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1974 World Cup – Part 2

To continue my look back at 40 years as a football fan, I’ve delved deep into my memory bank and researched what made the 1974 World Cup such a special time of my life. Part 2 looks at the 16 teams that made up the Finals in West Germany

1974 World Cup – Part 2

Qualification began with 98 countries, with only 14 qualifying plus the hosts West Germany and the holders Brazil. To give you some context 203 countries attempted to qualify for this summer’s World Cup, and 32 will compete in Brazil.

First-time qualifiers included East Germany, Haiti, Australia and Zaire, the first team from sub-Saharan Africa to reach the World Cup Finals. The Netherlands and Poland had qualified for the first time since 1938.

Four groups of 16 were drawn, and remember in those days there was only 2 points for a win.

In Group 1 East Germany had qualified for their first and last Finals and were drawn incredibly against their ‘brothers’ from the West. The two German nations had only previously played amateur friendlies and the tie, which was to be played last in the group, had caught everyone’s attention.

The East Germans were nobody’s pushovers as their league champion FC Magdeburg, with the prolific Jürgen Sparwasser leading the line, had won the European Cup Winners Cup a month earlier by defeating AC Milan 2-0. As the majority of players worked in industry or in the military, they were considered amateurs and therefore had recent Olympic experience winning bronze at the 1972 Olympics. They would win gold in 1976.

imageFor the hosts captain Franz Beckenbauer had to contend with a fractious and demanding squad who had money over glory seemingly at the top of their agenda.

The two other Group 1 nations that had to compete out of the spotlight were Chile and Australia. The Socceroos were making their debut at a Finals and were considered one of the rank outsiders and brought a squad made up entirely of amateur players.

Chile’s national team had escaped from their violence-riddled country, where the National Stadium in Santiago was being used as a detention camp for those opposing the military dictatorship. 7,000 political prisoners were being held there. Not the best preparation for Luis Álamos squad as they were also forced to train in Germany behind a barbed wire fence with guards surrounding it after the Chilean consulate in Berlin was fire-bombed shortly before the finals began. The Chilean’s games featured demonstrations against the military junta (photo).

Group 2 contained Brazil, who came as favourites and current champions but their squad was ageing and missing the names of Gerson, Carlos Alberto Torres and Pele, who at only 33 had decided not to play and I remembered being devastated that I was not to see what all the fuss was about. The Brazilians were going to really miss him too.

imageYugoslavia would very much play their part and create history and African champions Zaire were the first black team from that continent to grace the finals. The Leopards (photo)came with promises of returning home to live like kings. That never materialized.

Then there was Scotland, the sweethearts of the competition. Names in Willie Ormand’s squad rolled of the tongue – Daglish, Jordan, Bremner, Jardine, McGrain and Law. The Tartan Army were in town and they enjoyed every minute of it.

Total Football was born in Group 3 as the Dutch stole the hearts of the footballing world with players constantly moving and interchanging positions on the pitch. Rinus Michels athletic team were a delight to watch and for this 7-year old the Oranje opened my starry eyes to the beautiful game of football.

Johan Cruyff was the leader of this Dutch golden generation which also boasted Wim Jansen, Arie Haan, Johan Neeskens, Ruud Krol and Johnny Rep. Those deep orange shirts playing in our living rooms on colour televisions are what childhood memories are made off.

Sweden found themselves in the easiest group and would rely heavily on goalkeeper Ronnie Hellström, considered one of the best in the world. Bulgaria were at their 4th World Cup in a row. Uruguay rounded off Group 3 and the South Americans were to have a very disappointing tournament accused of being dirty and clinical, especially in the game against The Netherlands when their negative and physical approach was given the real run around.

imageGroup 4 included Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, but they had a long tradition of football through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s but 1974 are the only Finals the small Caribbean nation has ever made. They were drawn in a very tough looking group comprising three of the pre-tournament fancied teams Argentina, Italy and Poland.

However in their first game against Italy, neutrals everywhere were jumping out of their seats after Emmanuel Sanon gave the Haitians the lead. It was the first goal that Dino Zoff had let in in 19 games. The Italians replied with three goals to won 3-1.

Sadly Haiti defender Ernst Jean-Joseph became the first player in the World Cup to fail a doping test. By all accounts his punishment was dealt out by his own team and officials in the team hotel.

Losing to Poland in the qualifiers might not have been as embarrassing as first thought for England as Jan Tomaszewski and his team mates went on to be the Finals surprise package.

The Poles were in fact reigning Olympic Champions, mostly because the countries best players were considered amateurs and as the world found out they didn’t only have to rely on ‘the clown’ Tomaszewski. In fact players like Grzegorz Lato (photo), Kazimierz Deyna and Andrzej Szarmach became household names and the quick and spirited Poles proved to be a match for almost everyone.image

The Italians were coming to an end of a wonderful era but despite being together for many years the squad had it’s factions and the thin veneer of unity was often tested. Future England manager Fabio Capello pulled the strings from midfield, but not surprisingly it was their defence that the Azzurri relied.

Argentina were to host the next World Cup four years later and was arrived with a great reputation despite missing out on qualification for Mexico 1970.

Argentinian football was at the end of a transition period, and arrived in West Germany with a new manager. Vladislao Cap was the oversee another disappointing tournament, but with a young Mario Kempes and René Houseman in tow a glittering future was not far away for the White and Sky Blues.

Part 3 to follow. Part 1 can be read here.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Exceptional piece of writing…

    June 1, 2014
  2. Hungry Ted #

    Great stuff, CA. Looking forward to Pt. 3.

    Will there be a ’78 series as well?

    June 1, 2014
  3. richard #

    You really are very good at this.

    June 2, 2014

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