After World War II, Germany split into three different football nations: Saarland, West Germany and East Germany.
Saarland didn’t last long and only competed to qualify for the 1954 World Cup before a national referendum saw them become part of West Germany.
East Germany, however, remained until 1990, and in the field of sport they excelled in many areas; although forever dogged by doping rumours.
Its fortunes in football were mixed. The 1974 World Cup was their only successful qualifying campaign, but they usually provided tough opposition and they also performed well in the 1972 Olympics in Munich – winning bronze. That raised expectation that they could qualify for the 1974 World Cup, which they did.
Then, a month before the World Cup began, top East German side 1. FC Magdeburg beat AC Milan in the final of the Cup Winners Cup which buoyed the nation further.
The 1974 World Cup was played across nine venues in total. The weather wasn’t kind for this World Cup, a good number of games were played in the rain.
East Germany dominated Australia in their first match, finally breaking the Socceroos down in the second half to win 2-0. In their next match, played in a vastly empty stadium in West Berlin, they faced Chile. They took the lead but couldn’t hold on for the win and the Chileans levelled with twenty minutes to go.
Next up was one of the most politically charged football matches of all-time. The match was played in front of over 60,000 Germans in Hamburg. West Germany were already through but a win for the East Germans would see them top the group.
Both sides missed open goals in the first half which was dominated by the West Germans. East Germany looked to play on the counter-attack throughout the game and it would prove an effective tactic.
With just thirteen minutes remaining the East Germans stun their neighbours and the watching world…
What Happened Next?
East Germany held out for the win and emotional celebrations followed. West Germany finished second in the group but in the second round arguably ended up in an easier group than their neighbours.
The East Germans faced Argentina, Brazil and the incredible Netherlands side of that time. East Germany lost to Netherlands and Brazil but claimed a point against Argentina to avoid finishing bottom but this was to be their only appearance in a World Cup.
Forward Jürgen Sparwasser finished his career as a one club man at 1.FC Magdeburg. 1974 was undoubtedly the highlight of his career with success at club and international level.
West Germany went from strength to strength after their shock defeat and won their second World Cup, coming from behind to beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the final.