West Germany 1974
Champion: West Germany
The West Germans, playing at home, defeated the Netherlands, who were the pre-game favorites, 2-1 to win their second World Cup. The tournament marked the first time that the current trophy, created by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga, was awarded by FIFA.
Host: West Germany
West Germany were chosen as the host nation by FIFA in 1966. Hosting rights for the 1978 and 1982 tournaments were awarded at the same time. West Germany agreed to a deal with Spain by which the West Germans would allow Spain to bid for the 1982 World Cup unopposed.
Best player: Grzegorz Lato (Poland)
With seven goals, the Polish striker was the tournament’s top scorer. Lato’s success coincided with the golden era of Polish soccer, starting with an Olympic gold medal at the 1972 Munich Games and ending a decade later with a third-place finish at the 1982 World Cup. He remains the only Polish player to ever win the Golden Ball award at a World Cup.
Among the most notable: Chile’s Carlos Caszely became the first player to be given a red card in a World Cup game. In one of the oddest moments, the start of the final was delayed after the referee noticed the corner flag was missing.
Quality of play:
The era of Brazilian dominance was over. In its place, the mid-’70s represented the era of “Total Football.” Ajax and Bayern Munich dominated the European game with a free-flowing, interchangeable tactical approach. While the Netherlands, which featured the likes of Johan Cruyff at his best, played a more-attractive style, the West Germans won the European Cup in 1972 playing a more functional, often defensive brand, to great effect. The West Germans featured the grace of sweeper Franz Beckenbauer as well as the offensive power of Gerd Muller. Meanwhile, the Brazilians, with Pele gone, played a more European-style that proved ugly and ineffective.
Germany’s white shirts and black shorts proved a classic look, while Zaire’s all-green kit proved garish.
East Germany made their only appearance at a World Cup.