Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Cup tournament was a bit surprising: Borussia Moenchengladbach was eliminated in the first round. Bayern managed to reach ¼ by beating Bayern Amateurs at 1/8. However, the second team fought hard against the stars – the match ended 5-3 for the professionals. In the next stage Bayern lost. The ½ finalists were curious bunch: Bayer (Uerdingen) from Second Division; Rot-Weiss (Essen), hopelessly last in First Division; 1. FC Koln, who were not exactly winners in the last 6-7 years; and Hertha (West Berlin) – sporadic club, generally accustomed to midtable. None of the strong clubs reached so far. Bayer and Rot-Weiss had excellent runs, but went so far and no further. Koln and Hertha met at the final and were unable to produce a winner – 1-1 tie. In the replay 1. FC Koln clinched 1-0 victory and won the Cup.

Koln normally counted among the better German clubs, but this was their second Cup and first trophy since 1968. The 'Billy Goats' finally won something and it was great for venerable Wolfgang Overath to end his career on high note. Sadly, he was not a member of the winning team.

Koln were quite a solid team: Flohe, Cullmann, Dieter Muller, Zimermann, the Belgian striker van Gool, and solid second-stringers (on national scale) Konopka and Lohr. Schumacher was becoming promising keeper, finally improving after shaky previous years. Preben Elkjaer-Larsen was on the bench. The triumph was a result of the coach not so long ago fired by Barcelona (or Cruyff) – Hennes Weisweiler.

To be 'second' at Cup tournaments means practically nothing. Hertha reached the final, managed to get a replay, and lost at the end by a single goal. Misery.

Here they are, the finalists. The Berliners were kind of doomed to second place. Yet, those were their best years in the 1970s. Alas, without final success.

At the end, when one look at the 1976-77 season something old, familiar, and unchanging was immediately detectable: Udo Lattek and Hennes Weisweiler. Rivals and leaders, and constant winners. Lattek won with Bayern and now with Borussia. Weisweiler won with Borussia and now with Koln. Their noble fight was not over yet and one thing was certain: these two really shaped the German football of the 1970s. On the other hand, it was becoming boring – year after year Lattek and Weisweiler... Meantime other legends were coming to end: Beckenbauer played his last season for Bayern and also retired from the national team. Season over, he went to New York and joined Pele after 427 games and 60 goals for Bayern, and 103 caps and 14 goals for West Germany. Wolfgang Overath retired at the end of the season as well – ending with 409 matches and 84 goals for one and only club, 1. FC Koln. Overath also played 81 matches for West Germany, scoring 17 goals, but he retired from the national team right after winning the World Cup in 1974. Now it was entirely over for him. Looked like Beckenbauer played his last match in Germany too, but – no. The Kaiser had quite a few years ahead of him, contrary to sad expectations. No matter, it was an and of an era - Overath was a staple since 1962. Beckenbauer – since 1964. In a way, these two WERE the Bundesliga. And now – gone. Time for new heroes (may be). Or may be old ones?

Dieter Muller (1. FC Koln) was the top goalscorer with 34 goals. Since the 1976 European finals he was expected to become superstar – may be was already? May be next year for sure? After all, he bested the 'real' Muller, Gerd, by 6 goals and managed to score the highest number since 1973. But the best player of the year was a veteran – Sepp Maier. There was still a lot in the old legs and hands, was the message. May be young guys should just give up their ambitions... anyhow, it was surprising and telling reward for the eternal goalkeeper: 65 balls ended in the net behind him! Imagine how much he saved, to end up with ONLY 65.

Sepp Maier going strong when his team was rapidly declining. Well deserved award for one of the best ever keepers.