Monday, July 6, 2015

6 July 1974 - After 36 Years, Poland Gets Its Revenge

On 6 July 1974, Poland achieved their best finish in a World Cup, beating Brazil 0-1 in the third-place match. The match-winning goal was provided by speedy right-winger Grzegorz Lato (pictured), the tournament's highest scorer.

Poland were playing in only their second World Cup ever, with the first ending after one match in 1938 - a 6-5 loss to Brazil at the end of extra time. They had won the gold at the 1972 Olympics, however, thus establishing themselves as World Cup contenders. And indeed, they breezed through the first round with wins over Argentina (3-2), Haiti (0-7), and Italy (2-1). In the second-round group stage, they beat Sweden (0-1) and Yugoslavia (2-1) to set up the final match of the round against West Germany, with the winner advancing to the Final. It was the only match of the tournament in which the Poles could not score, losing 0-1 to a 76th-minute goal from Gerd Müller.

Playing before a crowd of 74,100 at the Olympiastadion in Munich, both sides played an open attacking style that created a handful of chances each. But it was Lato who turned one of those chances into the match's only goal, as he received the ball in his own half and sprinted down the right side past the Brazilian defense to knock the ball past the keeper in the 76th minute. It was his seventh goal of the tournament, making him the only Polish player to win a World Cup golden boot.

Poland repeated their success with another third-place finish in 1982, but have since gone into decline, qualifying for only three of the eight World Cups since then.

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