The 1976 European Championship finals in Yugoslavia had everything – goals, controversy, extra-time comebacks and the drama of the first-ever penalty shootout in international competition. As in Belgium four years earlier, the tournament was effectively a four-team “microtournament”, with the Balkan hosts entertaining holders Germany, Czechoslovakia and first-timers The Netherlands.
Germany’s first game was their semi-finals against hosts Yugoslavia, and what a game it was. The Yugoslavs had been the only team to defeat the Mannschaft in the history of the tournament – a qualifying game in 1967 that was instrumental in the German team missing out in the qualifying phase for the first and so far only time in their history.
In front of a partisan crowd of over fifty thousand people, the home side made all of the early running, and by half-time it looked as though 1967 was going to repeat itself as the hosts had stormed into a 2-0 lead. Although they had played the better football during the first half, the hosts were lucky to be two goals in front: Bernhard Dietz had been very unlucky not to have given Germany the lead when he was flagged for offside despite being a good yard behind his marker, and Yugoslavia’s second goal had come courtesy of a rare clanger from ‘keeper Sepp Maier.
With just over an hour gone, Helmut Schön’s side finally gained a foothold in the game. It was a case of Germany getting that little bit of luck, as Heinz Flohe’s shot took a wicked deflection off Herbert Wimmer leaving Ognjen Petrović in the Yugoslav goal rooted to the spot. It was just the spark Germany needed, as they desperately chased the game.
With eleven minutes remaining, 22 year old Dieter Müller stepped on the pitch. It was his international debut. Nobody would know it when the young 1. FC Köln striker replaced Herbert Wimmer, but it would turn out to be one of the most inspired substitutions in the history of the Nationalmannschaft. Just three minutes later, a Rainer Bonhof corner from the left was nodded into the net by an unmarked Müller to draw the Germans level. The home side were stunned, and had all of the momentum as the match headed into extra time.
With five minutes of extra time remaining, a penalty shootout seemed certain – apart from a Bonhof shot that warmed Petrović’s gloves, there had been no real opportunities for either side. Then Flohe charged down the left, skinning his marker before sending the ball across the box and past Petrović; it found Bernd Hölzenbein in the box, who then played a neat cutback for Müller to slam the ball into the roof of the net.
The Yugoslavs were now left needing a miracle, and had clearly been crushed in throwing away a two-goal cushion. But the German goalscoring was not yet over. After Bonhof had charged to the edge of the box and unleashed a left-foot shot that cannoned off the post, hero of the moment Müller was on hand to calmly stroke the ball into the net to put the Mannschaft 4-2 in front and complete an astonishing hat-trick. Once again, Germany were in a major tournament final.
Three days after their stunning extra-time victory over the hosts, Germany returned to Belgrade to take on Czechoslovakia, who had beaten the Dutch 3-1 in another game that had been level right until the last moments of extra time.
Germany were clearly favourites to retain their title, but the upstart Czechs had other ideas. Just has been the case in the semi-final, Helmut Schön’s side were 2-0 down with not even half an hour on the clock as Ján Švehlík and Karol Dobiaš found the back of the net. Both goals could easily have been avoided: after Sepp Maier had brilliantly parried Švehlík’s initial shot the defence simply could not get rid of the ball which fell nicely for the Czech number 17 for the first goal, and Dobiaš’ speculative long-distance shot had found Maier unsighted for the second.
Unlike in the semi-final, Germany were quickly back into the game courtesy of a sublime team goal. After Herbert Wimmer had picked up a long cross-field pass just inside the opposition half on the right, he cut inside and charged past two defenders before laying the ball out to the overlapping Bonhof, whose superb chipped cross found that man Dieter Müller unmarked into the box. The Köln man swept the ball into the net on the volley to peg the score back to 2-1.
It is impossible to know how Germany didn’t square things up early in the second half – after a precise long ball from Franz Beckenbauer, Dieter Müller put in a cross from the right that was palmed away by ‘keeper Ivo Viktor straight to Uli Hoeneß, setting up what looked like a game of pinball in the Czech Box. Somehow, Viktor was able to smother the ball after Uli Hoeneß’ shot had come off the post.
Just as it looked as though the Czechs were going to hold out to take the win in the regulation ninety minutes, Germany once again pulled it out of the fire. With a minute to go, A Rainer Bohnof corner was met by Bernd Hölzenbein, who beat Viktor in the air to put Germany level with the back of his head. So once more it was extra-time.
There was to be no Dieter Müller extra-time show this time around; with the addition half-hour providing no addition to the scoreline, it was down to penalty kicks for the first time in international competion. The Czechs got things started, with Marián Masný netting their opener. Bonhof was then on target to level things up. Nehoda, 2-1. Flohe, 2-2. Ondruš, 3-2. Sub Hannes Bongartz, 3-3. Jurkemik 4-3. Then came the first defining moment, as Uli Hoeness stepped up for his Elfmeter and blasted it over the bar.
The onus was back now on Sepp Maier, who had to keep Antonín Panenka’s kick out to keep his team in the final. Alas, the moment that followed would go down as one of those (in)famous football legends as Panenka ran in and cheekily chipped the ball straight down the middle and over Maier. It would be Germany’s first penalty shootout defeat in major international competition – and to date it would also be their last.
Semi-Final v Yugoslavia, Crvena Zvezda Stadium, Beograd, 17.06.1976
4-2 aet (0-2, 2-2)
Flohe 64., D. Müller 82., 115., 119. / Popivoda 19., Džajić 30.
Germany FR: Maier – Vogts, Dietz – Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer (c), Bonhof – U. Hoeneß, Wimmer (79. D. Müller), Beer, Danner (46. Flohe), Hölzenbein
Yugoslavia: Petrović – Buljan, Žungul, Katalinski, Mužinić – Šurjak, Oblak (105. Peruzović), Aćimović (105. Vladić) – Popivoda, Jerković, Džajić
Referee: Alfred Delcourt (Belgium)
Assistants: not known
Yellow Cards: – / –
Red Cards: – / –
Final v Czechoslovakia, Crvena Zvezda Stadium, Beograd, 20.06.1976
3-5 PSO (1-2, 2-2, 2-2 aet)
D. Müller 28., Hölzenbein 89. / Švehlík 8., Dobiaš 25.
Penalties: Masný 0-1; Bonhof 1-1; Nehoda 1-2; Flohe 2-2; Ondruš 2-3; Bongartz 3-3; Jurkemik 3-4; U. Hoeneß MISSED; Panenka 3-5.
Germany FR: Maier – Vogts, Dietz – Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer (c), Bonhof – U. Hoeneß, Wimmer (46. Flohe), D. Müller, Beer (80. Bongartz), Hölzenbein
Czechoslovakia: Viktor – Pivarník, Ondruš, Čapkovič, Gögh – Dobiaš (94. Veselý), Panenka, Móder – Masný, Švehlík (80. Jurkemik), Nehoda
Referee: Sergio Gonella (Italy)
Assistants: not known
Yellow Cards: – / Dobiaš, Móder
Red Cards: – / –