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West Germany 1974

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Let's look back at the tenth World Cup, held in West Germany in 1974 and won by West Germany - their second win.

The qualifications for 1974 were the beginning of a dark period in English football (and no doubt, consequently a bright period for Scottish fans). England had lost to Poland 0-2 in Poland and drawn 1-1 with Wales at Wembley. The needed a win in their final game against Poland to qualify.

The mood in England was good - a win seemed inevitable. Poland's goalkeeper, who regularly played in white socks, red shorts and a yellow jersey was labelled "a circus clown in gloves". When Poland went 1-0 up, it was surprising but not too alarming. England dominated the first half (14 corners) and eventually netted an equaliser with 27 minutes to go. But it was the clown's night - he starred in goal with an unorthodox but very effective performance. The final score was 1-1 and England were out, despite having had 35 goals attempts to just 2.

England didn't qualify again for the finals until 1982. The loss to Poland on October 17, 1973 is still talked about as a pivotal moment in English football. It took a long time to recover. (Some would say they still haven't.)

Belgium's qualification story is one of hard luck. They were drawn in the same group as 'Total Football' Holland and only one team could qualify. Their coach's maxim was let's not concede any goals and we'll be right. And it worked very well. They kept clean sheets, defeated the weaker teams and kept the Dutch scoreless for a 0-0 draw at home.

The last game away to Holland would decide who would go through. A supreme effort again kept the Dutch scoreless. Cruelly a lineman's flag denied them what appeared an legitimate goal for offside. The game finished 0-0. Sadly for Belgium, Holland went through with a better goal difference and went on to finish runners-up. Belgium are left with the unenviable record of being the only team to miss out on qualification without having conceded a goal.

FIFA's insistence on only 16 teams at the finals from 95 entrants meant for the first time that a European team would play a South American team in a qualifier. The USSR drew 0-0 with Chile in the home leg in Moscow. Then Pinochet stormed to power in Chile. The national football stadium became the setting for torture and murder. Two months after the fanatically anti-communistic Pinochet came to power, the USSR was due to play the return leg in that very stadium. Four days before the tie, the USSR put conscience above winning and pulled out and Chile duly qualified. What makes this so remarkable though, is that the game was still actually 'played'. 40,000 fans turned up to watch Chile, in full kit, go through the motions and stage the match with no opponents.

1974 was of course the first time (and now thankfully not still the only time) Australia qualified for the finals. And we managed to enter the record books on our first attempt. And it was through Welsh referee Clive Thomas, a stickler for the rules known as 'The Book' for his fondness of taking names. He was (in)famous for issuing a yellow card to a player while said player was being stretchered off with a broken leg.

Australia's third game was against the aforementioned Chile in a game rendered meaningless by earlier results. Both sides were going home. The game was played in torrid conditions and play was actually suspended during a torrential downpour. Thomas was the fourth official.

Australia's Ray Richards picked up a yellow card in the 37th minute. Late in the second half he transgressed again. The referee reached into his pocket, but generously showed Richards a second yellow (but no red) and allowed him to play on. Naturally the Australians kept their mouths shut. But the Chileans and the linesmen got into the spirit of things and also said nothing. After all it didn't matter. But Thomas couldn't contain himself. He lasted five minutes before a quiet word with a linesman ended Richards' World Cup seven minutes early. Thomas remains the only 'spectator' to ever have a player sent off and Richards remains the only player to ever play 'illegally' at the finals. Update: until 2006 that is.

The final was between hosts West Germany and Holland, two very bitter enemies following the hostilities of WWII. Fans jeered each other. The press joined in. Tension was very high. On Sunday July 7 in front of 77,000 fans in Munich's Olympic Stadium, Franz 'The Kaiser' Beckenbauer led out his team to match up against Johan Cruyff's side. How could anyone steal the limelight.

Enter English referee Jack Taylor. Supremely focused, he delayed the kick-off when he spotted that stadium staff had forgotten to put up the corner flags. But this was trivial. After just 90 seconds, before the West Germans had even touched the ball as the Dutch taunted them with possession football, Taylor awarded a penalty, the first ever in a WC Final. Beckenbauer hissed to Taylor the worst insult he could think of, "You are an Englishman of course". The Dutch went 1-0 up with the fastest goal ever in a final.

The Dutch then sat back believing they would win. The West Germans then earnt themselves a dubious penalty. Opinions are divided over the decision - was it a dive? Taylor later said curiously the penalty was for 'intent' not 'contact'. It was 1-1 after 25 minutes. So after going 44 years without a penalty in a final we now had two. Holland, rattled, conceded another before half-time. As the players left the pitch at the break Taylor gave Cruyff a yellow card for backchat. There were no further goals; the game finished 2-1 to West Germany. Sadly such a momentous game is largely remembered for the referee.

Postscript: At a glittering FIFA bash in 1999, Jack Taylor was admitted into the FIFA International Hall of Fame. Beckenbauer said a few nice words. Cruyff actually presented the award. As Taylor approached the Dutch legend, he reached into his pocket, drew out a yellow card and held it aloft. It brought the house down and once again Taylor had stolen the show.