respect, I would like to concentrate on the essential events in my memories. And once again, there are a few side aspects that have particularly impressed themselves on me. In this respect, I continue to count on the reader’s attention.
Once again, the Germans had an easy preliminary round. And they only beat the Mexicans, but they beat them 6:0. The other two games against Poland and Tunisia ended 0:0. So, as usual, their entry into the final round was perfect.
And this final round was memorable for several reasons: firstly, with Italy, Holland and Austria as opponents, they had once again avoided the giants Brazil and Argentina, who “fought” each other in the parallel group in an unusual way – explained below – and secondly, the results were quite respectable with a 0-0 against Italy and a 2-2 against Holland in not even bad games. And according to whose theory does Germany always win evenly matched games? Did I come up with that one? The most special thing, however, was the highly dubious tournament mode, which was reduced to absurdity in two ways.
First, I will recount the events in the parallel group, which I can no longer reconstruct with exact results, but which does not change much about the final result and the insights gained from it. The “heavyweights” Brazil and Argentina drew in their match. So the decision had to be made against the other two group opponents. Both won their first games against the outsiders. They probably had to go goal-hunting, as there was no other criterion than goal difference (in case of equality, only the number). It was just that commercialisation competed with a sense of justice to understand the tournament mode. And, as one had to suspect, commercialism won. The last two matches were not played in parallel!
Brazil – and, how could it be otherwise in the country of the organiser – had to play first and Argentina had the right to watch the Brazilians’ efforts from the comfort of their armchairs, then get out the slide rule (this once again shows in a less comedic way what I think of general mental arithmetic skills worldwide; of course, a second grader was sufficient for the arithmetic task according to framework curricula, since only operations like “+”, “-” and “>” or “<” were required), and then to ponder whether the finally demotivated Peruvians — these among others because of their tournament chances — still needed a cash injection (if so, how much? ), or whether they would “lay down their arms” without it and go to the slaughter as will-less victims of the necessary four-goal victory. The last group game ended accordingly with a 6-0 victory. Argentina was in the final.
It may be that the Brazilian lobby was not big enough or that the outcry of injustice from 200,000,000 Brazilians plus at least a little Pauli were not loud enough to wake up the world and change this unspeakable mode, because the same was used for the 1982 tournament, which had the consequences that can be read in the corresponding chapter…
For the German team, the tournament mode had other, but also unpleasant, consequences: they had to play Austria first in the last group match. And as much as I liked to calculate as a child (and as an adult), this “very simple milkmaid calculation” (Olli Dittrich alias Boris Becker) was no fun for me either: The Germans had to win the match against Austria in order to hope for a draw between Italy and the Netherlands afterwards, since both had won against Austria, in order to still be able to hope for a place in the final despite the respectable two draws against the two “big ones”. But because the Dutch had won 5:1 against Austria, Germany also had to beat this result. The chance of reaching the final was far less than one percent. And even if it was such a gigantic chance, it was probably worth tearing oneself apart for it. However, including the necessary “shooting assistance” through a draw in the last game, there was really no joy. The Germans had to play for third place if they won. And while it may be that the term “the small final” allows a suggestion of excitement, in truth it was not what was felt to be particularly desirable. The legendary “Dishonour of Cordoba”, in which the equally legendary Edi Finger scored the “Krankl … Krankl … i werd narrisch” after the winning goal to make it 3:2 achieved cult status in the German-speaking world, was, like the “defeat” against the GDR four years earlier, largely attributable to a lack of motivation on the part of the West German ensemble. In any case, I took note of the loss without emotion. What was a (missed) match for third place?
But also in general, I gradually turned away more and more from any fanaticism for individual teams – at club and national level. I wanted to see honest and beautiful sport, especially football. And justice…
And so the final was also accompanied by unpleasant feelings on my part. Holland had the strongest team. And already four years before, they had been “deprived” of the title partly by bad luck, but also partly by referee help for the host, not granted. So in 1978, too, I had to fear that the Dutch were simply not allowed to win. As dramatic and high-class as the final was, with numerous scoring chances for both teams, in the end the fear came true. And emotionally, the referee had a hand in one or two critical scenes, even if unintentionally and only influenced by the mass enthusiasm in the stands.