Monday 21 January 2019

Remembering The Royal League (Expanded piece)

A few months ago I wrote short a piece on the Royal and have since decided to expand on it further and give a more detailed account of the short lived competition. I hope you enjoy this more in depth look at Scandinavia's Royal League, of which a version was featured on the These Football Times website. You can read the original piece here.

"If we don't find a way forward and negotiate a new TV deal it doesn't look good for the Royal League”. Those were the words of then Brøndby chairman Per Bjerregaard after his club won the third and final instalment of Scandinavia's short lived regional Champions League style club tournament, a Nordic festival of football called the Royal League.

Described by some as a failed experiment the Royal League ran for three seasons starting in 2004/05 with the four best teams from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden all taking part and qualification based on the previous season’s domestic league positions. Split into three groups, the first tournament saw the top two teams from each of those progress to a second group phase before those two group winners met in the tournament final. For the second and third seasons, the second group phase was replaced by a knockout format with the two best third placed sides also joining the first and second placed teams for this.

Aside from the main UEFA competitions, there has been over the years many weird and wonderful club competitions involving teams from more than one country, albeit usually short lived and often undervalued. These included such delights as the Texaco Cup, involving teams from England, Scotland, and Ireland, the self explanatory Anglo Scottish and Anglo Italian Cups, and the Setanta Cup, involving teams from both sides of the Irish border. There have also been many more ideas for potential competitions that never came to fruition such as an Atlantic League involving teams from places such as Scotland, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia, a combined English-Scottish League Cup, and a European Super League, which, as yet has never progressed into anything serious and hopefully never will.

Even the mere idea of such competitions, however, has always fascinated me - even if I haven't on every occasion been in favour - and when the Royal League was created I remember reading about it with absolute intrigue. The competition did not get much media attention in Britain and it became something I mostly read about briefly in football magazines. Flicking through old magazines recently (I am Grade A hoarder when it comes to these things) I found myself reading various articles about the competition, how it proceeded over the three seasons, and a short piece on its initial demise. Searching online gave me more information and I felt compelled to write its story, which, barring the odd magazine article in publications such as World Soccer, has mostly gone untold on these shores.

Some might argue that the Royal League did well to last three years. I may have slightly sentimental memories of following from afar, but in reality, right from the beginning it struggled to gain credibility, not everyone was convinced by the competition. "I would never give priority to the Royal League. The domestic league and any UEFA Cup matches are the most important,” said Hans Backe the Swedish coach of Denmark's FC Copenhagen. Staying in Denmark and AaB coach Søren Kusk was, however, more worried about the extra game's participation would involve, referring to keeping his players fit and free from injury he said: "There is no doubt that more matches will result in more damage". 

The tournament also struggled to gain enough sponsorship, with eight sponsors sought after, and there were also problems trying to secure suitable TV deals in each of the three markets. This meant that in the months leading up to it, there were genuine suggestions that the competition would never take place. The idea of playing matches over the winter also worried some, with Norway and Sweden both running their domestic leagues over the summer, this is to avoid the harsh conditions of Nordic winters, that are not often suited to playing football. "I shake my head at the impossible Royal League. No club wants a Scandinavian football league in the middle of winter," wrote Mats Olsson a sports correspondent for Sweden's Expressen newspaper.

It was not all doom and gloom for the Royal League however, as some were enthusiastic about the prospect of a new Nordic tournament, with Frank Grønlund, sporting director at Lillestrøm SK in Norway for example envious that his team had not qualified for the first edition, "The Royal League looks very exciting" he declared.

How the Royal League actually came about has been difficult for me to determine, but reading old Norwegian newspaper articles online, it seems that Rosenborg and their then Sporting Director Rune Bratseth were both rather keen on a Nordic club competition, and heavily involved in initial talks regarding its creation. Various other businessmen, club directors, league executives, and ex-players also got involved, and eventually, the idea actually came to fruition.

With the initial problems regarding sponsorship and television rights all eventually resolved in time, the first edition of the Royal League kicked off on 11 November 2004, with all twelve teams involved on that opening day. Brann's first game came just days after winning the Norwegian Cup, whilst the Swedish teams, including Brann's first opponents Halmstads, started the competition just weeks after their domestic league had finished. Unlike the other two countries, Denmark's domestic league was not a summer one, meaning they were not even halfway through their season yet and were represented by teams selected based on last season's league positions. Highlights from those opening fixtures included Brøndby's 3–2 home win over Tromsø, and Rosenborg's 4–4 home draw with Djurgårdens of Sweden.

In Group A it was the Norwegians who came out on top, with a Vålerenga -Rosenborg one-two after all the fixtures were completed. The pair met on November 20, and then again in February, with Vålerenga coming out on top both times. Despite those two defeats though, Rosenborg still finished three points ahead of third placed Esbjerg from Denmark. 

After having to forfeit their final two games as punishment for earlier fielding an ineligible player, fellow Norwegians Tromsø comfortably finished bottom of a Group B table that saw FC Copenhagen, and IFK Göteborg of Sweden qualify for phase two. The other Norwegian side in the competition, SK Brann, finished second behind Sweden's Malmö in Group C. 

Group B had seen arch city rivals FC Copenhagen and Brøndby drawn against each other, and both games - a 1-1 draw and 0-2 Copenhagen victory - were undoubtedly two of the main highlights in this inaugural Group Stage.

'Norwegians in charge' reported World Soccer magazine, reflecting the dominance of the country's sides in the opening stages, but in the second phase of the tournament, it was Sweden and Denmark who came out on top.

FC Copenhagen finished top of Group One ahead of Malmö and Rosenborg, whilst in Group Two, IFK Göteborg didn't lose a single match and finished comfortably ahead of their two Norwegian opponents, Vålerenga, and Brann, who finished second and third respectively.

There was to be a £400,000 prize fund for the winners of the inaugural final, that took place in Gothenburg's Ullevi Stadium on May 26th 2005. FC Copenhagen defeated local side IFK on penalties, after a 1-1 draw in front of 10,216 spectators. Both goals had come in the first half, with rest of the match being a complete stalemate. Hjalte Bo Nørregaard gave the visitors the lead after 18 minutes, whilst 13 minutes later the hosts were level through George Mourad. No extra time was played, so they went straight to the shoot out, and it was a mammoth one at that! One which FC Copenhagen eventually won 12-11, with Nørregaard twice on target.
This first edition of the tournament was sadly plagued by poor attendances, and although the tournament's highest match attendance was a more than respectable 21,763 for one of the two Copenhagen derbies, only 272 turned up to watch Brann v Denmark's Odense BK, and Odense v Halmstads fared even worse, with only 86 people present. These were well below usual domestic league crowds.

Attendances did not fare any better for the second edition of the competition, with a low of 63 for one game. With the new format, two of the three third placed teams in the opening groups would qualify for a second stage knockout format. Danish side Midtjylland opened Group One with a thumping 4-0 of Vålerenga and finished top of the group with three wins and three draws. Hammarby finished second whilst Vålerenga in third, also qualified for the next round as one of the two best third placed teams, winning their final match against Hammarby, and finishing behind them only on goal difference. 

In Group Two Brøndby only managed a draw in their final match knowing they'd have qualified instead of Vålerenga with a win. Instead, they were going home having finished behind Lillestrøm - who'd actually qualified for the tournament this year - and city rivals FC Copenhagen, who for the second year had had the better of them by again taking four points from the two derby matches. The other third placed team to qualify were IFK Göteborg in Group Three, who secured their place by drawing with Danes Aalborg, who finished fourth but could have potentially qualified with a win. Djurgårdens and Norway's Lyn finished first and second in the group.

The two legs of the four quarter finals took place on 23rd February and 9th March respectively. Midtjylland beat Lyn 4-1 over two legs whilst Djurgårdens progressed with a 5-2 aggregate victory over Vålerenga, and after a 0-0 draw in the first leg, Lillestrøm beat IFK Göteborg 2-0 at home in the second. The fourth and final tie saw FC Copenhagen face Hammarby, and the first leg at Copenhagen's Parken Stadion saw the hosts win 2-0, but a dramatic finale to the second leg saw two goals in the last three minutes give Hammarby a 2-0 win, and see the tie end with a penalty shoot-out, which unfortunately for them, FC Copenhagen won 3-0.

The semi final first legs took place the following week, with second legs a week later, FC Copenhagen easily progressed to a second final with a 7-1 aggregate win over Midtjylland, whilst their opposition in the final would be Lillestrøm, who defeated Djurgårdens 5-1 over the two legs.

Copenhagen's Parken Stadion was the venue for the 2005/06 Royal League final . Could FC Copenhagen retain the trophy they won in the inaugural season a year earlier? Well, in the end, FC Copenhagen did win again and sealed that second successive trophy, but those in attendance had to wait until the 89th minute for what was the only goal of the game scored by FC Copenhagen's Razk Pimpong. Pimpong however, was sent off with a second yellow card for celebrating his goal by taking off his shirt. How dare he!

The 2005/06 finale wasn't the most thrilling of matches though, and the attendance figure of 13,617, was well below domestic averages at the ground. This was yet further proof that the competition was struggling to gain interest from fans in the region, something that rather low crowds for earlier matches had already suggested. 

When the Royal League entered into its final season, no one yet knew that this would be the last ever tournament, but before long the first signs were beginning to show. Attendance-wise there was only limited improvement for the third year of the competition, and as the tournament progressed, it became apparent that finding an all important new TV deal to bring in much needed revenue, was proving rather difficult.

The Group stages in 2006/07, saw the three of the four Danish teams progress to the knockout rounds. Odense BK topped Group One, followed by SK Brann, whilst third placed Helsingborgs of Sweden lost their final game, knowing they had already qualified. 

Group Two saw city rivals FC Copenhagen, and Brøndby, drawn together once more. The first meeting between the two saw a 1-0 Brøndby away win, whilst the reverse fixture saw FC Copenhagen come out on top with a 3-1 victory. That win saw them qualify for the next round, with a third placed finish behind Lillestrøm, and those city rivals Brøndby.

In Group Three third placed AIK of Sweden, and Denmark's Viborg FF in fourth faced off against each other in what was both teams final fixture, knowing neither could qualify for the knockout rounds. Vålerenga topped the Group whilst Sweden's IF Elfsborg finished second, having lost to Vålerenga both home and away.

For this third season, all knockout games were played over one leg only. In the quarter finals Brøndby were drawn at home to Brann and won 3-0 whilst Odense beat Lillestrøm on penalties after a 2-2 draw that saw extra time played for the first time having just been introduced for that season. FC Copenhagen won 2-1 away at Elfsborg to see all three remaining Danish clubs reach the semi finals where they were joined by Helsinborgs who won 2-1 away at Vålerenga.

In the semis, Brøndby came from behind to beat Odense 2-1 after extra time and this set up an all-Danish final with city rivals FC Copenhagen who had beaten Helsingborgs 3-1 at home earlier on the same day.

The 2006/07 final took place at the Brøndby Stadion on March 15 and was a heated Copenhagen derby that had a fairly healthy crowd of 17,914 watching in the stands. The only goal of the match came from the penalty spot on 38 minutes. Norwegian referee Tom Henning Øvrebø pointed to the spot when FC Copenhagen's Jesper Grønkjær pulled down Brøndby's English centre back Mark Howard. Swede Martin Ericsson took the penalty and found the net to send the home support into raptures. FC Copenhagen were according to one paper more 'aggressive' in the second half, but the second period saw no goals meaning Brøndby had gotten the better of their fierce rivals and stopped them from claiming a treble of Royal League titles.
In the run up to the final in 2007 there were rumours that next year’s tournament could be postponed or that the competition might even be scrapped for good, and although the former initially happened it was the latter is that ended up being the final result. Attendances were a little better for the Brøndby won third season, but it was financial issues and in particular, problems securing a new TV deal that proved to be the competition's downfall.

In the end, Per Bjerregaard's prediction of a potentially bleak future sadly became reality. Several teams were unwilling to participate until a TV was secured and that was the main reason for following seasons competition being cancelled. It was suggested that all problems could eventually be resolved and many were confident of a tournament taking place in the 2008/09 season with one headline in Danish newspaper BT exclaiming 'Royal League Not Dead Yet'. There was even talk of accepting reduced TV exposure and a scaled down tournament if that was what it would take to keep the competition continuing long term.

During 2008, it was again suggested that the Royal League would resume later that year, however, it was now claimed it would return under a new name, the Royal Cup, and would also include clubs from Iceland and Finland. This, in the end, did not happen and although talk of resurrecting the tournament continued for the next couple of years by 2011 all talk of the idea seems to have disappeared. 

In terms of exactly when the Royal League or the Royal Cup as it was supposed to be renamed was finally considered dead for good, it seems unclear with information online about its revival drying up and the whole idea of resurrecting the competition seemingly quickly forgotten. Maybe many were glad to see the back of it and happy to sweep it under the carpet, or maybe they realised it was never going to get the support needed to make it a successful yearly competition, either way, the sad thing is that it disappeared almost without a trace and was never really spoken of again. From what I can see, Scandinavia has almost completely forgotten about this short lived competition for clubs from the region, whilst many outside that part of the world don't realise it had even existed in the first place. 

I for one however will always remember the Royal League though. There may not be a place for it in today's football calendar, but there will always be a place for it in my memory, a memory of a time when I avidly read about these Nordic football exploits as an enthusiastic follower of European football in my late teens. At a time when life seemed to become complicated, as it often does at such an age, there were always football tales from Scandinavia to captivate the mind, with the short lived yearly battle to be the regions number one club momentarily finding a little place in my world.

Sunday 13 January 2019

One Summer In Germany: 1974

When 1. FC Magdeburg strolled onto the De Kuip pitch in early May 1974 they had already been crowned DDR (East German) Oberliga champions, but now they had another title in their sights, the European Cup Winners' Cup. That May evening in Rotterdam was the beginning of a glorious summer of football for those living on both sides of the Berlin wall, a Magdeburg win would be followed by further European club success in the western half of Germany, whist once the club season had finished both East and West Germany would participate in a World Cup that saw a thrilling group match between the two, and culminate in hosts West Germany winning the World Cup for the second time. Here is the story of that glorious summer of football where a Germany divided into two separate states, east and west, would be for at least a few months united by the beautiful game.

This was an era before wall to wall television, where outside of the World Cup, stories from abroad were rarely told unless they involved British teams. So those two European finals involving German teams in 1974 are not remembered by many in the UK. But if you delve into the 1970s, football on the continent it has some fascinating stories to tell, especially with club football, and particularly when it comes to those tales from Germany in the summer of 1974.

The 1974 World Cup appeared all over British TV screens and by many of a certain generation it is well remembered, but our wonderful summer starts with the barely acknowledged tale of East Germany's only triumph in European club finals.

We start with Magdeburg but their Cup Winners' Cup campaign actually started some eight months prior to that evening in Rotterdam. When Magdeburg beat Dutch side NAC Breda in their Cup Winners' Cup first round tie it's doubtful it had occurred to anyone across Europe that they might actually win the whole competition, and when they lost to 2-0 away at Baník Ostrava of Czechoslovakia in the first leg of their second round tie no one would have given them a cat in hells chance of reaching the next round let alone reaching the final and winning the whole thing. Magdeburg, however, won the second leg against Banik 3-0 and Beroe Stara Zagora of Bulgaria were defeated before an enticing semi final against Sporting CP from Lisbon. A credible 1-1 draw away from home was followed by an even better 2-1 home win and 1. FC Magdeburg were in the Cup Winners' Cup final - the first ever European final for an East German side - where their opposition would be Italian side AC Milan.

Milan were overwhelming favourites for the final and so convinced were their supporters that the match would see nothing less than a routine victory for the Rossoneri that very few of them actually bothered to make the trip to Rotterdam for the match. As for Magdeburg the communist East German authorities allowed only a few hundred of their klaxon blowing supporters to travel to the game meaning a very low turnout in the stands. In fact the official attendance of just 4641 was the lowest ever recorded for a European final.

Magdeburg had a team completely composed of home grown players including Jürgen Sparwasser who would go to score a famous World Cup goal later on that summer, whilst the only foreigner in the Milan squad was former West German international Karl-Heinz Schnellinger. As the game got underway it soon became apparent that the East Germans were no pushovers and would be a difficult proposition for their much fancied opposition, so no one should have really been surprised when Magdeburg took the lead on 43 minutes.

Magdeburg broke forward through 19 year old midfielder Detlef Raugust and when he eventually fired a low cross into the box Milan's Enrico Lanzi accidentally hit the ball into his own net. If anyone  thought Milan would come roaring back they would be mistaken, Magdeburg looked the better side in the second half and in the 74th minute managed to find themselves 2-0 up. The ball fell to Wolfgang Seguin in the left hand side of the box and he was able to slot the ball home from a rather acute angle. 

Milan were in shock and couldn't recover, the game ended 2-0 and the underdogs had won. On 8th May for the first time in the history of European club competitions an East German side had won a final, with the 1974 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup winners being 1. FC Magdeburg. 

"Dear sports fans, I would like to congratulate you on this outstanding performance and I wish you continued success." Those were the words of future East German leader Erich Honecker, then already a leading politician in the country, in his telegram to the victorious Magdeburg team. Yes, in the year that shops allowing East Germans to buy western products were opened for the very first time, it was team of Eastern goods that had actually dominated in what was one of Europe's three major finals.
Whilst in East Germany fans in and around Magdeburg were celebrating their teams Cup Winners' Cup success, some 300 or so miles away over in the west FC Bayern Munich were preparing for a big European final of their own. Some things don't change, and even in the 1970's FC Bayern were damn good. Having just been crowned Bundesliga champions for the third season in a row they now had their sights set on winning the European Cup.

Bayern traveled to the Heysel Stadium, Brussels, to face Atlético Madrid in the showpiece event of the European club season having defeated amongst others to reach the final, the previous years East German Oberliga champions Dynamo Dresden 7-6 on aggregate.

The final was hardly a memorable affair, at least not during the first ninety minutes as the game ended in a goalless draw. But extra time was to follow...

The breakthrough in the match did not come until minute 116, Bayern's Johnny Hansen brought down substitute Heraldo Bezerra and that was followed by a Luis Aragonés free-kick where he curled the ball over the wall and past goalkeeper Sepp Maier. 

If Atlético though they had the game won they were however sadly mistaken. A long range effort from Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck in the final seconds found the back of the net and the sides were level. These were the days before penalty shoot outs and replay would have to take place.
The replay took place at the same venue two days later and the day after Helmut Schmidt was elected new chancellor of West Germany replacing Willy Brandt. Brandt had been forced to resign earlier in the month after one of of his assistants was found to be an East German spy. The West German public had been stunned.

The first game may have ended in a draw, but the second certainly didn't. Maybe Bayern's last gasp equaliser gave them a psychological advantage, maybe the fact that most of the Atlético side were over thirty meant they struggled to keep up the pace for another ninety minutes (certainly it looked so), but the fact is the boys from Madrid were outclassed as two goals each from Uli Hoeneß and Gerd Müller saw Bayern win the game 4-0. 

Party time in Munich and although they wouldn't have imagined it yet but this was the first of three straight European Cup final victories for Bayern, with the German champions defeating newly crowned DDR Oberliga champions and Cup Winner's Cup winners Magdeburg 5-3 on aggregate en route to their 1975 victory.

"[after winning the 1974 replay] We partied all night long," said midfielder Franz Roth who would score important goals in the next two finals. "The next day, we had to play in Gladbach [in the Bundesliga]. We arrived fairly drunk and lost 5-0. Luckily, we were already champions and the game did not matter."

The German football season had ended with European final victories on both sides of the border, and with club exploits over for the rest of the summer all eyes turned towards the 1974 World Cup being held in West Germany.

With West Germany not only hosting the tournament but also being the reigning European champions, some people considered them favourites for the competition. For the first time in their history East Germany had also qualified for a World Cup finals tournament and fascinatingly had been drawn in the some group as the West German's for the first group stage. The pair would meet in the final round of group fixtures and with the recent scandal of the East German spy in the West German chancellors inner circle it was sure to be a tasty affair.

Issues of money with the West German players demanding more of it meant preparations did not get off to the greatest of starts for the team and when the action on the pitch began West Germany opened the tournament with a mediocre at best 1-0 win over Chile in Berlin. The East Germans also won their opening game by defeating Australia 2-0.

Next it was West Germany's turn to play Australia, they won 3-0 but the performance was unconvincing and the fans were getting restless. Next West Germany would play their compatriots from the east who had just drawn with Chile in their second match and the fans expected a far more convincing display.

It would be an awkward meeting for the East Germans too."Many people [In the east] also supported West Germany. Many expected that we were going to leave the stadium having lost 5-0" recalled East German midfielder Jürgen Sparwasser. He also recalled the team bus driving through parts of the east where people were "waving West German flags".

The West German coach Helmut Schön had lived in the East until 1950, and despite his side having already qualified for the next round their was still plenty of pressure on him for his team to beat their communist foes from the East where he had once resided. As for the East Germans, they still needed a point to qualify.
The game took place at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg and as it progressed the West Germans struggled to breakthrough the East German defence. If the West Germans were finding the game frustrating then it only got worse as on 77 minutes that frustration turned into a nightmare. Sparwasser collected a long ball from substitute Erich Hamman, rounded a defender and lifted the ball over FC Bayern goalkeeper Sepp Maier. 1-0 East Germany, and two thousand East German fans inside the stadium went absolutely wild. These supporters had been specially vetted by the country's communist government and were supporters of the regime that ran the one party state. These supporters were probably far removed from many other football fans in the east of whom as mentioned many were actually supporting their western counterparts instead.

That 1-0 scoreline still stood at full-time and the West German players who had spent the tournament build up demanding extra money now looked like overpaid prima donna's. Coach Schön was devastated, the following days press conference was cancelled but the show had to go on and the West Germans some how managed to pull themselves together for the second group stage.

Many claim that after the defeat against East Germany, captain Franz Beckenbauer took charge and made most of decisions with him now pretty much having control over team, and that coach Schön would have struggled to cope without him. Nevertheless the tournament carried on and next up for West Germany were Yugoslavia.

Whilst West Germany would face Yugoslavia, Sweden, and Poland, beating the West Germans hadn't done East Germany any favours. Topping the group actually ended up giving them harder opponents in the second group phase and they would have to face in reigning world champions Brazil, an in form Dutch side with star of the tournament so far Johan Cryuff, and Argentina.

The West Germans beat Yugoslavia 2-0 whilst their rivals over border lost 1-0 to Brazil. The West Germans then beat Sweden 4-2 but East Germany lost 2-0 the Netherlands and the fairy tale was over for them. Having beaten West Germany on their own patch in what was East Germany's first ever world cup finals appearance they would not progress any further, they drew their final game 1-1 whilst West Germany faced Poland for the right to come up against the Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup final.

West Germany only needed a draw to qualify for the final. The match was delayed due to heavy rain and when it did finally kick-off the players found it difficult to play football considering the state of the pitch after the downpours.

Poland had the better of the chances in the first half but the only goal of the game came on 76 minutes when Gerd Müller found the net to send West Germany into the World Cup final. In the final the Germans would face a rampant Dutch side with Cryuff and co whom during a stunning tournament performance had easily swept everyone in their path aside en route to the grand finale. Naturally the Dutch were expected to do the same again against the West Germans, and even though they'd improved after a slow start to the tournament the West Germans still didn't look in the same league as the Dutch.

7th of July 1974, the final of the 10th FIFA World Cup, West Germany vs Netherlands. 77,833 thousand spectators were in attendance at the Olympiastadion in Munich to see what they thought would be Johan Cryuff and the Dutch stars with their 'total football' win their first ever World Cup. For the Germans however being rank outsiders was nothing new, 20 years earlier in 1954 they had also been given no chance at all but lifted the World Cup trophy after a final in which they beat a much fancied Hungary side including the legendary Ferenc Puskás, a team they had lost 8-3 to earlier in the tournament. It was referred to as the 'miracle of Bern', could there be a miracle in Munich?

A few days before the final a German tabloid paper claimed that the night before their previous match the Dutch stars had been partying in their hotel swimming pool with naked girls, and as the final approached maybe some of the Dutch players were distracted by angry wives and girlfriends. Who knows if that was the case, but most people still had them down as clear favourites, and when they took the lead two minutes in the final the outcome was never in doubt, surely?

FC Bayern's Uli Hoeneß brought down Cryuff in the box, the Dutch were awarded a penalty without the Germans having even touched the ball yet, and Johan Neeskens scored from the spot. 1-0. For the next twenty minutes or so the Dutch completely dominated the match with their possession football, at times toying with the opposition, and facing up to these eleven Dutch men for the rest of the game looked a daunting prospect for the Germans.

If those watching thought the game was going to be all a one sided affair then they were however wrong, 23 minutes after the Dutch goal and the Germans were level. Bernd Hölzenbein was fouled and another penalty was awarded. Out of almost nothing the Germans were back in the game. Many accused Hölzenbein of diving but the penalty was given by English referee Jack Taylor and Paul Breitner converted from the spot to level the score. For many in the Netherlands the penalty is remembered for Dutch TV commentator Herman Kuiphof uttering a now infamous line: “Zijn we er toch nog ingetuind” – “They’ve tricked us again”.

At 1-1 the Dutch were still confident of winning the match, but shockingly two minutes before half-time they found themselves 2-1 down when Gerd Müller slotted home for the Germans, not only that but the Germans had looked the better side after the second penalty. Even so the Dutch were still sure they would turn it around in the second half. Everyone was.

The Dutch came out all guns blazing for the second period and dominated play, but in the words of Dutch defender Ruud Krol "the ball didn’t want to go in". Try as they might they could not find an equaliser and the Germans held out for an improbable victory. West Germany had for a second time won the World Cup. Cue despair across the Netherlands and street parties all over Germany.
It was a brilliant finale to the perfect summer of football for West Germany, a European Cup final victory for Bayern and despite losing to arch rivals East Germany along the way there was a World Cup win for the national side. That win over the West Germans during their first ever World Cup campaign combined with Magdeburg's Cup Winners' Cup victory meant it was also a fairly successful summer for those in the East, albeit without quite reaching the heights of their western neighbours. Although it would be more than fifteen years before Germany was united as one country again, for one long summer they could at least celebrate together their successes on the football pitch, and with many in the East cheering on their West German counterparts to World Cup success, it was a Germany that almost did feel united. It's just a shame that the politicians didn't see it that way.