The 1972 Euros followed the same format as the previous editions of the tournament. Only four teams made it to the finals which saw two semi-finals, a third-place playoff and the final. This time Italy, England as well as Belgium had expressed interest in hosting the event, but Belgium was chosen to be the venue for the fourth edition of the Euros.
Apart from the hosts, the winner of the inaugural edition, the Soviet Union, West Germany and Hungary were the four sides that made the last four for the tournament held from 14th to 18th June 1972.
In the early 1970s, West Germany were an irresistible team and had the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Paul Breitner, Gunter Netzer and Jupp Heynckes forming the spine of the team. Majority of them also made up the Bayern Munich first team which was very dominant at the time – they went on to win three successive European Cups.
Muller especially was in top form and he went on to score both the goals in West Germany’s 2-1 win over Belgium in the semi-final. The only goal for the hosts was scored by Odilon Polleunis in the 83rd minute of the game, which proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
Anatoli Konkov scored the only goal in the other semi-final that proved enough for the Soviets to get the better of Hungary. In the third place playoff, Belgium overcame the Hungarians 2-1 to take home the bronze medal.
The iconic Heysel Stadium in Brussels hosted the final between West Germany – who would go on to be crowned the World champions two years later – and the Soviets who were the first ever European champions. Close to 45,000 people were in attendance as another brace from the irrepressible Muller, and a solitary goal from Herbert Wimmer saw the Germans brush the Soviets aside on their way to a 3-0 win to become the European champions for the first time in their history.
Highlights of the final between West Germany and Soviet Union courtesy of Aleks Chistogan
Muller’s four goals saw him finish the tournament as the top scorer, and seven members of the West German squad were chosen in the team of the tournament.