Now coached by Sepp Herberger’s assistant Helmut Schön – whose appointment in late 1964 continued the almost monarchical succession of Nationaltrainers – Germany qualified for the finals of the 1966 tournament by finishing top of a three-team group that included Sweden and minnows Cyprus.
Before qualification had even started, things had been made difficult for the new coach on account of the DFB’s continued attempts to stave off the ever-increasing tide of professionalism; although the Bundesliga had been created and German players were now allowed to compete professionally in domestic competition, restrictions were still being applied to those who had chosen to ply their trade abroad; after much cajoling from Schön, the Italian “mercenaries” were finally allowed back into the national team set-up, among them striker Helmut Haller and defender-cum-Libero Karlheinz Schnellinger who were playing in Italy for Bologna and AS Roma respectively.
Although things appeared clear-cut at the end of the qualification campaign, the results against the Swedes had been pretty close: after conceding an equaliser four minutes from time (from the inevitable Kurt Hamrin) to give the Swedes a draw in their home fixture, Helmut Schön’s side found themselves having to come from a goal down to beat the Scandinavians in Stockholm – their first victory on Swedish soil in over fifty years.
The game in Stockholm was to prove to be a watershed in the development of the team – in selecting his starting lineup, Schön had decided on making a series of massive gambles. His first decision was to recall the not fully fit Uwe Seeler as captain, and the second was to introduce two debutants – 1860 München’s Peter Grosser and the twenty year old Libero from FC Bayern, Franz Beckenbauer.
Like his predecessor Sepp Herberger had done on many occasions, Schön’s decision to follow his instincts proved to be correct. Having fallen behind a minute before half time, Germany equalised almost immediately; in the second half, both debutants were involved in the move that helped set up the second and winning goal – scored by none other than Uwe Seeler. The coach had been vindicated, an injured hero had made a triumphant return to the national fold, and a new young hero had made his name.
With the hard work now done, minnows Cyprus were easily dispatched 6-0 in Lefkosia as Germany swept through to the finals, having scored a total of fourteen goals in their four group games whilst conceding only two.
v Sweden, Olympiastadion, Berlin, 04.11.1964
Brunnenmeier 24. / Hamrin 86.
Team: Tilkowski – Nowak, Schnellinger – Szymaniak, Giesemann, W. Weber – Brunnenmeier, Haller, Seeler (c), Overath, G. Dörfel
v Cyprus, Wildparkstadion, Karlsruhe, 24.04.1965
Overath 22., 85., Sieloff 16., 35., Strehl 69. / –
Team: Manglitz – Höttges, Patzke – W. Schulz (c), Sieloff, Lorenz – Ulsaß, Konietzka, Strehl, Overath, Hornig
v Sweden, Stockholm, 26.06.1965
Krämer 45., Seeler 54. / Jónsson 44.
Team: Tilkowski – Höttges, Schnellinger – Sieloff, W. Schulz, Beckenbauer – Brunnenmeier, Grosser, Seeler (c), Szymaniak – Krämer
v Cyprus, Lefkosia, 14.11.1965
Heiß 30., Krämer 32., Szymaniak 57., Brunnenmeier 82., 88., Panayotou og 87. / –
Team: Tilkowski – Piontek, Höttges – Beckenbauer, W. Weber, Szymaniak (c) – Heiß, Brunnenmeier, Netzer, Krämer, Hornig
Final Group Table
|Germany FR (Q)||4||3||1||0||14||2||+12||7|
Other results: Sweden 3-0 Cyprus; Cyprus 0-5 Sweden.
Goals Summary: Brunnenmeier (3), Krämer, Overath, Sieloff (2), Heiß, Seeler, Strehl, Szymaniak (1), own goals (1). Total 14.