The fourth UEFA European Football Championship tournament, widely known as Euro 1972, was held in Belgium between June 14-18, 1972. UEFA Euro 1972 was only contested by four countries, with the tournament consisting of a semi-final, a third-place play-off, and the final.
The UEFA European Football Championship qualifying round was comprised of 32 countries divided into eight groups of four, with ties played throughout 1970 and 1971. In April and May 1972, the winners of the qualifying round groups played at home and away in the two-legged quarterfinals.
Since the UEFA Euro 1972 hosts were announced only after the qualifying round, all teams had to qualify. Among the three candidates, Belgium won. Other bids were received from England and Italy, whose teams did not reach the finals.
During the 1972 UEFA European Football Championship qualification period, 32 teams competed. Home and away matches were played in the qualifying rounds. Two points were awarded for a win, one point for a tie. Qualifying for the quarterfinals was limited to group winners. Each quarterfinal was played over two legs. The winners of the quarterfinals went on to compete in the UEFA Euro 1972 finals.
The qualifying rounds saw few surprises. In Group 7, however, the multi-skilled Dutch side came only second to 1968 runners-up Yugoslavia. They would have to wait until the World Cup two years later to show us how good they were.
Hungary and Romania were drawn together in the quarter finals, which again acted as play-offs for Finals qualification and were difficult to separate. After 1-1 and 2-2 draws, and this being in the time before the away goals rule, a third match was required, which Hungary won 2-1 at home.
Belgium, hosts for the 1972 UEFA European Football Championship, delighted everyone by knocking out holders Italy. Having secured a 0-0 draw away, the Belgians played wonderfully well at home and knocked the Italians out 2-1 on aggregate. Similarly, the USSR drew 0-0 away to Yugoslavia before knocking them out at home 3-0.
England vs West Germany Quarter Finals
England, meanwhile, met West Germany once again and, on a rain-sodden night at Wembley in the first leg, English hopes of UEFA European Football Championship success more or less “drowned.” The match had a capacity crowd on its feet throughout. Still, it was evident early on that England had an arduous task to overcome a talented German team that, despite playing away, did not take on a defensive outlook.
Fast, attacking football often had England reeling. In midfield, Netzer and Wimmer frequently tore holes in the English defense. Of course, the home team also had its fair share of the play, but Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner, and Schwarzenbeck remained supremely cool, quick, and tenacious.
After 26 minutes, West Germany went ahead when a shot from Uli Hoeness was deflected out of the reach of Banks and found its way into the net. At this period of the game, the class and skill of the Germans were apparent, but one felt that England had plenty in reserve to stay in the match.
Whereas in the opening half, the Germans had held sway, England swept forward time and time again after the interval. Their play, however, lacked imagination, and it seemed impossible to outwit Sepp Maier in the German goal.
However, when Francis Lee finally equalized after Maier had only been able to palm away a Bell cross-shot, it seemed that England had saved the day.
The last six minutes, however, were disastrous. Firstly, Bobby Moore gave away a needless penalty which Netzer converted (although Banks was unfortunate not to bring off a great save). Secondly, Emlyn Hughes presented Gerd Muller with his one golden opportunity, which he converted into the best goal of the match.
In the return match, a dreary game was played in Berlin. Both goalkeepers had a relatively trouble-free afternoon. The game was remarkable for the failure of either side to mount a credible attack on goal.
UEFA Euro 1972 Semi-Finals
The UEFA Euro 1972 semi-finals drew the hosts Belgium against the favorites, West Germany, who duly won with two goals by the prolific Gerd Müller (2-1). After scoring a brace, Gerd Müller brought his total to 9 goals in the tournament, including the qualifying matches.
The Soviet Union prevailed against Hungary in the other semi-final 1-0 to reach their third UEFA European Championship final in four tournaments.
UEFA Euro 1972 Final
The UEFA Euro 1972 Final was played on 18 June 1972 at Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium. It was West Germany’s first appearance in the finals of the UEFA European Football Championship, after missing out in 1968.
Forty-two thousand four hundred thirty-seven spectators attended the final, which featured the best-assembled West German team ever to play together. Gerd Mueller, Franz Beckenbauer, Gunter Netzer, Paul Breitner, and goalkeeping superstar Sepp Maier were in goal for them.
Goalkeeper Yevhen Rudakov of the Soviet Union denied West Germany several early scoring chances. A dipping shot by Günter Netzer rebounded off the crossbar. However, West Germany led 1–0 after Gerd Müller scored from the rebound.
It was 2–0 when Herbert Wimmer beat Rudakov courtesy of a left-footed shot after Murtaz Khurtsilava had become lost possession of the ball when dribbling.
Müller bounced six minutes later after Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck entered the USSR penalty area with the ball while being tackled by Khurtsilava. West Germany won the UEFA European Football Championship 3–0 for the first title in its history. Known as the ‘Der Bomber’, Gerd Müller scored a total of 11 goals and was the first name on the Team of the Tournament.
West Germany: Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Horst-Dieter Höttges, Gunter Netzer, Herbert Wimmer, Uli Hoeness, Erwin Kremers, Gerd Müller and Jupp Heynckes.
West Germany Coach: Helmut Schön
USSR: Yevhen Rudakov, Revaz Dzodzuashvili, Volodymyr Troshkin, Volodymyr Kaplichni, Yuriy Istomin, Murtaz Khurtsilava, Vitkor Kolotov, Anatoliy Baidachny (Eduard Kozinkevich 66), Anatoliy Konkov, Anatoliy Banishevskiy (Oleg Dolmatov 46) and Volodymr Onischenko.
USSR Coach: Aleksandr Ponomarev
Referee: Ferdinand Marschall (Austria)
UEFA 1972 Final Positions
The Euro Team Of The Tournament
An impressive seven West Germans made the cut for the tournament’s best XI.
GK: Evgeni Rudakov (Soviet Union)
DF: Revaz Dzodzuashvili (Soviet Union)
DF: Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany)
DF: Paul Breitner (West Germany)
DF: Murtaz Khurtsilava (Soviet Union)
MF: Uli Hoeness (West Germany)
MF: Günter Netzer (West Germany)
MF: Herbert Wimmer (West Germany)
FW: Raoul Lambert (Belgium)
FW: Jupp Heynckes (West Germany)
FW: Gerd Müller (West Germany)
The winners of the 1972 European Player of the Year poll were West Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, and Gunter Netzer. This victory sparked the Germans into becoming a football powerhouse. Between 1972 and 1996, West Germany and Germany reached nine finals out of 13 UEFA European Football Championships and World Cups.