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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
ESPNsoccernet: February 28, 3:21 PM UK
World Cup 1974

John Brewin and Martin Williamson

Winners: West Germany
Teams: 16
Teams in qualifiers: 99
Notable absentees: England, France, Hungary, Spain, Soviet Union
Surprises: Australia, Haiti and Zaire
Golden Boot: Grzegorz Lato (Poland) -- 7
Stats: A total of 97 goals were scored (2.55 per match); Poland (16) scored the most
Format: Four groups of four in the qualifying stage, with the top two from each group going into a second round of two four-team groups and the winners facing each other in the final
Number of matches: 38

• FIFA commissioned a new trophy after Brazil were allowed to keep the Jules Rimet

• The Soviet Union were knocked out in the final qualifying round after refusing to play in Chile, where there had recently been a military coup, with thousands of supporters of Marxist president Salvador Allende executed in the football stadium. Chile kicked off, kicked the ball into an empty net and were awarded the game
• Haiti, under the horrific regime of Francois Papa Doc Duvalier, played their final qualifying match against Trinidad at home -- and the visitors had no less than four goals disallowed. FIFA subsequently suspended the referee
• Haiti defender Ernst Jean-Joseph became the first player in the World Cup to fail a doping test. He was taken back to the team hotel and beaten up by his own squad officials

• Carlos Caszely of Chile became the first player to be shown a red card in a World Cup match
• Poland's Leslaw Cmikiewicz set a record when he made six appearances as substitute
• The start of the final was delayed when the referee noticed the corner and centre-line flag-posts were missing as the teams lined up

Although it was the team's defining moment, Mexico 70 was the end of the era of Brazilian World Cup dominance. By the time the Mondial returned in 1974, the map of world football had changed.

The mid-70s represented the era of total football, and Ajax and Bayern Munich dominated the European club scene with this free-flowing, interchangeable approach. While the Netherlands, who featured the likes of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, Ruud Krol and Willem van Hanegem, played a more attractive and cavalier game, the West Germans had won the European Nations Cup in 1972, playing a more functional but devastatingly effective brand of it. Two years later, they were perhaps a little more defensive, no longer relying on midfield counterpoint Guenter Netzer, but seemingly the only team who had a chance of stopping the devastating Dutch.

Brazil were a spent force, playing an ugly, Europeanised form of football. With Pele now gone and Gerson and Tostao also out of the picture, they were fortunate not to lose to the ever-unlucky Scotland in the group stages and only just sneaked into the newly-added second group stage.

Elsewhere, the Netherlands qualified from their group with ease. West Germany didn't find it quite so easy, suffering a hugely embarrassing loss to the East Germans and struggling to beat Chile and Australia, who were making their first appearance in the finals (and last for 32 years).

The highest-profile first-round casualties were the Italians, who had struggled to beat Haiti and then been beaten by Poland in the final group game. The Poles -- England's conquerors in the qualifiers after Jan Tomaszewski, the keeper labelled by Brian Clough as a "clown," had thwarted them at Wembley -- featured the talents of the wonderfully-named defender Jerzy Gorgon, midfield creator Kazimierz Deyna and free-scoring winger Grzegorz Lato, and enjoyed their best-ever World Cup.

The second stage saw the Netherlands really get into gear. With Cruyff at his mercurial best, they hammered Argentina 4-0, eased past the East Germans and then compounded the new world order of international football by soundly beating the Brazilians. Neeskens and Cruyff scored two great goals to put them into the final.

The other group was far less straightforward as both West Germany and the Poles looked strong in seeing off the challenges of Sweden and Yugoslavia. Netherlands' opponents would be decided in the last group game. Despite a fine showing from the Poles, home advantage stood in Frankfurt when Gerd Mueller, Bayern Munich's finisher of finishers, scored in the 76th minute to set up a date with destiny in Munich.

It was one of the most eagerly-awaited finals in years with few able to choose between the two and, considering the historical enmity between the two countries, it was a game that meant far more than football.

The Dutch, children of World War II and its aftermath, seemed intent on humiliating the Germans and, after an amazing first minute where Netherlands passed the ball around without the Germans touching the ball, Cruyff set off into the box with typical purpose. Future Scotland manager Berti Vogts brought him down and Neeskens did the rest from the penalty spot.

After that, Netherlands chose to play keep-ball and mock the Germans. But, marshalled by Franz Beckenbauer, the hosts held their nerve and were rewarded when a forceful run by Bernd Hoelzenbein was ended after a tackle by Wim Jansen. Referee Jack Taylor pointed to the penalty spot. The Dutch accused the German winger of diving but the end result was Paul Breitner drilling the ball past Jan Jongbloed in the 25th minute.

Two minutes before half-time, the Germans were in the lead. The scorer was Mueller, in his last international, who executed a pirouette to fire in. Demoralised just before the break, the Dutch came out fighting in the second half, but the lethargy and teasing of the early part of the game was hard to shake off. Though Neeskens went close twice, keeper Sepp Maier was equal to the task.

The West Germans had beaten their bitter rivals and dashed the hopes of the footballing romantic -- just as they had done in 1954 with the Hungarians. Cruyff was soon to sneak into World Cup exile. Beckenbauer, who had previously lost a final and come third in 1970, lifted the newly issued FIFA World Cup Trophy.

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