Müller strikes twice as West Germany beat USSR in 1972 EURO final

West Germany 3-0 USSR
Gerd Müller's two goals capped an inspired West Germany performance.

EURO 1972 final highlights: West Germany 3-0 USSR
EURO 1972 final highlights: West Germany 3-0 USSR

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 It was the match of the tournament because it was so one-sided, the destruction of an outdated packed defence by the first stirrings of Total Football: a masterclass.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. Evgeni Rudakov produced a brilliant save to keep out the rebound but 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.

EURO 1972: All you need to know

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.

Highlights: The best goals of EURO 1972
Highlights: The best goals of EURO 1972

He scored another in the second half, Germany's third, 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.

Reaction

Highlights: Watch all of Gerd Müller’s EURO 1972 goals
Highlights: Watch all of Gerd Müller’s EURO 1972 goals

Gerd Müller, Germany forward: "We had a very good team at that time. Everything worked well. The team worked, the coach worked and it was good. We were lucky, we won and, honestly speaking, we did not fear the Russians in the final. We had beaten them before and we knew who was marking who. We played well. I scored a couple of goals and the final was the best."

EURO 1972: Team of the Tournament

Lineups

Gerd Müller shoots in the 1972 EURO final
Gerd Müller shoots in the 1972 EURO finaldpa Picture-Alliance via AFP

West Germany: Maier; Beckenbauer (c), Breitner, Schwarzenbeck, Höttges; Netzer, Wimmer, Hoeness; Kremers, Müller, Heynckes
Substitutes: Kleff, Bonhof, Bella, Grabowski, Löhr,
Coach: Helmut Schön

USSR: Rudakov; Dzodzuashvili, Troshkin, Kaplichni, Istomin; Khurtsilava (c), Kolotov, Baidachny (Kozinkevich 66), Konkov; Banishevskiy (Dolmatov 46), Onischenko
Substitutes: Pilguy, Matvienko, Muntyan
Coach: Aleksandr Ponomarev

Referee: Ferdinand Marschall (Austria)