West Germany 1972
Back in the 1970s, West Germany were at the peak of their game. The national team, which comprised of a core of players plying their trade for Bayern Munich, went on to reach three successive major international finals: the 1974 World Cup triumph sandwiched between the 1972 and 1976 European Championships finals.
Their team at the 1972 Euros is rightly regarded as one of the greatest international sides of all time. When they were on song, the opposition were left chasing shadows.
To add to the woes of their opponents, the quality of the Germans wasn’t confined to any specific area of the pitch, but the whole team brimmed with talent and together they were more than the sum of their parts.
Sepp Maier manned the goal, while the legendary Franz Beckenbauer initiated attacks from his sweeper role and with his confident forays up the field. The midfield had the stylish Gunter Netzer, who played with the ease of someone on a beach vacation. And of course, goals were never in short supply with Gerd Muller up front.
Muller grabbed four goals in two games as West Germany dispatched Belgium 2-1 in the semi-final before walloping the Soviet Union 3-0 in the final.
Best XI: Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer, Horst-Dieter Hottges, Hans Georg Schwarzenbeck, Paul Breitner, Uli Hoeness, Herbert Wimmer, Gunter Netzer, Jupp Heynckes, Erwin Kremers, and Gerd Muller
The 1974 and 1978 World Cup final losses were tragic for the Netherlands, especially the former as that side were regarded amongst the greatest the world has ever seen. No one expected that the Dutch team of the 1970s, led by the legendary Johan Cruyff, would never win a major international honour.
Netherlands finally won their first major international trophy at the 1988 Euros with another brilliant generation of players. And fittingly, they were led by the father of Total Football: Rinus Michels.
Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman manned the team’s defence, while Jan Wouters and Arnold Muhren ran the play from the midfield. The captain Ruud Gullit and the irrepressible Marco van Basten were leading the team’s attack.
The Dutch were up against their fierce rivals West Germany in the semi-final and the tension before the game was so high that it was virtually the final for the Netherlands. The fact that they had to face the USSR in the actual final was almost an afterthought.
However, the Dutchmen went on to win both the “finals” much to the delight of their countrymen. The fact that the defeated the West Germans after coming back from a goal down made it even sweeter.
The Soviets were easily defeated 2-0 in the final with both the Dutch forwards grabbing a goal apiece. Van Basten’s incredible strike is considered the greatest in the history of the competition.
Best XI: Hans van Breukelen, Frank Rijkaard, Ronald Koeman, Berry van Aerle, Adri van Tiggelen, Jan Wouters, Arnold Muhren, Gerald Vanenberg, Erwin Koeman, Ruud Gullit, and Marco van Basten