Our fourth spotlight on World Cup Stars looks at one of Germany’s finest – der bomber! Check out previous posts on World Cup Stars here.
“(He) was short , squat, awkward-looking and not notably fast”, wrote David Winner in Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football. This description does not sound like one you would expect of a World Cup great, but the player described won a European Championship, a World Cup, is second all time top scorer in the competition and has one of the best goal to match ratios of any player – ever! 489 goals in 565 games. Gerd Müller, born in 1945 in Bavaria, was a deadly finisher, a fox in the box, and was simply know as der bomber – the bomber!
He has already established his fearsome reputation as a goalscorer at Bayern Munich, the team that dominated German club football in the late sixties and early 70s. Playing alongside Sepp Maier and Franz Beckenbauer it wasn’t long before Muller, initially believed to be too short and stocky to be successful, was called up to the national side, and in his first international competition, the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, he scored 10 goals and won the Golden Shoe. His haul included hatricks against Bulgaria and Peru, a winner in extra time against rivals England, and two against Italy in a match the Germans lost 4-3. Müller himself believed this competition was the most important in his career and it certainly propelled him into the international spotlight.
A European Championship title in 1972, culminating in a 3-0 win over Russia – two goals for der bomber and the top-scorer award – was followed two years later with West Germany’s successful campaign in the 1974 World Cup in front of their own fans. Müller’s West German side were up against most neutrals favourites, Holland. The Dutch, led by legend Johan Cruyff, were playing what became known as ‘total football’ a fluid approach to the game freeing players to change position in combinations that defied traditional thinking about line-ups and tactics. The West Germans had been solid in the tournament but not outstanding, unlike the Dutch who most pundits thought claim the trophy. The game became a tight, tense affair and the difference between the sides was der bomber and his goal that put the Germans up 2-1 and ended up being the winning goal, and Müller’s last for his nation. This is how he described it, “I ran forward with two Dutch players then checked back because the pass was behind me. The ball jumped off my left foot, I turned a little and suddenly it was in.” ‘Suddenly it was in’, if any phrase describes the short, squat, stocky, slow striker from the south of Germany, ‘suddenly it was in’ is perhaps it.
David Miller goes on to say about Gerhard Müller, “he had lethal acceleration over short distances, a remarkable aerial game, and uncanny goalscoring instincts.” Der bomber, goal-scoring machine and World Cup great.
squat: short and a little fat, maybe muscular, low
fox in the box: a striker who usually scores from close range, a predator, a player who pops up to score
fearsome: if you are fearsome, you make opponents worried / scared
haul: usually used when fisherman catch a lot of fish with nets, haul in football means total number of goals. It’s used when a player scores a lot of goals
to propel: to push forwards, to motivate, to launch
fluid: not static, loose, changing, shifting
defied: went against, did not follow
to check (back): to stop suddenly
uncanny: exceptional, strange, difficult to describe,