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In Munich last week at the World Cup final, the hysterical roaring of more than 80,000 West Germans burst against the opalescent, bat-winged canopy of the Olympic stadium, as Johan Cruyff of Holland, world master of soccer, in possession of the ball far out in the right-hand corner of the field, sent it curling, head high, across the German goalmouth. Sepp Maier, the goalie, lay sprawled hopelessly out of position. Running in, a blur of orange shirt, Johan Neeskens hit the ball truly with his forehead, sending it flashing toward the empty goal.
Only a miraculous materialization of the M�nchner Kindl, the little girl dressed in the black-and-gold monk's habit who traditionally protects Munich in times of distress, could save West Germany now, it seemed. Her tiring team had been barely holding onto a 2-1 lead as the second half of the game slid away, and the Dutch, having found their rhythm at last, had mounted attack after attack. An equalizing goal and they would break through the dikes like the North Sea. And at this moment the Dutch fans, 3,500 of them lost in the vast stadium, must have lifted their orange flags at least halfway to the gray Munich sky.
Only halfway, though. The M�nchner Kindl did intervene in the form of a creature powerfully physical and real. Paul Breitner, with his mad, black Struwwelpeter hair, hurtled in from nowhere, heading the ball away in the last millisecond. That was the sort of Dutch day it was. In the last 20 minutes of the game Goalie Maier kept out a cannoning header from Wim Van Hanegem and blocked point-blank volleys from Neeskens that would have been sure goals on any ordinary day. In fact, the German defense was so hard-pressed that once, when a ball was booted clear of its half of the field, where 21 players were constantly operating, Jan Jongbloed, the Dutch goalie, alone in his half, felt secure enough to run out of his goal area and head the ball back.
But the Dutch assault was too late and too unlucky. The delirious chant, as the new golden globe trophy of world soccer was presented to Franz Beckenbauer, Germany's captain, was " Deutschland, Deutschland!" not " Holland, Holland!" And in all the Olympic stadium the only German in tears was Gunter Netzer, the blond midfield player of extraordinary skills, who was expected to play a major part in his team's title bid but who had only appeared for a short spell, as a substitute. He wept, according to the Munich paper S�ddeutsche Zeitung, for a full 20 minutes, the time he had actually spent playing in the championship, in bitter regret at being left on the sideline in his country's greatest soccer hour.
It was the greatest hour because as the final whistle blew, West Germany became undisputed world leader in the game. Not only had she won the World Cup. Two years previously, with a team marginally better than this one, she had won the European Nations Cup, almost as prestigious as the World Cup. And her leading club team, Bayern M�nchen, with six players on the national squad, defeated Atlectico de Madrid this year to win the European Champions Cup, virtually the world club championship. The William Hill Organization, the London bookmaking firm, has already listed West Germany as 4-1 favorite to win the next World Cup, to be held in 1978 in Buenos Aires.
At the start of the Munich final Holland was a slight favorite to beat West Germany. The Dutch team had played superbly to reach the final, its 4-0 dismembering of Argentina being the classic of the series to that point. Much more important, though, it had something new to give to the sport, a joyful philosophy of attack that put to shame the defense-minded soccer that has bedeviled the game since the Italians first invented the catenaccio technique, the chain of interlinked defenders whose foremost task is not to lose rather than to win.
For catenaccio Holland substituted what was swiftly christened the Dutch Whirl. In the whirl, players seem to have no fixed positions. Nominally, Johan Neeskens plays as a striker, a front-runner, swooping in on the goal. Suddenly, though, he has become a defenseman and before your very eyes somebody else, Wim Suurbier maybe, has left his home-goal area and is making surging runs down the flanks of the field and crossing balls for Cruyff or Rob Rensenbrink. That is an oversimplification, because other players have joined in the whirl as well. Cruyff has dropped back, Johnny Rep is operating midfield. To the confused spectator it seems as if some drunken square dance caller is throwing out instructions to change partners at a faster and faster rate. If you were a Brazilian or an Argentinian defenseman in this World Cup, it was even more confusing.
But there was more to the Dutch than the Whirl. On the field they were as big, as tough, as hard-tackling, sometimes as brutal, as any other team. But they were somehow heartwarming as well. Who could resist a team that lined up at the start of the game singing, clearly and with strong feeling, the words of its country's national anthem—the loudest singers being players who wore hippy love beads over their orange shirts. For the whole world outside West Germany—and this was entirely unfair, because the German players were brave and skilled and had a better record for clean play than any other team in the tournament—the Dutch were the guys in the white hats. They had spirit, they had guts and technically they were more accomplished than the Germans. They had to win.
There are several theories as to why they failed to do so, and the first involves a little World Cup history. In 1954 in Switzerland, the favorite was Hungary. The Hungarians were perhaps the finest team ever to appear on the world soccer stage, even if you include the Brazil of Pel�. Hungary had the essential core of world-class players—Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis, Nandor Hidegkuti—and the previous winter had become the first foreign team ever to win on British soil, thrashing England 6-3 at Wembley. The Hungarians were the hottest favorites of all time in the World Cup.
In the quarterfinals, though, they met Brazil in what would become known as the Battle of Berne. Three players were sent off. The game was marked by scarcely controlled violence, which erupted again after the game when the Brazilians invaded the Hungarian dressing room with boots and bottles flying. Hungary beat Brazil 4-2, but in the final, meeting an uninspired but solid West German side, she lost 2-3 even though taking the lead six minutes after the start.