Yugoslavia had one foot in the 1976 UEFA European Championship final when West Germany coach Helmut Schön made one of the most inspired substitutions of all time.
Trailing 2-1 with eleven minutes left, he replaced Herbert Wimmer with Dieter Müller who, on his debut, had the game of his life. Within three minutes the 1. FC Köln striker had equalised before scoring twice more in extra time to complete his hat-trick and send West Germany through to the showpiece.
It was hard to take for Yugoslavia, who played some astonishing football in the first half. At last, proof that their ball skills and inventiveness could overwhelm West German organisation. The world champions were simply pulled apart, especially by Dragan Džajić and the speedy Slaviša Žungul on the right.
Danilo Popivoda broke the deadlock on 19 minutes, controlling a pass, outsprinting Franz Beckenbauer and shooting as he fell, sending the keeper the wrong way. Sepp Maier had to make a string of saves and interceptions but seemed distracted by Berti Vogts when a cross came in from the right, allowing Džajić to chest it in. Then came half-time: the holders were reprieved.
Vogts, the little terrier who had kept Johan Cruyff quiet in the 1974 FIFA World Cup final, had been tormented by Džajić yet he carried on chasing and slowly but surely reeled him in. Meanwhile, Beckenbauer was now streaming out from the back, pinpointing his passes, driving the team forward.
West Germany's first goal on 64 minutes was slightly fortuitous, Heinz Flohe's long shot going in courtesy of a big deflection, but they deserved to draw level for their refusal to quit. Rainer Bonhof's corner on the left found Müller unmarked at the far post and, with his first touch in international football, he headed in to force extra time.
Penalties were looming when Flohe beat Žungul to the left-hand goal line and found Erich Beer beyond the far post; he laid the ball back to Müller, who did the rest. Four minutes later the dream debut was complete when a trademark powerful shot by Bonhof dropped at his feet after coming back off the post.
It was tough on Yugoslavia, but West Germany had been dining out on this sort of comeback since the 1954 World Cup final. They were not finished yet, either, as Müller struck again in the final as Schön's side recovered from 2-0 down to force extra time against Czechoslovakia – their opponents had not read the script though.
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