Group 7 was no brainer : it was the easiest group. West Germany had a very lucky draw – Turkey, Wales, and Malta were no opponents at all. Just as well, for 1978 was terrible for the West Germans – the World Cup finals revealed that the team was in deep crisis and needs urgently not a mere patching, but new approach, radical rebuilding, complete change. The lucky draw made sure that even the team of 1978 will qualify effortlessly, but to a point, the qualification rounds were used for making a new team. Unlike almost every other country, the Germans did not change the coach – they believed in their own tradition : a new coach developes as assistant of the great man at the helm and when the great man retires the assistant steps into his shoes. Derwal was too young for retirement, so he stayed. The weak group and the visible absence of change cancelled close scrutiny of the German team : the group was boringly predictable, so nobody outside specialists paid attention. To a point, the building of new German team was missed by most observers. As expected, West Germany had no match in the group. Yes, they started as bad as they were in 1978 – away 0-0 tie with Malta, followed with another away scoreless tie with Turkey. The rest of their group matches they won easily, permitting just a single goal in their own net. Malta was simply bellow everybody else – they got only one point and this point could be entirely credited to the still weak Germans. Turkey and Wales were equals, exchanging home wins, which practically cancelled both teams. The point Turkey earned at home against West Germany placed them 2nd at the end.
Turkish football was improving during the 1970s, but still was quite weak. No famous players here, no big surprises, no really coming close to the best. Occasional tie against top opponent was the sign of improvement, but nothing more. Finishing second in the group was the measure of success – far behind the best teams, but matching the lower tier of the European middle level. Able to come ahead of Wales, that was the positive result.
West Grrmany, 1979 version, comfortably going to the European finals. Sitting from left : Hans Muller, Walter Kelsch, Caspar Memering, Norbert Nigbur, Dieter Burdenski, Manfred Kaltz, Klaus Fischer, Rainer Bonhof.
Second row : Bernd Schuster, Klaus Allofs, Karl-Heinz Forster, Bernd Cullmann, Jupp Derwall – coach, Sepp Maier, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bernd Forster, Bernard Dietz, Hans-Peter Briegel.
There are radical changes and radical changes – the German version was and is never to start from scratch, but rather to change the emphasis. By now only 4 world champions of 1974 remained – Maier, Nigbur, and Cullmann. Two were reserves back then. Maier was clearly on his way out. Nigbur was seen as the number 1 goalkeeper, but he was already 31-years old and so far deep in the shadow of Maier. Cullmann was reliable, but nothing exceptional as a player – something as eternal back-up and certainly not a team leader. Bonhof was at his prime, but he was not exactly seen as a player leading the new Germany. However, the stupid decision not to include foreign based player was abolished and he was in. Perhaps not for long, though. The bulk was the next generation, already vastly experienced : Rummenigge, Dietz, Fischer, and Kaltz. The backbone of the new team, but the idea was changing the leadership – the key players were the next generation : Hans Muller, the Forster brothers, Schuster, Briegel, Allofs. Too young so far, but pushed ahead. Not the key players yet, just getting used to the national team. But they were the players to lead Germany in the future – and they did. The rest was hit and miss – experiments with new blood. Burdenski, Kelsch, Memering… there were others too, tested, discarded, tried again. So far, the team was raw, not fully developed, just getting shape, and depending on the middle-aged stars. So far, only the defence was ready – Kaltz, the Forster brothers, and Dietz. But there was time – the easy qualification group really served for experimenting, gradually replacing players, tuning, and searching for key figures in midfield and attack. As for expectations, such unfinished team perhaps was not going to impress at the European finals, but Germans are Germans – hard to beat even when weak.
1. West Germany 4 2 0 17-1 10
2. Turkey 3 1 2 5-5 7
3. Wales 3 0 3 11-8 6
4. Malta 0 1 5 2-21 1
And the rest is for the next year.