The Germany side that headed off to Mexico for the 1970 World Cup finals was a team on the rise – one that had been finely tuned and developed by Nationaltrainer Helmut Schön. Players that had established themselves in 1966 were still there – Beckenbauer, Overath, Seeler, Schnellinger – but the squad had also been bolstered by an even younger generation of stars, from the defensive stalwart Berti Vogts to the dynamic goal-scoring machine Gerd Müller, who would go on to score ten goals in the tournament.

The first phase saw the Mannschaft take maximum points from their group games, with wins against Morocco, Bulgaria and Peru. Having qualified for their first World Cup final tournament Morocco were seen as the minnows of the group, but they were the side that ended up giving Germany its biggest scare of the first phase. It was the first in a string of ordinary German performances in World Cups against North African opposition, as Schön’s team came from being a goal down at half-time to win the game twelve minutes from time. The scorer: that man Müller, who kept up his astonishing World Cup goalscoring record. The game against Bulgaria was somewhat less fraught, though again Germany did fall behind early. After levelling the scores within ten minutes, four more goals were scored – three from the irrepressible Müller – before the Bulgarians netted a last-minute consolation. Der Bomber’s amazing run continued against Peru, where he scored a twenty-minute hattrick – his second in successive matches.

First Phase Group 4 v Morocco, Estadio Nou Camp, León, 03.06.1970
Morocco

2-1 (0-1)
Seeler 56., Müller 78. / Houmane 21.

Germany FR: Maier – Vogts, Höttges (74. Löhr) – Beckenbauer, W. Schulz, Fichtel – Haller (46. Grabowski), Seeler (c), G. Müller, Overath, Held

Morocco: Kassou – Lamrani, Benkhrif, Moulay Idriss, Sliman – Maaroufi, El Filali, Bamous (72. Faras) – Ghandi, Jarir, Ghazouani (56. El Khiatti)

Referee: Laurens van Ravens (Netherlands)
Assistants: José Maria Ortiz de Mendibil (Spain), Guillermo Velasquez (Colombia)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 12,942

First Phase Group 4 v Bulgaria, Estadio Nou Camp, León, 07.06.1970
Bulgaria

5-2 (2-1)
Libuda 20., Müller 27., pen 52., 88., Seeler 67. / Nikodimov 12., Kolev 89.

Germany FR: Maier – Vogts, Höttges – Beckenbauer (73. W. Weber), Schnellinger, Fichtel – Libuda, Seeler (c), G. Müller, Overath, Löhr (59. Grabowski)

Bulgaria: Simeonov – Zhechev, Nikodimov, Gaydarski, Gaganelov (58. Shalamanov) – Bonev, Penev, Kolev – Marashliev, Asparuhov, Dermendzhiev (46. Mitkov)

Referee: José Maria Ortiz de Mendibil (Spain)
Assistants: Guillermo Velasquez (Colombia), Antonio Saldanha Ribeiro (Portugal)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 12,710

First Phase Group 4 v Peru, Estadio Nou Camp, León, 10.06.1970
Peru

3-1 (3-1)
Müller 19., 26., 39. / Cubillas 44.

Germany FR: Maier – Vogts, Höttges (46. Patzke) – Beckenbauer, Schnellinger, Fichtel – Libuda (74. Grabowski), Seeler (c), G. Müller, Overath, Löhr

Peru: Rubiños – González, de la Torre, Chumpitaz, Fuentes – Challe (72. Cruzado), Mifflin – Sotil, Leon (56. Ramírez), Cubillas, Gallardo

Referee: Abel Aguilar Elizalde (Mexico)
Assistants: José Maria Ortiz de Mendibil (Spain), Antonio Sbardella (Italy)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 17,875

TeamPWDLFAGD*Pts
GermanyGermany FR (Q)3300104+65
PeruPeru (Q)320175+24
BulgariaBulgaria301259-41
MoroccoMorocco301226-41

Other results: Peru 3-2 Bulgaria; Peru 3-0 Morocco; Morocco 1-1 Bulgaria.

* GD = Goal Difference. For the first time, the Goal Difference method was used as a tie-breaker in the group phase – replacing the Goal Average coefficient that had first been introduced in Sweden in 1958. The calculation was simple – one just needed to subtract the number of goals conceded from those scored, which would result in either a positive or negative figure. In cases of teams ending up with the same number of points and an equal Goal Difference, the winner would be determined by the drawing of lots, which was also to be used for knockout matches that had ended up drawn after extra time.

Top place in their first phase group set up a quarter-final clash with old rivals and reigning world champions England, and a chance to gain revenge for the Wembley defeat four years earlier. Things didn’t start at all well for the men in Schwarz und Weiß, with Alan Mullery and Martin Peters – who had been the “other” scorer in the 1966 final – putting England into what looked like an unassailable 2-0 lead. Cue the inevitable German comeback, with first Beckenbauer and then Uwe Seeler taking the score to 2-2 and extra time – just as in 1966. This time however there was to be no Wembley-Tor, as England wilted in the searing heat of León. With twelve minutes to go, Müller – who else? – latched onto a pass from Hannes Löhr, turning the ball into the net past England reserve ‘keeper Peter Bonetti.

Gerd Müller scores his historic winner against England in León

Germany thus once more advanced to the last four, where they met Italy in a game known as the Jahrhundertsspiel – the “Game of the Century” – though German fans who watched it at the time may remember it as being a game where the Mannschaft were robbed by a dirty Italian side and an incompetent display from the officials.

Having taken the lead in the eighth minute, Italy battened down the hatches as Germany pressed for an equaliser – in the process resorting to all sorts of underhand tactics that were mysteriously missed by Mexican (and former Peruvian) official Arturo Yamasaki. From clear-cut penalties being denied to obvious fouls committed by the Italians being overlooked – one resulting in Franz Beckenbauer having to return to the field with his arm in a sling – everything seemed set for the Italians to head into the final with a narrow 1-0 win. But no. Much like Wolfgang Weber’s last-gasp effort at Wembley in 1966, Germany’s equaliser came from an unexpected source – defender Karlheinz Schnellinger. It was Schellinger’s first and only goal in the Schwarz und Weiß – and even more ironic was the fact that he also played in Italy for AC Milan.

Even the drama of an injury-time equaliser was not to prepare the watching world for what was to happen next however – a furious flurry of goals that was to see the encounter dubbed the “Game of the Century”.

Four minutes into extra time, Gerd Müller put the Mannschaft ahead, only to see Tarcisio Burgnich equalise for the Azzurri less than five minutes later. 2-2. The Italians then took the lead in the final moments of the first period of extra time through Luigi Riva, only to see Müller score his second five minutes into the second period. 3-3. All seemed set for another Müller hattrick to save the day and take Germany into the final, but it was not to be. Within seconds of scoring the equaliser Germany had conceded a fourth, as European Footballer of the Year Gianni Rivera scored what was to be the winning goal.

Müller the Nationalmannschaft’s third goal to level the scores against Italy, but the Azzurri would take the spoils in Mexico City

Germany had scored sixteen goals in their five games – with Müller netting ten of them – but it was not to be enough. Following his scoring in every one of the Mannschaft’s qualifying games and in all five of his games in Mexico up to and including the semi-final, Der Bomber had found the back of the net for eleven competitive games in a row – racking up a total of nineteen goals. Oddly, in the four friendly fixtures played between the qualifying round and the finals, he didn’t score once. It was as if he only felt that he needed to score in important games.

Müller’s run of scoring in World Cup games came to an end with the third-place playoff against Uruguay – arguably an unimportant game. With the Nationaltrainer fielding a rejigged and unfamiliar lineup, Wolfgang Overath claimed the bronze medals for the Mannschaft with a twenty-sixth minute winner. It was their third top-three finish in five tournaments since 1954, and their fourth in seven overall.

Quarter-Final v England, Estadio Nou Camp, León, 14.06.1970
England

3-2 aet (0-1, 2-2)
Beckenbauer 68., Seeler 76., Müller 108. / Mullery 31., Peters 49.

Germany FR: Maier – Vogts, Höttges (46. W. Schulz) – Beckenbauer, Schnellinger, Fichtel – Libuda (56. Grabowski), Seeler (c), G. Müller, Overath, Löhr

England: Bonetti – Newton, Moore, Labone, Cooper – Mullery, B. Charlton (70. Bell), Ball – Lee, Hurst, Peters (81. Hunter)

Referee: Norberto Angel Coerezza (Argentina)
Assistants: Guillermo Velasquez (Colombia), José Maria Ortiz de Mendibil (Spain)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 23,357

Semi-Final v Italy, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 17.06.1970
Italy

3-4 aet (1-0, 1-1)
Schnellinger 90., Müller 94., 110. / Boninsegna 8., Burgnich 98., Riva 104., Rivera 111.

Germany FR: Maier – Vogts, Patzke (66. Held) – Beckenbauer, Schnellinger, W. Schulz – Grabowski, Seeler (c), G. Müller, Overath, Löhr (52. Libuda)

Italy: Albertosi – Burgnich, Rosato (91. Poletti), Facchetti – Bertini, De Sisti, Cera – Boninsegna, Mazzola (46. Rivera), Domenghini, Riva

Referee: Arturo Yamasaki Maldonado (Peru)
Assistants: Rafael Hormazabal Diaz (Chile), Guillermo Velasquez (Colombia)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 102,444

3rd Place Playoff v Uruguay, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 20.06.1970
Uruguay

1-0 (1-0)
Overath 26. / –

Germany FR: H. Wolter – Patzke, Vogts – W. Weber, Schnellinger (46. Lorenz), Fichtel – Libuda (74. Löhr), Seeler (c), G. Müller, Overath, Held

Uruguay: Mazurkiewicz – Ubiñas, Ancheta, Fontes (46. Espárrago) – Matosas, Mujica, Montero – Maneiro (67. Sandoval), Cubilla, Cortés, Morales

Referee: Antonio Sbardella (Italy)
Assistants: Ferdinand Marschall (Austria), Abel Aguilar Elizalde (Mexico)

Dismissals: – / –

Attendance: 104,403

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