Müller adds finish to Germany's '72 masterclass

West Germany kicked off a golden decade of continental and global dominance in memorable style in the 1972 EURO final, at times rendering the USSR reluctant onlookers.

The West Germany team line up before their semi-final meeting with Hungary
The West Germany team line up before their semi-final meeting with Hungary ©Getty Images

West Germany 3-0 Soviet Union
(Müller 27 58, Wimmer 52)
Brussels, 18 June 1972

The Soviet Union must have feared the worst. Gerd Müller had scored all the goals in a 4-1 win against them the previous month, and now three quarters of the crowd were German. That is how the pitch must have looked to the Soviet team: at one stage their opponents strung 30 consecutive passes together. It was the match of the tournament because it was so one-sided, the destruction of an outdated packed defence by the first stirrings of Total Football. A masterclass.

West Germany's three most influential players were all involved in the first goal, Franz Beckenbauer bringing the ball out from the back and Günter Netzer volleying almost nonchalantly against the bar. Jupp Heynckes then brought a save from Evgeni Rudakov and there was Müller to control before pushing it in. More than one English newspaper had wondered if Müller would have enough support against such a tight defence, but they missed the point.

He preferred to be left alone, with no partner to invade his space. With other players taking defenders away (two wingers and Uli Hoeness running from midfield), he was left free to roam the penalty area alone. His tally of 68 goals in 62 internationals is an astounding total in such a defensive era.

He scored another in the second half, after Georg Schwarzenbeck had made a rare appearance in the opposition penalty area and attempted a one-two. When the ball broke to Müller it was all but academic and little more than Helmut Schön's side deserved. There might have been more goals if the wonderfully arrogant Netzer had not been caught in possession so often in the first half or if Hoeness had not hit the woodwork when the score was still 0-0.

Murtaz Khurtsilava rumbled forward to hit the bar and force a full-length save from Sepp Maier, but by then Herbert Wimmer, Netzer's fetcher and carrier, had scored the goal he deserved. It came after a Heynckes pass – but only thanks to a rare mistake by Rudakov, every bit Lev Yashin's successor with his black jersey and elasticity, only to palm the unexceptional low shot up into the net. Not much else of West Germany's performance in Brussels was unexceptional.

What happened next?
Beckenbauer, Netzer and Müller finished first, second and third in the European Footballer of the Year poll, and 1972 provided the springboard for West German domination. Schön's side won the 1974 FIFA World Cup and though Czechoslovakia denied them further EURO glory two years later, West Germany reclaimed their crown in 1980.