World Cup Flashback: Germany v Mexico 1978

As die Mannschaft prepares itself for their 2018 World Cup Group F opener with Mexico in Moscow Sunday, it is time to wind back the clock to the first competitive fixture between the German national team and ‘El Tri’. The 1978 World Cup in Argentina pitted the reigning champions from four years earlier with the Mexicans in the group stage. It was a pretty one-sided affair and hopefully an omen for the forthcoming clash at the Luzhniki Stadium.

The Background

The two nations had met three times previously in friendlies, but their second fixture at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina was the first time they’d met competitively. The Germans travelled to South America as World Cup holders having won the trophy for a second time on home soil four years earlier in 1974.

The side however was much changed with cornerstones of the triumph in Munich such as Gerd Müller, Franz Beckenbauer, Wolfgang Overath and Uli Hoeneß no longer present. ‘Der Kaiser’ had retired from international football following his move to New York in 1977, while ‘Der Bomber’ had not reneged on his decision to retire from the German side after the 1974 World Cup- despite still being one of the world’s most prolific strikers.

As holders West Germany (as they were then) qualified for Argentina automatically whereas the Mexicans easily made it through their CONCACAF group of countries ahead of the likes of Haiti, El Salvador and Canada.

Since winning the World Cup in the Olympiastadion back in July of 1974, the Germans had been surprisingly beaten in the final of the European Championships by Czechoslovakia (and in particular Antonin Panenka’s penalty) so were keen to reassert their authority at international level and claim a third title.

Drawn in Group 2, Germany had kicked their defence of the crown off with a goalless draw with European neighbours Poland at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires. Mexico meanwhile had lost their opening fixture 3-1 to Tunisia in Rosario, leaving them with a real uphill battle.

The Match

The venue for both countries’ second game at the 1978 World Cup finals was Cordoba’s Estadio Chateau Carreras (now named the Mario Kempes Stadium). Bundestrainer Helmut Schön opted to make three changes, bringing in Bernard Dietz for Erich Beer and drafting in forwards Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Dieter Müller in the search for goals.

The decision worked with four goals in the first half as Germany moved through the gears to take apart a Mexico side that showed little resistance to their forward play.

It took just 15 minutes for Germany to open the scoring with captain Berti Vogts striding forward from the back to feed Dieter Müller. The Köln forward took a touch and turned his marker well before firing past keeper José Pilar Reyes with his left-foot from around 20 meters out.

Fifteen minutes later and it was the turn of the ‘other’ Müller (Hansi) to get on the scoresheet. Germany broke quickly following a Mexico corner and when Heinz Flohe’s diagonal pass fed Müller, the VfB Stuttgart drilled home right-footed.

When the Mexicans tried to overwork a free-kick eight minutes later, Bayern Munich striker Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was on hand to race three-quarters the length of the pitch on a solo run before sliding the ball under the goalkeeper. Comfortably in control, the Germans added a fourth a minute before the interval with Heinz Flohe scoring from long-range after a Rainer Bonhof teed him up via a free-kick which by-passed the defensive wall.

In control, Germany had to wait until the 73rd minute for their fifth and it came once again via a counter-attack. Klaus Fischer crossed for Hansi Müller and his knockdown was seized upon by Rummenigge for his second of the game. The icing was put on the cake a minute from the end with Köln’s Heinz Flohe charging forward with Mexico pushing forward, producing another fine solo effort to make it 6-0.

The Aftermath

The win got Germany’s campaign off and running, but there was to be a shock in their next game when they were held to a goalless draw by minnows Tunisia. That result meant die Nationalelf finished second behind Poland, but still qualified for the next stage.

The Mexico win however was to be their only victory achieved in Argentina. The next group stage was a direct fight for a place in the final and Helmut Schön’s men were grouped with Italy, the Netherlands and Austria. A 0-0 stalemate with Italy was followed by a 2-2 draw with the Dutch meaning they needed to beat Austria to have any chance of making the final (plus hoping the Dutch didn’t beat Italy).

The Austrians call it the ‘Miracle of Cordoba’ as an 87th winner from Hans Krankl saw the lesser neighbours clinch a historic win over their more illustrious foes. Germany were out and the defending champions had been de-throned.

Helmut Schön had already given notice that he would step down after the finals in Argentina, but the shock loss to the Burschen meant he would not go out on a high.


Hugo Sánchez, then playing for UNAM, was appearing in his first World Cup of three. He would go on to score 164 goals in 207 games for Real Madrid.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge would go on to score in the 1986 World Cup final against Argentina in Mexico.

In 13 encounters, Mexico have managed only one win (a friendly in 1985), while Germany have won six and drawn six.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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