#FlashbackFriday - Euro '72: A Look Back at When the Euros first came to Belgium
For the 1972 European Football Championship, for the first time the Home Nations played in separate qualification groups. England topped their Qualification group, which included Switzerland, Greece and Malta. The English were unbeaten with five wins out of six, including a 1-0 win away in Malta in February 1971.
This was followed by a 3-0 win over Greece at Wembley in April 1971, a 5-0 win over Malta at Wembley in May 1971.
The only point dropped was a 1-1 draw with the Swiss at Wembley in November 1971.
The Scots meanwhile finished third in their group behind Belgium and Portugal. Eire finished bottom of their group, which included Italy, Austria and Sweden. Northern Ireland third in a group which included USSR, Spain and Cyprus and Wales also third in their group which included Romania, Czechoslovakia and Finland.
England therefore were the only side to progress from their qualification group, their reward had been to meet West Germany in the Quarter Final. The English had failed to lose a game against the Germans until a 0-1 defeat away in Hannover in June 1968, which was followed by elimination in the Mexico ’70 World Cup with a 2-3 defeat in the Quarter Final stage.
England however lost the chance of revenge when the West Germans visited Wembley in late April 1972. Ulii Hoeness put the West Germans ahead in the first half, though Francis Lee equalised on seventy seven minutes. Goals for Gunter Netzer and Gerd Muller in the last five minutes however inflicted a 1-3 defeat on England.
The return leg two weeks later in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium would inadvertently inspire a revolution in European Football in the shape of normalising shirt sponsorship within Europe’s major professional Football Leagues. That same evening, Gunter Mast - the CEO of German liquor producer Jaegermeister - had attended a party alongside a few other German power brokers, most of whom had disappeared to the kitchen to watch the tie. The match had created a great deal of social excitement nationwide as the West Germans were challenge for their first international Football trophy since the ‘Miracle of Berne’ in the 1954 World Cup Final eighteen years earlier – at that point the Germans’ only international Football triumph.
Mast came to the conclusion that night, that: ‘I realised my idea that German Football was a sport rooted only in the lower classes was wrong….through Football, you could reach all sections of the population’. Around the same period, Mast’s local side Eintract Braunschweig were in financial dire straits and came to an agreement with Jägermeister for the shirts of the former to endorse the latter’s product, making it the first such instance of shirt sponsorship within a major European League. The actual game which inspired the revolution however was a much less interesting affair, as the two sides played out a 0-0 draw which meant that the West Germans proceeded to the finals instead of England.
Meeting the Germans in the final four would be the host – Belgium, along with the USSR and Hungary from the communist bloc. West Germany went on to face the hosts in the Semi Final in Antwerp, where two goals for Gerd Muller gave the Germans a 2-1 win.
Meeting them in the final would be the USSR, after a 1-0 win over Hungary in Brussels.
The hosts Belgium would salvage some pride with a 2-1 win over Hungary to seal third place.
The West Germans comprehensively sealed the Championship with a 3-0 win over USSR in the now infamous Heysel Stadium, with goals from Herbert Wimmer and two for Gerd Muller.
As will be seen next week, the Germans from this point on would come to dominate international Football for the next two and a half decades, which included two further Final appearances in the next couple of European Football Championships.