The story of the 1974 World Cup
Between now and the start of the World Cup, we will be looking back at previous tournaments with the help of some of the key characters and the BBC's archive footage. Today, we speak to the man who witnessed the Cruyff turn at first hand and the top scorer at the 1974 finals.
West Germany, June & July, 1974
Marked tightly by the Swedish right-back Jan Olsson, Netherlands' forward Johan Cruyff collects a long pass, holds off his opponent and then produces an outrageous piece of skill to flick the ball between his own legs and totally bamboozle Olsson, who struggles to keep his balance. The cross comes to nothing, but a legend is born.
The Group Three game between Sweden and the Netherlands in Dortmund ended 0-0, but afterwards no-one was talking about the result. In Cruyff, the world had a new sporting icon; and in his artist-laden Dutch team, a vision of what was never before thought possible on a football field.
If a single moment could ever define a World Cup tournament, then surely this was it.
Having watched the moment on television a thousand times, I wanted to ask Olsson what was going through his mind at the precise moment he was outwitted by the genius conductor of the Dutch Total Football orchestra. Luckily, as he himself would confess, Olsson is never happier than when talking about the incident.
"I only hope my English is good enough to do the Cruyff turn moment justice," Olsson begins. Make up your own minds, but I think he succeeds.
"A ball was played into the corner and my first thought was to be aggressive and get after him and win the ball," he added. "I was happy, because I had him in the corner.
"I've got to be honest - I didn't understand what happened next. I thought I had the ball, then the next moment realised I didn't. I'd never seen anything like it. People in the crowd, my team-mates - they were all laughing at what they had seen. After the game, it's all anyone wanted to talk about and it's been that way ever since.
"I never get tired of seeing it, no way. I'm proud of my career, but what Cruyff did was beyond my capacity. He could have done it to anyone and I feel lucky it was me that day, lucky that I got to meet and play against the great Johan Cruyff."
The Netherlands' impact on the tournament was as dramatic as it was sudden. The Dutch had not been to a World Cup since a first-round exit in 1938, yet with their daring style and balletic beauty they quickly became the country every neutral wanted to watch and every nation wanted to avoid. Especially as the hosts, West Germany, and the holders, Brazil, seemed to struggle from the outset.
The Brazilians, minus the legendary Pele for a first World Cup since 1954, stuttered to draws against Yugoslavia (who mauled Zaire 9-0) and Scotland, only creeping into the second group stage on goal difference ahead of the unfortunate Scots, while the West Germans suffered a humbling defeat on their own patch to their neighbours from the East.
Meanwhile in Group Four, Poland were proving the Netherlands were not the only impressive new kids on the block. Inspired by the goals of speedy forward Grzegorz Lato, the Poles upset the established order by dumping out an Italy side containing the midfield talents of a certain Fabio Capello, in his first World Cup campaign.
"We weren't among the favourites, we were more like Cinderella," Lato, who is now president of the Polish FA, told me. "But we felt like the pressure was more intense because all the experts had predicted an early exit for us.
"This made us work even harder to achieve our goals. When we beat Argentina 3-2 we became convinced we could beat anybody and then when we won against Italy our confidence just soared."
Lato went on to become the tournament's top scorer with seven goals and only defeat to West Germany, on a waterlogged pitch that these days would not be deemed playable, cost them a place in the World Cup final. It is a match that still infuriates Lato all this time later.
"Who knows what would have happened without all that rain and a wet field?" he added. "It wasn't a football game, it was water polo. Today a match in such conditions simply would not happen. I hold a grudge because it should have been delayed until the next day. In such conditions, it was not sport.
"But that was a golden age for Polish football and they were some of the most important experiences of my life. The Golden Boot at a World Cup is a real trophy for a player and I could only understand the enormity of what had happened when the tournament was over."
The Netherlands, meanwhile, were continuing on their merry way to the final and a comfortable changing-of-the-guard 2-0 win over the Brazilians secured their place in Munich, where they were destined to meet with a host nation that had improved as the competition progressed.
With a minute on the clock and before the Germans had even touched the ball, the Dutch were ahead. Cruyff, picking the ball up just inside the German half, burst past two defenders to get into the area before his run was halted by Uli Hoeness's clumsy tackle. As the crowd fell silent, English referee Jack Taylor pointed to the spot and awarded the first penalty in World Cup final history, which Johan Neeskens duly converted.
The Germans struggled as the Dutch dictated the play, but the crucial second goal never came and, after Paul Breitner levelled from the spot for the hosts, arch-poacher Gerd Muller swivelled and fired past Jan Jongbloed for what proved to be the winner. It was Muller's 14th and last World Cup goal, a record that stood until the Brazilian Ronaldo broke it in 2006.
The team that everyone wanted to win lost. Ugly recriminations followed too, after a story had been published the day before the final in the German tabloid Bild accusing some of the Dutch players of misbehaving in their hotel pool after the win over Brazil. It was later alleged the girls they were accused of frolicking with were paid for by Bild, who were blamed with staging the whole event.
But the damage had been done. Midfielder Arie Haan admits the story had an impact on Dutch preparations for the final. "We changed a little bit the night before the final," said Haan. "Before we did not think, but afterwards we knew what it was like to be famous, to be the best. It started with the articles, then came the pressure and the stress. The wives were on the phone wanting to know what happened."
The tournament ended in disarray for a Netherlands team that for so long seemed certain to get their hands on the trophy. But their impact on a generation of football supporters, mesmerised and hypnotised by an extravagantly talented group of free spirits wearing those brilliant orange shirts, will never be forgotten.
As Cruyff once said in a sentence that defined the Dutch team of 1974: "It's better to lose with your own vision than with someone else's."
Let me know your memories of 1974. On Wednesday, the series continues with a look back at 1978 - including reflections from a man who became a national hero.