In 1972 West Germany had built up a strong and competitive side based on the two strongest clubs in the country: Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach. While Borussia Monchenglandbach had won the 1970 and 1971 Bundesliga titles, in 1972 a period of dominance by Bayern Munich would set in, that would give the club three German and European Cup titles in a row.
Germany had qualified for the final tournament in Belgium by winning an easy group ahead of Poland, Turkey and Albania, before facing England in the quarterfinals. In the first leg at Wembley Stadium Germany got revenge for the World Cup final defeat six years before by winning 3-1.
In the semi-final they had defeated the Belgian home side 2-1 on two goals by the Bayern Munich striker Gerd Muller. Muller was already then know as “Der Bomber”, and would go on to become the most prolific goalscorers of all time. But he was not the only one who would become a legend on the German side. The captain of Germany and Bayern Munich was Franz Beckenbauer, who was by then probably the best defender in the world and had redefined the role of a defender in football. Alongside he had other Bayern collagues: Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Paul Breitner and Sepp Maier in the goal. As midfield general the Germans had the elegant Gunther Netzer from Borussia Monchengladbach, who would become German footballer of the year in 1972 and 1973, before moving to Real Madrid. He was complemented by Uli Hoeness and Jupp Heynckes, from Munich and Monchengladbach respectively, who could both pass the balls and score goals.
The USSR had won their qualifying group ahead of Spain, Northern Ireland and Cyprus, and the defeated Yugoslavia in the quarterfinal. In the semi-final they defeated Hungary 1-0. It was a solid and physically strong side captained by Murtaz Khurtsilava from Dynamo Tbilisi. The midfield was entirely made up of Dynamo Kiev players: Viktor Kolotov, Vladimir Troshkin and Anatoli Konkov.
Although only one month before, in a friendly match, West Germany had beaten the USSR 4-1, it was worth noting that was in the Soviets third European final in four tries, and they remained one of the most stable and strong sides in the world.
But that June day in Brussels was again Germany's day. With a superb Gunther Netzer in midfield and a perfect Beckenbauer in defense, they completely dominated the match from start to end. Gerd Muller scored the opener when he picked up a rebound from the Soviet goalkeeper on a strong shot from Jupp Heynckes. Ten minutes into the second half the Borussia Monchengladbach player Herbert Wimmer when he got a through-ball from Heynckes that completely tore apart the USSR defense. Five minutes later Muller scored his second after he got through on a one-two with Heynckes, and that sealed the match. In the last half hour the Germans could have won the match by more goals against a disillusioned Soviet side, but the match ended 3-0, which remained the largest margin of victory in a Euro final until 2012.
In 1974 West Germany would cement itself as the strongest team in the world by winning the World Cup, and would be the only European country until Spain in 2010 who won a World Cup after winning a European Championship.
Many still regard the German side that won in 1972 as the best team to have ever won the competition. Today this role would perhaps be contested by the 2012 Spanish side.
Brussels, 18th June 1972,
Referee: Ferdinand Marschall (Austria)
West Germany-USSR 3-0
West Germany: Sepp Maier; Franz Beckenbauer (c), Horst-Dieter Höttges, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Paul Breitner, Herbert Wimmer, Uli Hoeness, Günter Netzer, Jupp Heynckes, Gerd Müller, Erwin Kremers. Coach: Helmut Schön
USSR: Yevhen Rudakov; Revaz Dzodzuashvili, Murtaz Khurtsilava (c), Vladimir Kaplichny, Yuri Istomin, Viktor Kolotov, Vladimir Troshkin, Anatoli Konkov (Eduard Kozynkevych, 46), Anatoliy Baidachny, Anatoly Banishevski ( Eduard Kozynkevych, 66), Vladimir Onishchenko. Coach: Aleksandr Ponomarev
1-0 Muller (27)
2-0 Wimmer (52)
3-0 Muller (58)