West Germany re-established themselves as Europe's pre-eminent international force as goals by Horst Hrubesch, the second with only a minute remaining, earned Jupp Derwall's side their second UEFA European Football Championship with a 2-1 victory against Belgium.
West Germany had made a slow start to the 1976 final, going two down within the first 25 minutes, but there was no repeat this time as Bernd Schuster, the 20-year-old playmaker who once again dazzled in midfield, set up Hrubesch for the opening goal on ten minutes. Though the Belgians' hopes were raised by René Vandereycken's 75th-minute penalty, Hrubesch struck again at the death to sink them.
Schuster had already given a standout performance in the 3-2 defeat of the Netherlands and the 1. FC Köln playmaker wasted no time in carving a way through Belgium's defence. Launching on a diagonal run from right to left, trading passes with Klaus Allofs before hitting a clever chip for Hrubesch to dispatch with a confident shot on the run.
In the European Champion Clubs' Cup final three weeks earlier, the 29-year-old striker had struggled after coming on as substitute. But in Italy as a late pre-tournament replacement for the injured Klaus Fischer, he set about revising the opinion that he was little more than the Kopfball-Ungeheuer (Heading Monster) with a confident low shot on the run.
Hansi Müller blasted over the bar and Jean-Marie Pfaff had to save long shots from Allofs (after he had raced past three defenders) and Schuster. For all their resilience, Belgium were on the rack, although they came back into it as François Van der Elst shot wildly after good approach play by Jan Ceulemans.
Vandereycken brought a marvellous save out of Harald Schumacher and, with their tails up, Belgium sent Van der Elst clear again; Uli Stielike's trip was adjudged to have taken place in the area and Vandereycken took his chance from the penalty spot.
With extra time looming West Germany looked out on their feet but, with seconds remaining, Pfaff came out to meet Karl-Heinz Rummenigge's cross and was pipped to the punch by Hrubesch, whose near-post header found the net. Hrubesch's first goals in international football had decided the most important match of his career.