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The Water Battle

 “The Water Battle“, 3rd July 1974 After the skies had opened up over the Frankfurt stadium, officials attempt to clear the water off the flooded pitch with the help of rollers.
“The Water Battle“, 3rd July 1974 After the skies had opened up over the Frankfurt stadium, officials attempt to clear the water off the flooded pitch with the help of rollers.

The Polish football team has never won a match against Germany, and on the day of the semi-final match in the 1974 World Cup they were never so close. But instead of going down in history as the first Polish victory over Germany the game was given the nickname, the “Water Battle of Frankfurt”.

In 1974 the FIFA world Championships were staged in the Federal Republic of Germany and West Berlin. The powerful German team under their captain Franz Beckenbauer naturally wanted to win the title in their own country. Poland had also reached the final stages with a team which was just as motivated and maybe even better than the Germans. The Polish squad, containing stars like Grzegorz Lato (top goal scorer in the tournament), Robert Gadocha, Kazimierz Deyna, Andrzej Szarmach, Wladyslaw Żmuda and the “Tiger between the posts” Jan Tomaszewski, was the best team Poland ever produced. Both the Germans and the Poles qualified without difficulty from their group games. Now they came up against each other for the first time in the tournament. On 3rd July 1974 they were playing to qualify for the final.

The kick-off in the stadium in Frankfurt am Main was scheduled for 17.00. But shortly before the skies opened and rain flooded down on to the already wet pitch, transforming it into a lake. A huge number of helpers accompanied by firemen moved on to the pitch to try to clear it with two heavy rollers, shovels, wheelbarrows and pumps. But despite all their efforts there was little change. Now the officials had to decide whether the semi-final could take place. Because of the very tight timetable and the sell-out game in the Frankfurt Stadium the organisers decided to let the game go ahead even though the pitch was practically unplayable. After the kick-off had been postponed for half an hour the match was played in scenes, the like of which had never been witnessed in international football. Water spurted into the air at every step. The players slipped and slid on the waterlogged grass and stumbled over the mud. The heavy leather football simply came to an abrupt halt in the water. At the time the Polish team played a modern, type of football, moving the ball swiftly from one side of the pitch to the other. Their game was characterised by precise crosses from the wings and lightning reactions in the penalty area. But under these conditions the Poles were unable to play their usual game. Despite the penalty save by Jan Tomaszewski (Ulli Hoeness missed) luck was on the German side. Gerd Müller scored the only goal of the match in the 76th minute, thereby shooting the German team into the final. The Polish dream of a World Cup title was once again unfulfilled, whereas the German hosts went on to lift the cup. 

 

Additional information


Kazimierz Górski was only appointed as national trainer in 1970. Before that the Polish team had been rather mediocre. The new trainer introduced a new system and fresh young players. At the end of the match Górski commented: “It’s like this. The team that wins is the team that scores one goal more”.

Years later, looking back on the game, Franz Beckenbauer commented: “Under normal circumstances we probably wouldn’t have stood a chance”.

Poland finished in third place at the 1974 World Cup. In their final game they defeated a very good Brazilian side. The only goal of the match was scored by Grzegorz Lato in the 76 minute! Poland was definitely the surprise team at the World Cup.
There have been many conspiracy theories concerning the German victory over the Polish team. One of them claims that the German officials only pumped the water off one half of the pitch. 

The “Water Battle of Frankfurt” is sometimes also called the “Rain Battle of Frankfurt”. 

Small bottles containing the original water from the Frankfurt Stadium on 3rd July 1974 are still alleged to to be in circulation

Players / Poland
On the field

Jan TOMASZEWSKI (GK)
Antoni SZYMANOWSKI
Jerzy GORGON
Wladyslaw ŻMUDA
Adam MUSIAL
Kazimierz DEYNA (C)
Henryk KASPERCZAK (-80')
Zygmunt MASZCZYK (-80’)
Grzegorz LATO
Robert GADOCHA
Jan DOMARSKI

 

On the bench

Andrzej FISCHER
Zygmunt KALINOWSKI
Zbigniew GUT
Henryk WIECZOREK
Miroslaw BULZACKI
Leslaw CMIKIEWICZ (+80')
Roman JAKOBCZAK
Andrzej SZARMACH
Zdzislaw KAPKA
Kazimierz KMIECIK (+80')
Marek KUSTO

Trainer

Kazimierz GÓRSKI (POL) 

Players / Federal Republic of Germany
On the field

Sepp MAIER (GK)
Berti VOGTS
Paul BREITNER
Hans Georg SCHWARZENBECK
Franz BECKENBAUER (C)
Juergen GRABOWSKI
Wolfgang OVERATH
Gerd MÜLLER
Uli HOENESS
Rainer BONHOF
Bernd HÖLZENBEIN
   

On the bench

Horst-Dieter HÖTTGES
Herbert WIMMER
Bernd CULLMANN
Günter NETZER
Jupp HEYNCKES
Heinz FLOHE
Dieter HERZOG
Jupp KAPPELLMANN
Helmut KREMERS
Norbert NIGBUR
Wolfgang KLEFF

Trainer

Helmut SCHÖN (GER)

Adam Gusowski

Mediathek Sorted

Media library
  • 1974

    The German Franz Beckenbauer (r) and Jan Domarski (Poland) during the World championship match between Germany and Poland in Frankfurt on 3rd July 1974.
  • Antoni Szymanowski (r)

    The Polish defender Antoni Szymanowski (r) tries to stop the German forward Gerd Hölzenbein (l) in a puddle.
  • Das Wasserschlachtwasser

    Auf ein solches Fläschchen kann man heute noch auf Flohmärkten und in Internetauktionen treffen.
  • Water Battle - Radio play by "COSMO Radio po polsku" in English

    In cooperation with "COSMO Radio po polsku" we present radio plays on selected topics of our portal.