West Germany dominated the best XI with a magnificent seven making the tournament cut.
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Evgeni Rudakov (USSR)
Rudakov travelled to the 1972 UEFA European Championship as the reigning Soviet Union Player of the Year. Played virtually his entire career at Dynamo Kyiv, winning six league titles and two domestic cups and conceding just 205 goals in 297 matches. Enhanced his growing reputation in Belgium, notably with a brilliant late penalty save in the semi-final against Hungary. Died in 2011.
Revaz Dzodzuashvili (USSR)
Made his name at the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico and this tournament, where he helped the team to a runners-up spot, before winning a bronze medal at the Munich Olympics a few months later. The stalwart of Dinamo Tbilisi, whom he later coached, also took charge of the Georgia and Latvia national teams and guided Olimpi Rustavi to the 2007 Georgian title.
Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany)
One of the all-time greats, Beckenbauer confirmed his international class as West Germany captain in 1972 and two years later when they won the World Cup on home soil. Led hometown club Bayern to a hat-trick of victories in the European Champion Clubs' Cup (1974–76) and was twice European Footballer of the Year, in 1972 and 1976. Prospered as West Germany coach too, winning the 1990 World Cup.
Murtaz Khurtsilava (USSR)
Voted Georgia's best player for the period 1954–2004, Khurtsilava was a stout, committed central defender who skippered the USSR to the 1972 final. Also appeared at two World Cups and the 1972 Munich Olympics, claiming bronze, and earned 70 caps in all. Coached his beloved Dinamo Tbilisi to back-to-back Georgian championships in 1998 and 1999 and had a spell as assistant to Aleksandr Chivadze with the Georgian national team.
Paul Breitner (West Germany)
This tournament first brought the bearded, frizzy-haired, attack-minded left-back to the fore and he was still a regular as Helmut Schön's side won the World Cup two years later, scoring the equalising penalty in the final against the Netherlands. The former Bayern and Real Madrid man won his 48th and final cap in the 1982 World Cup final against Italy – as in 1974 he scored, but this time it was just a consolation.
Uli Hoeness (West Germany)
Hoeness was forced into retirement aged 27, but if his playing career was short, it was certainly sweet. Between 1971 and 1976 he crammed three Bundesliga titles and three European Champion Clubs' Cups with Bayern and helped West Germany to glory in 1972 and 1974. A knee injury all but ended his playing career soon after the 1976 UEFA European Championship final.
Günter Netzer (West Germany)
With his imperious touch, vision and passing skills, the Mönchengladbach playmaker first played for his country in 1965. In this campaign, he excelled against England at Wembley in the quarter-finals then produced superlative displays in the semi-final against Belgium and the decider with the USSR. Won two titles at Real Madrid but 1972 was unquestionably the pinnacle of his career.
Herbert Wimmer (West Germany)
Spent his entire career with Mönchengladbach, playing 366 Bundesliga games and winning five titles and the 1975 UEFA Cup. Represented his country 36 times, most notably in this tournament where he scored West Germany's second goal in the final against the USSR. An energetic player, Wimmer was, like Netzer, used sparingly at the 1974 World Cup, making only two substitute appearances.
Raoul Lambert (Belgium)
Captain Paul Van Himst may have been Belgium’s more celebrated striker but Lambert outshone him here. Registered the opener in the 2-1 win over Hungary in the third-place play-off, one of 18 international goals in 33 games, and struck twice at the 1970 World Cup. 'Lotte' spent his whole career with Club Brugge, scoring 270 goals in 458 matches and winning five titles.
Jupp Heynckes (West Germany)
A prolific goalscorer at Mönchengladbach, with whom he won four German titles and the 1975 UEFA Cup. Unlucky to be around at the same time as Gerd Müller but, unlike at the World Cups before and after, coach Helmut Schön paired the two together in 1972. Scored 14 goals in 39 appearances for West Germany, 220 in 365 Bundesliga matches and 51 in 64 European club games. Won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid in 1998 and Bayern in 2013 as a coach.
Gerd Müller (West Germany)
Perhaps European football's greatest goalscorer, Der Bomber notched 365 in 427 Bundesliga games for Bayern, 66 in 74 European club matches and, most astonishing of all, 68 in 62 internationals. Eleven came in this campaign, including two in the final. Won the 1970 Ballon d'Or after ten goals at the World Cup, and added four more at the 1974 tournament, including the final winner against the Netherlands.