Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And such was the contribution of most new national players – at the end, only Dietz, Kaltz, and Stielike established themselves in the national team. However, by 1976 only the left full back Dietz was a firm national player. The other two were still questionable (in the case of Kaltz – Berti Vogts was the main obstacle). It was not only new players giving headache to Schon – out of desperation, he tried, discarded, tried again, and discarded again some players, who no longer had firm place in the team – Heynckes and Wimmer. Both were starters in the great team winning the European championship in 1972, but were relegated to the substitute bench at the World Cup in 1974. Heynckes was reintroduced in hope to improve scoring – he was the top goalscorer in Germany in 1974-75, and generally was second best the previous seasons. But he was not up to Schon’s expectations – and he was quickly replaced by another player in the next match. The replacement failed as well, Heynckes was called again… it was painful struggle.
Heynckes scoring against Greece and 1-0 for West Germany. It was not enough… Heynckes seemingly was able to score occasionally against outsiders by now, and his rare goals were not winners either – the Greeks equalized.
Similarly Wimmer: he was originally a defensive midfielder, moved to playmaker’s position in Borussia after Netzer went to Spain. In the national team Wimmer was edged by his younger teammate in Borussia – Rainer Bonhof – and firmly benched during the World Cup. In late 1974 and 1975 he was a starter again – seemingly, Schon was trying to use him as a playmaker – but Wimmer was not Netzer or Overath… At the end, Flohe and Culmann were playing more and more and the whole German team looked tough, but clueless. Capable of running, but not of playing. Frustration was obvious. I watched Bulgaria – West Germany in the drizzle of cold April day in Sofia: the match was huge disappointment – chaotic Bulgarian squad, having no idea what to do on the pitch was opposed by equally chaotic and not knowing what to do German squad. By sheer willpower, the World Champions prevented a loss. It was impossible to tell who were the world champions, except by the colour of the shirts… both teams were increadibly bad. Sign of the times to come – the bleak, artless, unimaginative German football of the 1980s, winning only by will and physicality, was already in place. There was strength and no spark. West Germany moved ahead, but without even winning against lowly opponents like Bulgaria and Greece. It could be said that Malta actually qualified West Germany – by beating Greece and losing 0-8 to the Germans.
Two 1-1 ties against… Greece. Erich Beer, one of the not-so-young new players introduced by Schon seems impessive with this flying header in front of Pallas and Kaltz. Modest players like Pallas were a big problem for the mighty Germans… for the likes of Beer. Kaltz was hardly big help yet. What a downfall – it looks like Maier needs the gloves of the Greek goalie Kelesidis. Well, at least this photo is misleading – at least Maier was in top form and distinct from his Greek colleague. Can’t say the same for the Germans on the left.
The last hope was in revoking the World Cup – back than Schon modified the team every game until finally finding the right variation. It came at the last match in the semi-final round robin group and became the squad winning the tournament. May be he will be able to find his winning team when it matters again? Old fox like Schon… in a way, he did it again. Almost did it. But by the end of 1975 there was no sign of greatness and the only reason West Germany was seen as still dangerous team was because it was West Germany. Alas, a very different one from even a year ago – West Germany of the 1980s, hateful to watch, was already taking shape. The team which banished fun from football.