Stadio Olimpico, Roma, 11.06.1980
Kh. Rummenigge 57. / –
While Germany had not lost a European Championship finals match in open play, their only defeat had taken place four years previously at the hands of the Czechs – and the opening match in Rome’s veritable Stadio Olimpico would provide an almost immediate opportunity for the Mannschaft to gain some measure of revenge for what had been a painful penalty shootout defeat in Belgrade.
Nationaltrainer Jupp Derwall would name a solid and not particularly adventurous starting eleven, preferring to keep the talented playmaker Bernd Schuster on the bench. Led by the dependable Bernard Dietz, the Mannschaft would start with a 4-4-2 formation, which saw a strong defensive unit sit behind an equally workmanlike midfield foursome that had been gently spiced by the selection of the exciting young winger Hansi Müller. The two-man attack would see the reliable Klaus Allofs team up with star man Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
While the German starting lineup contained just one member of the team that had been beaten in 1976 – skipper Dietz – the Czech team featured no fewer than four of those who had featured in Belgrade, among them Antonín Panenka – the scorer of that (in)famous cheeky spot-kick.
Like every match that did not involve the hosts Italy the attendance at what was the tournament’s opening game would be incredibly disappointing, with just over eleven thousand spectators bothering to turn up. On what was a dry and bright afternoon home-based referee Alberto Michelotti would get things under way, with both teams in their immediately recognisable home colours – Germany in white shirts, black shorts and white socks and the Czechs in red, white and blue.
Right from the start there would be little urgency show by either side, with the play being confined to a very tightly-packed midfield. It took until the eighth minute for the first attempted shot at goal, when a hopeful long-range Czech effort flew over the bar. With the ball ending up somewhere near an empty stand and with no ballboys in sight German ‘keeper Toni Schumacher would find himself having to trudge a good thirty yards to retrieve it. It was more than a little surreal.
It took until the twelfth minute for Jupp Derwall’s side to launch their first genuine attack on the Czech goal, as Hans-Peter Briegel burst down the left and delivered a firm cross into the penalty area where it was easily gathered by Jaroslav Netolička. The combination of an unimaginative German side and a highly defensive Czech outfit offered little in the way of excitement; the Germans were the more positive of the two teams, but apart from a couple of weak shots from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Klaus Allofs there was little to test the Czech ‘keeper.
With just over half an hour gone Uli Stielike would find some space on the left before cutting inside to send a curling shot just over the crossbar and some five minutes later Ladislav Vízek screwed a shot well wide of the target for the Czechs, but this was as good as it got in what had been a disappointing and highly forgettable first half.
The second half would start as the first had ended, with the Germans being the more positive of the two teams without producing anything thing might have threatened Netolička in the Czech goal. With the minutes ticking by and both sides offering little, the crowd soon started to get a little restless.
It would take a sublime moment of skill to break the deadlock, and this would come just short of the hour mark when Klaus Allofs combined down the left with Hansi Müller, who outsmarted his marker before dinking the ball deep in the Czech box with the outside of his left foot. Netolička hurried across to his left as he tried to clear the danger, but not before Rummenigge had ghosted in at the far post to nod the ball over the ‘keeper and into the left side of the net.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge sneaks in at the far post to head past Jaroslav Netolička and give Germany the lead
On the balance of play Jupp Derwall’s side clearly deserved their lead, but in falling behind the onus would now be on the defending champions to show more adventure going forward. With their initial plan to secure the goalless draw having been derailed, the men in red would suddenly start to play with a little more urgency: within minutes of falling behind, the Czechs produced their best attacking move of the match as Zdeněk Nehoda sent a well-struck shot narrowly wide of the target.
In what was a positive move on the hour mark Derwall would replace Bernd Förster with the stylish Felix Magath, and moments later the Mannschaft could have extended their lead when a left-footed Rummenigge free-kick flew past the Czech wall and just past the post to Netolička’s right. With the game starting to open up, Jozef Vengloš’ side would finally start to show some of the style that had won them the title four years earlier.
Having spent much of the match with little to do, the German defenders were now having to do some defending, and skipper Bernard Dietz was shown the yellow card for a crunching challenge on Marián Masný on seventy minutes. At the other end, a well-placed Hansi Müller corner would find Briegel, whose stabbed shot was bravely smothered by Netolička.
The closing thirty minutes had been far more exciting than the first sixty, but there would be no further addition to the score. The Czechs had been far more threatening once they had started to chase the game, but it was Jupp Derwall’s side that could and perhaps should have extended their lead. With just over six minutes left on the clock Allofs had a good shout for a penalty turned down when Netolička appeared to bring him down after the ball had gone past, and right at the death Müller should have done better as he scuffed his shot wide of the target after a neat one-two with Rummenigge.
Müller’s missed opportunity would be the last action of the match, as the Italian referee blew the final whistle with less than a minute of injury time played. The Mannschaft had done just about enough to deserve the victory, and with it a small measure of revenge for their defeat in 1976; with two points safely in the bag Jupp Derwall’s side would head south to Naples, where they would take on World Cup runners-up and old rivals the Netherlands.
Germany FR: Schumacher – Kaltz, Cullmann, Kh. Förster, Dietz (c) – B. Förster (60. Magath), Stielike, Briegel, Ha. Müller – Kh. Rummenigge, K. Allofs
Czechoslovakia: Netolička – Ondruš, Barmoš, Jurkemik, Gögh – Kozák, Panenka, Gajdůšek (66. Masný) – Vízek, Štambachr, Nehoda
Referee: Alberto Michelotti (Italy)
Assistants: not known
Yellow Cards: Dietz, Allofs / –
Red Cards: – / –