- West Germany won the 1974 FIFA World Cup 46 years ago today
- Gerd Muller discussed the disharmony in the German’ squad
- He revealed the toughest opponent he faced at the World Cup
Der Bomber struck ten times at Mexico 1970. It was insufficient to clinch his country more than bronze. Four years later, however, Gerd Muller and West Germany upset the favourites in the Final to win the FIFA World Cup™ on home soil.
The legendary striker, speaking in 2007, chatted to FIFA.com about the surprising disharmony in Helmut Schon’s squad in 1974, how the loss to East Germany was a blessing in disguise, his acrobatic goal in the decider, which opponent gave him the toughest time, and lifting the Trophy.
FIFA.com: Gerd, you took part in the 1970 and 1974 World Cups. What are your memories of the two competitions?
Gerd Muller: The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was a far better experience for me than 1974. There were some absolutely classic games and the team really gelled. There was almost no falling out. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case in ’74.
Were the matches better or was the team just more harmonious?
We had the best team in 1970. Everyone reckons the ’72 and ’74 teams were better, but I think our 1970 team was the best.
Looking back at the two World Cups, what was the best experience you had?
Winning the World Cup, of course. The day before, I read in a newspaper that a clairvoyant had said Holland would win. I lost a lot of sleep that night, thinking about it and hoping it wouldn’t come true. When we won 2-1, it was just the most wonderful feeling.
Who was your toughest opponent?
Rosato! The Italian Roberto Rosato. He was a really tight marker, but also a gentleman. It was all rough and tumble with him. At the start of the second half, I’d already made my way into the penalty area when I suddenly thought, ‘Hang on, where’s Rosato?’ I turned round and saw he’d gone. He wasn’t on the pitch any more. He’d hurt his knee and Burgnich had come on for him. Burgnich was a midfielder though, not a man-marker. He didn’t stick to me, he gave me two or three yards instead, which meant I had time to control the ball, something I hadn’t been able to do when Rosato was on. If you didn’t move to the ball, you’d never get it since Rosato was already there. But I have to say he was never unfair.
Is there a goal that deserves special mention, one you would say was your best, your most important?
The goal in the Final against Holland was obviously the most important, but the one I scored against England was the best. Grabowski crossed and Hennes Lohr nodded it back, high across goal, and I caught it way up high on the volley. I don’t know how I managed to get my foot so high and make contact, but in it went.
At Mexico 1970, you were the top scorer with ten goals. How would you compare that to winning the World Cup in 1974?
I must say that all the teams were stronger in 1970. Morocco were probably our weakest opponents, but all the other teams had world-class players. We had to earn all our victories. My greatest success was winning the World Cup with the team.
And your ten goals in 1970?
Jairzinho was on seven goals. We were there to watch the Final, all hoping he wouldn’t score another three.
So then came your greatest success, winning the trophy in 1974.
Yes, but we didn’t play well in 1974. The first three games were abysmal, and there were problems in the dressing room too.
What about the match against the former East Germany? That must have been a disaster at the time.
Yes, although with hindsight, it was a good thing we lost. Otherwise, we’d have been in the other group. If we’d won, we’d have been in the same group as Holland and Brazil.
But there was probably a lot of criticism in West Germany after you lost to East Germany?
Very much so. All hell broke loose in our training camp when we lost. Helmut Schon was in a right mood, and we were up till the early hours trying to work out how we had lost. It shouldn’t have happened. We should have beaten them. We also weren’t sure whether Overath or Netzer was the better midfielder. Looking back on it now, I have to admit that we the players made a mistake, because Overath was the better player, a better tournament player than Gunther Netzer.
Gunther Netzer is supposed to have said: “Overath was born for the national team.”
Yes, Overath could really get his teeth into a game and hang on in there for an hour and a half. But we’d played so well with Netzer at the European Championships in 1972 that we thought we really needed him in the team. That was a mistake. Overath should have played, he was a better tournament player. Overath only played in the second half, but we told Schon he had to make some changes. Five new players came in against Yugoslavia. Then things started to work out and we played well.
You mean the players picked the team?
We told Schon he had to do something or we’d be out of the competition.
Was there more pressure on you because you were playing at home?
The pressure was certainly there and you’re always nervous before the first match. We won 1-0 against Chile thanks to Paul Breitner trying his luck. It was a wonderful goal. Then we beat Australia 3-0, although it was another poor display. But then we had a rude awakening against East Germany. That’s when we started to get really nervous.
What did you think after the Netherlands took such an early lead?
We were in shock. At the end of the day, it was a good thing the Dutch scored so early. I think they underestimated us, they started to spray the ball about and then they thought, ‘Hang on, the Germans are getting back into it.’ Then they started giving it everything again.
How did you feel up there in the stands with the Trophy in your hands?
It was a great feeling. It’s really tremendous, winning the World Cup and holding the Trophy in your hands.