Bitter cold rain from the North Sea comes swirling down the Elbe estuary, filling every cranny of the Volkspark Stadium in Hamburg, the floodlights ablaze even at 4 p.m. on this dismal May afternoon. Red and yellow slickers stand out brilliantly against the dark mass of the crowd of 55,000, repeating the black, red and gold of thousands of Bundesrepublik flags. A cacophony of hunting horns greets West Germany's soccer team as it runs out to meet Sweden in the last match of its program of warmup games before the World Cup. This event will reach its climax in Munich on July 7, when the final is played before 74,200 spectators at the Olympia Stadium and relayed to 800 million television viewers—the greatest number of people to witness a sporting event in history.
Now, at Hamburg, in the section of the stands reserved for honored guests, there is at least one man whose foremost worry is not the performance of the West German team but 80 buses. Is the Bundeswehr, the West German army, going to lend them to him or not? And the 80 drivers? "It's not the big things that worry me," says Hermann Joch, "but the little details." Eighty buses and 80 drivers are, in fact, minor concerns when over the last year or two you have spent about $100 million refurbishing the nine stadiums where the 38 World Cup matches will be played. Herr Joch, small, neat and roly-poly in his dark suit and horn-rimmed glasses, looks like a casting director's idea of one of the men behind West Germany's economic resurgence. Indeed, he is a man of powerful organizational talents, the chief executive of the World Cup Committee, though he has also had to solve such administrative problems as taking responsibility for the travel and accommodations of 16 national teams and officials and accrediting 4,000 journalists. There have been political worries, too, caused mainly by East Germany making its way to the finals, where it will compete in the same first-stage group as West Germany. The East German government will not allow just any of its citizens to cheer on their team, but 10,000 lucky ticket holders are expected to be brought west by special trains.
Joch and his committee will be recouping some of their country's outlay by selling 2� million tickets and collecting $7 million for television rights. In the name of fund raising, they are also responsible for the creation of two characters that are omnipresent on souvenirs from throwaway gas lighters to beer steins: Tip and Tap. Tip is a toothy dwarf with fever-red cheeks and sprouting black hair. Tap has a monk's haircut and a huge, elongated chin. Dressed in soccer gear, they are the copyrighted "mascots" for the World Cup and, even though the committee expects to pick up about $5 million for the right to use them, they are so macabre-looking that it is a pity no one had a word in good time with Joch. Or his art director.
That, though (and maybe those 80 buses), looks like the only slip he has made so far and he is clearly competent to handle any crisis off the field. But already there is the rumble of on-field trouble, which could turn nasty. It comes from Sydney, where at the end of last month Australia played Uruguay in a "friendly" pre-Cup game. Australia's team is a distinctly ragtag collection of immigrants from East Europe and Britain (the natives preferring a game of unspeakable violence called Australian rules) and is quoted at a depressing 500 to 1 by Ladbroke's, the London bookies, but it beat Uruguay 2-0, currently assessed at 14 to 1. Unhappily, Ray Baartz, the Aussie center-forward, was laid low with a karate chop by Luis Garisto, is partially paralyzed and will not play in Germany. The two countries probably will not meet in the World Cup but if they both progress, it could be sticky.
The most notable nonplayer this summer (though he may be in Munich as a television commentator) will be Pel�, now Professor Pel�, since he took his diploma de educa��o f�sica, which entitles him to teach physical education. After the 1970 Cup in Mexico the greatest of world soccer stars announced that he would not play in Germany. He has stuck to his vow despite appeals by Brazil's president and an army of children sent to his front door to plead, "Stay, stay!" not to mention a hit by pop singer Luis Americo entitled Camisa 10 (Pel�'s jersey number for 15 years), imploring Coach Mario Zagalo to bring back the old No. 10. Brazil, 4-to-1 second favorite, is also losing World Cup veterans Gerson, Tostao and Carlos Alberto, but it still has the players to make it a powerful force.
There is the massive-thighed Jairzinho, who scored seven goals in Mexico, and Luis Pereira, potentially one of the stars of the 1974 Cup, a very tough defense-man who suddenly surges forward to join the attack. There is Paulo C�sar, to whom Pel� publicly bequeathed his mantle as Brazil's great one, and Roberto Rivelino, whose primary talent is the "bombing kick," an exceptionally hard shot. Last year, when Brazil went on a tour in Africa, such a Rivelino shot caused a Tunisian goalkeeper to fall and break his shoulder.
Of the 16 teams in the finals, only Zaire, Australia and Haiti could be said to have had any easy passage because of weak qualifying groups. Both the Scots and the Yugoslavs, linked in the same group with Brazil, could give the world champions a shock. The East European teams, Bulgaria, Poland and East Germany, are hard, well-drilled attacking sides, particularly Poland, which deservedly knocked out England in a preliminary round. Aside from Brazil, though, the Latin American teams may not be the force they usually are. The Chilean squad is dominated by players from one club team, Colo Colo, and both Uruguay and Argentina have had to change coaches this year, Omar Sivori of Argentina departing after a public shouting match with officials of the national football association. More serious for both Argentina and Uruguay, team selection has been difficult. Stars of both countries' teams play for foreign clubs and there has been trouble getting them released.
No such awkwardness exists over the release of Johan Cruyff, the Dutchman for whom Barcelona paid a world-record fee of $2� million last year. It is written into his contract that he can play anytime for Holland, and it is chiefly because of his presence on the Dutch team that it is rated a 10-to-1 fourth favorite, generous odds in the opinion of many. With Pel� gone, Cruyff is now soccer's superstar, a highly intelligent player who is not only capable of brilliant individual breakthroughs and scoring shots but is a grafting, hard-running, constructive team member who has what coaches approvingly call a high work rate. Behind him is another fine Dutchman, Johan Neeskens, a tough, destructive midfield player who can also burst through to score. Holland could do very well in Germany.
The Italians, third favorite at 5 to 1, win their place in the ratings for mastery of defense in depth. Characteristically, their finest player is Goalkeeper Dino Zoff. Although no stylist—he saves goals with outthrust legs as well as by more orthodox dives—hardly anyone scores against him. In international soccer he has gone nine straight games without conceding a goal. In front of him stands the massive Italian defensive wall dominated by Giacinto Facchetti and Tarcisio Burgnich, which is in keeping with the catenaccio philosophy the Italians developed—raid, score a single goal, retreat into an 11-man defense. This could take Italy a long way at Munich, but it is an essentially sterile approach, one exposed at Mexico City in the 1970 final when Brazil, committing everything to attack, flayed Italy 4-1.
With so many imponderables, this is the most open World Cup since Sweden reached the final in 1958, to the dismay of the pundits. Last week, though, lined up under the floodlights on this murky Hamburg afternoon, the Swedes, rated 40 to 1 for the Cup, seem merely sparring partners for the powerful West Germans. The expected pattern quickly asserts itself. Occasional raids by Sweden through their striker, Roland Sandberg, are offset by pounding German attacks, the movements building up sweetly from Franz Beckenbauer and Paul Breitner, and flowing through Uli Hoeness and Gunter Netzer, all the time toward Gerd M�ller, who paces wolfishly within a 20-yard radius of the goal, trying to shake the two, sometimes three, defensemen the Swedes have allocated him.