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.
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.
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
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.
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.