The 1972 European Championship finals was effectively a four-team tournament packed into a short five-day schedule, with the four finalists consisting of Germany, Hungary, the Soviet Union and hosts Belgium. Having disposed of England in the two-legged quarter final stage, Germany’s first game of the final tournament was the semi-final against hosts Belgium.
Although the Belgians had the advantage of playing at home in front of their own supporters at Antwerp’s Bosuilstadion, this made little or no impression on a rampant German side that was high on confidence. After Gerd Müller had given the Mannschaft the lead with just over a quarter of the game gone, it was pretty much plain sailing, with the inevitable second arriving with just under twenty minutes remaining. Although the Belgians did score a consolation goal, Helmut Schön’s side breezed into the final.
Their opponent in the final at Brussels’ Heyselstadion would be the Soviet Union, a side that Germany had beaten 4-1 less than a month before – with the irrepressible Müller scoring four second-half goals. It wasn’t long before Der Bomber was on the scoresheet again in the final, as he opened the scoring on twenty-seven minutes – setting the Germans on their way in what was one probably the most one-side final in the history of the tournament. Müller had earlier forced a fine block from Soviet ‘keeper Yevhen Rudakov, but after Günter Netzer had hit the bar following a typically buccaneering Franz Beckanbauer run and Jupp Heynckes had forced another fine save from Rudakov from the rebound, the little man was as always in the right spot to pounce on the loose ball to give the Mannschaft a deserved lead.
Seven minutes into the second half witnessed another stunning German move, as Heynckes picked up a short pass from Netzer and delivered a killer through ball to find Borussia Mönchengladbach teammate Herbert Wimmer who planted a lovely left-footed shot into the lower right corner of the net. It was Wimmer’s first goal in his fifteenth appearance in the Schwarz und Weiß, and he couldn’t have found a better moment to open his account.
Herbert Wimmer scores the Nationalmannschaft’s second goal as they stroll to their first European title in Brussels
In what was probably the best move of the match, you-know-who wrapped things up with his second goal – finishing a beautiful move that sliced through the Soviet defence like a knife through butter. Such was the confidence of the Germans that Hans-Georg “Katsche” Schwarzenbeck, so often described as Franz Beckenbauer’s more othodox partner in the centre of the defence, went on a charging run that was truly Kaiseresque. Having laid the ball off to Müller just inside the opposition half, he continued his run into the box; Müller now continued the forward surge, finding Heynckes whose sublime first-time touch found Schwarzenbeck, who in turn tapped the ball into the path of the rampaging Müller.
I have seen some fabulous Gerd Müller goals, but this one tops the lot – not only for Der Bomber’s clinically fine finish, but for the almost effortless simplicity of the play that led to it. From the time Schwarzenbeck picked the ball up deep inside his own half, it took just ten seconds for it to make its way down the field and into the back of the opposition net. Two charging runs, four passes – a simply wonderful goal that summed up the 1972 side in a nutshell.
It was a sublime performance, a display of skill, craft and effortless ease that placed Helmut Schön’s side alongside the legendary Brazilians.
Germany had won their first European title, and German football had finally come of age. While the victory in 1972 could never really compete with the World Cup win in 1954 on an emotional level, it arguably produced one of the finest squads to wear the Schwarz und Weiß.
Semi-Final v Belgium, Bosuilstadion, Antwerpen, 14.06.1972
Müller 24., 71. / Polleunis 83.
Germany FR: Maier – Höttges, Breitner – Beckenbauer (c), Schwarzenbeck, Wimmer – U. Hoeneß (58. Grabowski), Netzer, Heynckes, G. Müller, E. Kremers
Belgium: Piot – Heylens, Vandendaele, Thissen, Dolmans – Verheyen, Dockx, Martens (65. Polleunis) – Semmeling, Lambert, van Himst
Referee: William J. Mullan (Scotland)
Assistants: not known
Yellow Cards: – / Vandendaele
Red Cards: – / –
Final v USSR, Heysel Stadium, Brüssel/Bruxelles, 18.06.1972
Müller 27., 58., Wimmer 52. / –
Germany FR: Maier – Höttges, Breitner – Beckenbauer (c), Schwarzenbeck, Wimmer – U. Hoeneß, Netzer, Heynckes, G. Müller, E. Kremers
USSR: Rudakov – Dzodzuashvili, Khurtsilava, Kaplichny, Istomin – Konjkov (46. Dolmatov), Troshkin, Kolotov – Baidachny, Banishevskiy (66. Kozinkevich), Onischenko
Referee: Ferdinand Marschall (Austria)
Assistants: Erich Linemayr, Josef Legel (Austria)
Yellow Cards: Netzer / Khurtsilava, Kaplichny
Red Cards: – / –