At 23 Horst Hrubesch was playing lower league football, but six years on the perennial late starter scored West Germany's last-gasp winner in the 1980 UEFA European Championship final.
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Lateness defined Horst Hrubesch's career. At 23 he was still plying his trade on the lower rungs of the German football ladder; six years later, however, he was spearheading the national team's attack at the 1980 UEFA European Championship in Italy – after an inevitably last-minute call-up.
His place in the 1980 EURO final against Belgium was in doubt after he failed to score during the group stage, but West Germany coach Jupp Derwall "made the right choice" and retained the burly forward. Hrubesch responded with two goals, including the last-gasp winner. He recalls a memorable summer.
Being the 'Header Monster'...
I was given that nickname by a coach at [Rot-Weiss] Essen. I have always tried to play in as simple a way as possible and, of course, making the most of my abilities. I had a good leap and my timing was decent as well. I played in the Bundesliga for eight years and scored 136 goals; out of those, 81 were scored with my head.
His call-up after Klaus Fischer broke a leg...
I remember getting the call [to say I was in the squad] from Jupp Derwall: it was a highlight of my career. I could have been picked anyway but it is likely I would not have played any games. Even before the European Championship there was a match in Hanover against France that I didn't play in, so everything really happened so fast in the end. I have always started a bit late. I was 23 when I played my first Bundesliga match and then 28 when I played my first international.
I don't know if I would say I was the obvious replacement for Fischer, but I was a natural substitute due to the system at that time. We played a central striker with Klaus Allofs and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge just behind, both very offensive players; you could say the same about our midfield with Bernd Schuster and Hansi Müller. We were very offensive also with full-backs Manfred Kaltz and Hans-Peter Briegel. It was a very offensive team.
Finding his place in a strong lineup...
I wouldn't say we were expected to bring home the title, but we had a good side, one of the best in Europe. We were always capable of dominating the tournament. It was a team that was strong in every position but it was also a team where the players fit together and we played some beautiful football. I didn't really have any problems [settling in]. My co-operation with Kaltz was known from Hamburger SV and Rummenigge was capable of playing with anybody; Hansi Müller and Schuster, the two playmakers, were both geniuses. It was quite simple for me.
Beating the Netherlands 3-2 in the group stage...
We played very well for 70 or 80 minutes. We were leading 3-0 and then they scored two goals. The trio of Bernd Schuster, Hansi Müller and Rummenigge worked very well and Klaus Allofs scored three goals. I did my job and that was a thing that characterised the team. We all worked for each other and we all ran for each other: it was not important whether Allofs or Hrubesch scored the goals. You also saw that in our play in general. We didn't really have one player we depended on – we were good as a team and we managed to dominate that way.
[My place] was in danger. I had played three matches without scoring and if Derwall hadn't selected me, I couldn't have argued. But looking back, he made the right choice. I recall the opener very well. The Belgians were attacking but before they reached our area, Bernd Schuster broke up the move and started a very direct attack with one or two passes. He played it into my path. It all fitted so well. I scored and it was 1-0; for once with the foot and not the head.
In the second half we definitely saw Belgium's class and they deserved to equalise [on 75 minutes]. We wouldn't have made it in extra time because it would have been too much. It was very hot that day and I recall being so tired after the game that it was hard to lift the trophy. My second goal came from a Karl-Heinz Rummenigge corner on the left. Like all our corners, it was prepared – Rummenigge gave me the signal – and [goalkeeper] Jean-Marie Pfaff made the mistake of staying on his line. I was able to jump high and due to his movement I had no problem placing the ball in the net.Download the EURO app