Saturday, October 23, 2010

West Germans were to take the world by storm and before the championship started confidence reigned: West Germany had the easiest round robim group. Just one quick qalk over in splendid style. Reality was bitterly disappointing – BRD won 1-0 against Chile in their opening match after lucklustre performance. Their second match brought massive indignation – 3-0 win against Australia.
Muller seems supreme here, but the photo lies. As against Chile, the West Germans struggled and nothing worked. The team was harshly criticized by officials, the media, and the fans. They qualified already for the second round, but they were not the well-oiled machine comfortably gliding from victory to victory. Especially in attack – which was supposed to be lethal – West Germans showed massive problems. Some heroes of 1972 did not even appear on the pitch, suggesting that they are entirely out of form… Wimmer, Erwin Kremers, Netzer… Heynckes was big dissapointment. Something was very, very wrong.
Then came the third match, which was more than a match. Although West and East German clubs played often against each other, the national teams never met before – it was the first, and as it turned out also the last – match between the national teams of the two Germanies. And it had the aura of ideological clash of two systems literally divided by a wall. Since both countries were seen as a show case of their respective political system, it was much more than, say, West Germany playing against USSR. Now it was crystal clear – a German against German; a Trabant vs BMW: Socialism vs Capitalism in its purest, which was represented by the players themselves: pampered hired legs vs patriotic enthusiasts. Spoiled lackeys vs responsible and modest working class guys. There was no doubt that both countries would indoctrinate their teams and it would be more than a simple match. The was also no doubt that both teams, whether lackeys or modest workers, will play with particular zeal. The stakes were just too high not to affect everybody… the match was already becoming a myth.
Bellow the ideological pitch the purely sporting picture was a bit different (although initially not coming in comflict, but rather complimented, the ideological side) – West Germany already qualified, but East Germany needed a victory to go ahead. Even without ideological spur the East Germans were to be highly motivated. However, in Eastern Europe – except DDR itself – the view was relatively realistic: no doubt, the ‘brothers’ would play the best they can for glory of Communism, but… the West Germans, free from concerns about qualifying were expected to play patriotically too, and they were much classier team. Whatever troubles they displayed so far, were to go, when the East Germans may have been restrained by the psychological pressure to win at all costs. Nobody really believed in DDR’s victory – Chile (regretfully!) was expected to go ahead, for there was no doubt they will beat Australia.
So, high expectations, a lot of speculations and arguments, and pictures of the opponents preparing themselves for the war between Capitalism and Communism. And as photos go – both teams looked calm and confident in training.
Then the match started and in the 77th minute Jurgen Sparwasser scored.
West German agony shows on their faces… and soon the maych ended. West Germany lost… The East burst in triumph; the West – with indignation. However, immediately suspicion was born – the question did West Germany deliberately lost the match or was it fixed match is asked to this very day. So far, all involved deny any such things. The match was absolutely real and everybody was highly motivated – that’s the ‘truth’… well, nobody would say anything different, I suppose. To my mind, there is no question of back room fixing or even less of bribing. I am convinced the East Germans played in earnest. But I think – and I am not alone thinking so – that Helmut Schon deliberately lost the match. It cannot be proven and there will never be any evidence… but it looks like this: two groups had still to play the next day and there was no way to say for sure who will go ahead and to which semi-final group (the argument of those supporting ‘honest’ loss of West Germany). But the results so far provided for reasonable gambling – it was unlikely Bulgaria upsetting Holland and the chances of Brazil finishing first in their group were small. Thus, the chances were Holland and Brazil to be in one semi-final group – the very group West Germany was going to be if finishing first. And they were to be first if their last match ended in any other result but a loss. Which meant going to very tough group – facing flying Holland and traditionally difficult Brazil (tradition plays a big role in football – as a rule, Brazil beats (West) Germany no matter squads, form, or stakes). Reaching the final was very, very questionable possibility in such group. So the West Germans gambled (they qualified already, so there was no fear of missing the next round) and it turned out successful gamble – Brazil, Holland, and Argentina made the group. West Germany went to the much easier for them other semi-final group with Yugoslavia, Poland, and Sweden. To hell with ideology when thinking of final victory.
The trick of 1954 against Hungary was recycled and recalled, but the truth is nobody was particularly happy (yet) for the team so far played badly and did not look like they were going to win the World title. Which is also remembered by many a critic… and argued later that the Germans won by mean schemes and tricks and not by playing.
This weird match was the only one two heroes of 1972 played: both Netzer and Hottges came as substitutes in the 69th minute. Today Netzer says that he never felt he was a world champion and this particular match he chose to forget.