If the Super Bowl were played between all-star teams representing the United States and the Soviet Union, it might approach in emotional intensity an international soccer match between England and West Germany. Much of this stems from two previous meetings—in the finals of the 1966 World Cup, when the English defeated the Germans 4-2 in extra time, and in the quarterfinals of the 1970 World Cup in Le�n, Mexico, where the Germans rallied with three straight goals to put England out of the tournament 3-2, again in extra time.
So it was not surprising when 90,000 mad Englishmen and another 10,000 equally mad Germans defied wind and cold, drenching rain to jam London's Wembley Stadium last Saturday night for the renewal of their rivalry in the quarterfinals of the biennial European Cup of Nations. (The enthusiasm lost something in transmission, however. Cable-TV audiences in many U.S. theaters were considered disappointing.)
The scene in Wembley was reminiscent of the 1966 World Cup finals: the noisy, exuberant crowd chanting in deep-throated unison, "Eng-land, Eng-land, Eng-land," a level and steadiness of noise far exceeding that at stop-and-start American football games. Unfortunately for the English, that is where the resemblance to 1966 ended. The game itself was quite different.
This time the Germans won rather easily 3-1 by outrunning the comparatively lethargic English and capitalizing on their scoring opportunities with flashing skill and determination. The English, aggressive but unimaginative, proved too slow and too methodical to overcome the German defense.
The British morning-after press viewed the defeat as a national disaster. OH, WHAT A BLACK DAY FOR ENGLAND, lamented the Sunday Express, THE BEGINNING OF THE END said The Observer. It was, to be sure, a somber turn for the soccer-proud English and it was only natural that they began casting about at once for someone to blame. Sir Alf Ramsey, the coach of the England team, who still clings to the kind of soccer that won him and England the World Cup in 1966, was certainly a target of convenience. If you had to compare him to an American football coach, it would be Vince Lombardi, but with less emotion. Sir Alf believes in making as few errors as possible and fattening on the errors of the opponent, which is dull—but fine if you win.
Helmut Schoen, coach of the West Germans, is almost the complete opposite. Tall, balding and outgoing, with a ready smile and ready statement, he somehow manages never to reveal much. Because the quarterfinals consist of two games, with aggregate scores determining the winner, Schoen had been expected to play a defensive, containing game at Wembley, holding his attack forces for the rematch in Berlin May 13. But Schoen did the opposite.
"I was surprised that they came at us so much in the first half," Sir Alf said after the game. "But it was probably our fault."
This was the first time in 71 years a German team had won at Wembley, and the victory was achieved with considerable style, skill and discipline. Much of it stemmed from veteran Franz Beckenbauer, the Germans' sweeper—a kind of free safety who plays just behind the first line, sweeping up loose balls and retrieving the errors of those up front. But Beckenbauer did far more; he was often the man who launched the swift German sorties with deft, flicking passes that were almost always on target to the most open man.
In the first half, before the heavy footing slowed him, Beckenbauer moved into the attack himself, and indeed he took the first really good hard shot in the game, firing from some 30 yards out toward the right corner of the English goal. Gordon Banks, England's fine goalie, barely managed a diving interception of the ball.
During the first half Banks was sorely pressed by the German offense. He blocked another shot by powerful Gerd M�ller, the top scorer in Europe, but the block only postponed disaster momentarily. When Bobby Moore, the English captain, failed to clear the ball afterward it was picked up by M�ller, who drew the defense in toward him and then snapped off a short pass to Uli Hoeness, another forward, on his right. Hoeness' shot caromed off Norman Hunter and into the net.