West Germany 3-2 Netherlands at Euro 80: the night a young Bernd Schuster set the finals alight

West Germany 3-2 Netherlands at Euro 80: the night a young Bernd Schuster set the finals alight

This feature is a part of RETEUROSPECTIVE

The tournament had yet to really take off at this point in the sixth edition of the European Championship. The opening set of fixtures had seen a number of low scoring games and there was no one clear favourite to make the Henri Delaunay Trophy their own. On 14 June 1980, the Germans announced themselves as serious challengers for the highest throne in Europe, but standing in their way once again was the old enemy, the Netherlands. 

The common consensus is that this historic rivalry stems from the five-year German occupation of the Netherlands during World War Two, where a quarter of a million Dutch people died, and the country was summarily decimated. 

An alternative version, according to the author of Football Against the Enemy, Simon Kuper, has more to do with the “the mother of all defeats.” The Dutch have never forgotten what happened when the 1974 World Cup was stolen away from them in part thanks to “Hölzenbein’s schwalbe”; a perceived dive by Bernd Hölzenbein, and the antics of Bild reporters publicly targeting Cruyff the day before the final had curdled long in the memory of Oranje. 

Though the Dutch had clung to this rivalry, it was one that the Germans disregarded as holding any particular importance, as Karl-Heinz Forster explained: “Before the game, we knew it was going to be tense. We had sworn to win because the victory was so important to our sense of pride. To them, beating us is the best thing there is. They hate us so much more than we hate them.”

The rivalry between these two teams would reach fever pitch in 1980, with this game at the San Paolo in Naples helping fuel the animosity between the teams, especially when the Dutch were largely unable to lay a finger on the Germans for long portions of the game, and in particular one German: Bernd Schuster. 

This was one of the rare occasions that the world would get to appreciate just how special a player Schuster was and how lamentable it is that he played a meagre 24 times for his nation. Schuster, a tempestuous individual who had a habit of burning bridges throughout his career, was involved in numerous public spats with members of the German FA, including Franz Beckenbauer. That very public argument would see Schuster exile himself from national selection.

All that animosity only serves to highlight the special nature of performances like this; a young player at the beginning of his career surrounded by other equally promising prospects who would go on to become household names in Germany. It was a youthful side featuring the magic feet of Rummenigge, the elegance of Hansi Muller and Horst Hrubesch.

On this occasion, it was to be Schuster, aided by the lesser remembered and sorely underrated Klaus Allofs, who would make the headlines. 

It didn’t take Schuster long to make his mark. A mere 20 minutes into his first appearance of Euro 1980 he was on the receiving end of a slack pass by German skipper Bernard Dietz. Instead of playing it back like most would, Schuster executed a lovely 180-degree turn, his rasping shot cannoning off the post and landing nicely at the feet of Allofs who gratefully tucked the opportunity away. Die Mannschaft were 1-0 up and deservedly so, with the Netherlands yet to display their famous Total Football.

Allof’s goal piled the pressure on the Netherlands. Tackles started flying in, with Forster brutally scythed down, and Schuster receiving what looked suspiciously like an elbow to the head. Both times the aggressor had been Dutch forward Willy van de Kerkhof, who would miraculously finish the game without a booking. Thus, the feisty first half would end with the German keeper Harald Schumacher attempting to instigate various fights with most of the Dutch team. 

After a tempestuous opening 45, the next goal would not come until the 60th-minute mark when Schuster – who else? – won the ball back in midfield and ferried it upfield. Releasing the ball to Hansi Müller on the right-hand side of the box, Müller laid the ball off to Allofs who would again expertly finish with the outside of his left boot. 

Six minutes later, Allofs would complete his hat-trick, again with help from the irrepressible Schuster. His clever touch following a mix-up at a corner put the ball on a plate for the lethal Köln striker to finish. 

Allofs wasn’t a man accustomed to squandering chances, least of all those presented so neatly gift-wrapped. A clinical striker at club level, recording over 200 goals in his time with Köln and Fortuna Düsseldorf primarily, he could count himself unlucky to be German at the same time Rudi Völler and Jürgen Klinsmann were coming through. 

The Dutch and Van de Kerkhof, taking a break from leaving Germans sprawled on the floor, would mount a half-hearted comeback late in the day. A 19-year-old Lothar Matthäus, capturing the first of his 150 caps, cynically felled Bennie Wijnstekers just outside the penalty area and the effortlessly cool Johnny Rep netted the subsequent penalty despite German protests. Later, Van de Kerkhof would make the score somewhat respectable as he netted the best goal of the game with a rasping effort, but it was a scoreline that ultimately flattered the Netherlands who had, in truth, been swept away by Germany. 

This wasn’t a classic of the genre by any measure, particularly since the Germans were so dominant, but it was one that featured the litany of boiling tempers and scalding challenges that everyone has come to expect from fixtures featuring Germany and Netherlands. 

It was a 3-2 win where Germany looked every inch the champions of Europe they would go on to become, highlighting the absurd depth of quality that had during the 1980s, while the Netherlands were sent to the airport for an early flight home, licking their wounds and salivating at the thought of revenge. 

By Matthew Gibbs @matthewleuan

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