Gerd Müller- West Germany

Gerd Müller, who had been the top scorer in 1970, had, if anything, developed into an even more complete striker. Nicknamed “Der Bomber” (also “Der Dicker” - “the fat one” because of his suspicious weight), Müller’s talent was that of a scavenger, any defensive lapse, or loose ball, in or near the penalty area would see the diminutive striker, who had superb reflexes and a talent for anticipating opposing howlers, pounce; it would almost invariably lead to a goal. Müller had great body strength and superb jumping ability; he was difficult to dispossess and a constant menace when near the opposing goal. Born in 1945 in Zinzen in Bavaria, Müller made his debut in 1960 at the age of fifteen for TSV Nordlingen. Three years later he was to join Bayern Europe, the most successful of all German clubs in European competition. He made his debut for West Germany in 1966, and soon established himself as an essential regular. Brave and fearless, by 1974 he had a well deserved reputation as the most dangerous striker in the world.

Kenny Dalglish - Scotland

Kenny Dalglish was born on 4 March 1951 in Glasgow, Dalglish was very much a product of the fierce sectarian rivalry that scarred that city and which was reflected in the extreme hostility and rivalry between its two leading football clubs, Celtic and Rangers. At five foot eight, Dalglish was of average height for someone from “Glesgae” of that time; his skill with the ball, tackling and passing abilities made it inevitable that he would join Celtic, which he did at the age of eighteen. Two years later he was playing for Scotland. Dalglish added a solidity to any team he played for from his most natural position in midfield, while not neglecting the black arts of the consummate goal scorer. At club level he was to win virtually everything on offer, including the European Cup on three separate occasions, after he transferred to Liverpool from Celtic in 1977. Dalglish is the third player to have scored more than one hundred goals in professional club football in both England and Scotland. At the time of Dalglish’s retirement from international football in 1986 he had amassed some one and two caps, a record, and thirty goals, which made him joint top scorer with Dennis Law.

Johan Cruyff - Holland

The greatest player of the 1974 World Cup was very much a known quantity by that summer. Johan Cruyff came from a humble background from which his mother was very much determined to save him. Working as a cleaner for Ajax of Amsterdam, she constantly badgered the coaching staff of Holland’s leading club to take on the twelve year old Johan; an endeavour in which she was successful. A slight figure, particularly as a teenager, the Ajax trainers worked hard to strengthen his physique and his relatively weak left foot, this was achieved by attaching weights to his legs. Born on 25 April 1947, Cruyff made his professional debut in 1964 for Ajax; whilst Cruyff remained a player Ajax won the Dutch league several times, but what made a bigger impression overseas were the wins of the European Cup in the successive years 1971, 1972 and 1973. By 1974, Cruyff had been an international for eight years. The possessor of a ferocious shot, Cruyff seemed to score effortlessly from almost any position. Willowy and fast, Cruyff moved around the pitch in a manner designed to pull opponents out of position thereby opening up opportunities for his colleagues.

Johan Neeskens - Holland

To describe Johan Neeskens as Johan Cruyff’s water-carrier would be less than just. Nonetheless, Neeskens did win an inordinate number of tackles after which he instantly passed the ball to his Ajax team-mate Cruyff. Neeskens possessed the deceptive toughness that one often associates with the wiry; brave in the tackle, he was also a lethal penalty taker and the fashioner of many a cutting pass. Neeskens’s buzzing presence meant that opponents could rarely settle into a comfortable possession. Capable of playing in any position, he was never happier than in the hurly-burly of midfield in which he proved a constant handful, forever threatening to participate in a dangerous attack, or dissolve one from the opposing team. Twenty-three years of age at the time of this World Cup, Neeskens already had two years experience as an international and the requisite seasoning that four years with Ajax brought.

Wladyslaw Zmuda, - Poland

No-one was more talented in that squad than twenty year old Wladyslaw Zmuda, who combined the height that was essential for a world class central defender with immense stamina, colossal physical strength and a well-oiled footballing brain. Usually playing in the sweeper’s position, Zmuda’s sense of anticipation was such that it was frequently he who intercepted an opponent’s high ball or long pass before it could do any damage. Unfortunately, the last stage of his career was dogged by injury and ill-luck, as, for instance, his year long knee injury in 1983 at the start of an potentially lucrative career with Verona of Italy.

© 2006 World Cup Years Ltd.