The Olympische Auswahl of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik stand at attention for the national anthem prior to the Olympic qualifier with Austria at the Georgij Dimitroff Stadion in Erfurt on October 29, 1975.
left to right — Joachim STREICH (FC Magdeburg), Konrad WEISE (FC Carl Zeiss Jena), Reinhard HAEFNER (Dynamo Dresden), Peter DUCKE (FC Carl Zeiss Jena), Hans-Juergen RIEDIGER (Dynamo Berlin), Joachim FRITSCHE (FC Lokomotive Leipzig), Eberhard VOGEL (FC Carl Zeiss Jena), Gerd WEBER (Dynamo Dresden), Hartmut SCHADE (Dynamo Dresden), Juergen CROY (FC Sachsenring Zwickau), captain Hans-Juergen DOERNER (Dynamo Dresden)
East Germany defeated Austria 1-0 on the strength of a goal by the all-time leading scorer in the history of the D.D.R. national team, JOACHIM STREICH; the sign in the background at the re-named Steigerwaldstadion originally opened in May of 1931 simply states, “Hohe sportliche Leistungen zur Staerkung der DDR” — High sporting achievements for the stabilization of the GDR.
In the end, a goalless draw against a pre-occupied opponent in a stadium less than half full was enough to get defending Olympic bronze medalist EAST GERMANY to the final tournament of the football competition of the 1976 Summer Games to be held Montreal, Canada.
The national side of World Cup trainer GEORG BUSCHNER certainly got off to a slow start in the first round knockout tie with Greece. 32-year-old veteran forward EBERHARD VOGEL of FC Carl Zeiss Jena, who earned a bronze medal for the German Democratic Republic at both the 1964 Games in Tokyo and the 1972 Games in Munich, was able to account for the only goal of the first leg in Athens before adding another in the return encounter at Erfurt. Two more medalists from Munich who also won the 1974 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup with FC Magdeburg, midfielder JUERGEN POMMERENKE and defender MANFRED ZAPF, as well as 19-year-old forward HANS-JUERGEN RIEDIGER of Dynamo Berlin also managed goals for the Deutsche Demokratische Republik in the second leg as the Greeks were dispatched 5-0 on aggregate.
The final Olympic qualification group which included the East Germans, Czechoslovakia and Austria would not be decided until the very last match itself. Whereas the D.D.R. had collected full points in each of their two contests with the Austrians, the Czechoslovaks had dropped a point with a draw in Vienna and, therefore, needed to win in Leipzig in order to leapfrog over East Germany in the final standings. Thanks to a goal from World Cup defender KONRAD WEISE of FC Carl Zeiss Jena, the G.D.R. had forged a 1-1 result against neighboring Czechoslovakia in Prague previously in late November of 1975.
East Germany’s formidable 1974 World Cup goalkeeper JUERGEN CROY of FC Sachsenring Zwickau conceded just one goal in six qualification matches to help the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, the joint bronze medalists from the 1972 Olympics at Munich, reach the final tournament of the football competiton at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, Canada.
Historically speaking, the East Germans typically used the occasion of Olympic qualifiers to give some of the countries’ cities with smaller stadiums, such as Erfurt or Rostock, the opportunity to host an international football match. However, for the pivotal group game opposite the Czechoslovaks to be played in early April of 1976, the Deutscher Fussball Verband decided to stage the affair at the official national sports arena, the massive Zentralstadion (capable of holding more than 100,000 spectators) in Leipzig. It should be remembered that, in the eyes of those at the very highest level of government in the old D.D.R., athletic success specifically attained at the Olympic Games, itself, was considered to be the ultimate achievement.
Czechoslovakia, meanwhile, had won its qualifying group for the 1976 European Championships but had still yet to face the beaten finalist from four years earlier, the Soviet Union, in either leg of the quarterfinals; the East Germans, by direct comparison, had already been knocked out of the tournament and could afford to focus full attention on the Olympics scheduled for Montreal.
Considering the facts in the favor of the German Democratic Republic that a tie would, indeed, do the trick and also that the experienced JUERGEN CROY of FC Sachsenring Zwickau was to be found standing between the sticks in front of the 45,000 who turned out in Leipzig, the 0-0 result was something that should have been much less than shocking.