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At 7:45 the bus halted at the border of the East Zone of Germany. Out of a small control-point shack came two soldiers in brownish uniforms with green tabs. They were from the East German army, and they inspected the bus quickly. Behind them two short, tough-looking Soviet soldiers in fur caps stood and watched.
Once on the Autobahn which runs between Berlin and Leipzig, we were able to see the drab emptiness of the East Zone. Whereas in West Germany new building developments spring up in a matter of months, there seems to be almost no building here. Much war damage remains unrepaired. Bullet holes pockmark the buildings.
As we approached Leipzig, we began to pass buses carrying fans to the match. In the city everyone seemed to be walking toward Central Stadium, although it was still two hours before game time.
Over the Hotel Astoria, where 18 Soviet soccer men were staying, hung a red flag with its hammer and sickle. Around the corner, 16 Polish players were living at the Hotel International. Between them, on the front of an office building, was strung a long red banner which announced: "1917-1957—40 years that changed the world."
Out by the high walls of the stadium, which was only finished in August 1956, the crowd was even thicker. Soviet officers and soldiers moved among East German civilians. Of the 100,000 seats in the stadium, which also has room for 10,000 standees, 12,000 seats had been turned over to Soviet troops and officials in East Germany. Not many Russians had traveled to Leipzig from Russia, but 4,000 Poles, some of them rewarded for having exceeded their work norms, had come from Poland. They were strongly in evidence on one corner where a group of young boys were blowing horns, waving red and white Polish flags and hoisting a placard which read, "Footballers, you will see. Poland goes to Sweden."
The beautiful stadium was packed for the kickoff. At one end between the flags of Russia and Poland surprisingly flew the Union Jack of Great Britain. This unusual nod to the English was for the referee of the day, John Holden Clugh. Clugh had refereed the first two games so well that both teams had requested him for the playoff.
In the first few minutes of play the teams looked confusingly similar. The Russians in red jerseys, white pants and red socks were slightly bigger than the Poles in their white jerseys, red pants and red socks with single white stripe. The Russians had fielded a team consisting of Jaschin (goalkeeper), Ogonkow (right back), Kessarew (center half, called middle back in the Russians' concentrated defensive system, also used by the Poles), Kusnewzow (left back), Winow (right half), Captain Igor Netto (left half), Tatuschin (outside right), Jwanow (outside left), Mamedew (center forward), Strelzow (inside left) and Kowaljow (outside left). Pregame stars were the fantastic acrobat Jaschin, Ogonkow, Netto and Strelzow, who was injured with a pulled muscle in his thigh.
On the Polish team, only Captain Gerhard Cieslik was cited a pregame man to watch, as when the Poles win it is more through spirited teamwork than individual efforts.
The Poles began with a burst of clever and precise midfield passing that had many of the spectators hopefully murmuring, "The Poles are better. The Poles are just missing goals by inches."
Indeed, the Poles were consistently down around the Russian goal. They seemed more hopped up and more certain of themselves, although Referee Clugh said after the match that the tension in both teams, just before the kickoff, had been so apparent that many Russian and Polish players were actually trembling.