A desperate Poland sweeper WLADYSLAW ZMUDA (left) of Slask Wroclaw can do nothing to prevent Dynamo Dresden midfielder REINHARD HAEFNER from side-footing a third goal for the Deutsche Demokratische Republik in the 84th minute of the football tournament Final for the 1976 Summer Games at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada.
Perhaps it was the ghosts of the 1974 FIFA World Cup that arranged for the rain to fall on the Polish parade in Canada on the last day of July in 1976. There are some who insist to this day that the title-winning West Germans could have never defeated the skillful Poles on a dry pitch in the semifinal at Frankfurt’s Waldstadion. Or maybe it was the match referee, himself, who brought the wet weather to the Olympic Stadium in Montreal for the Final of the football tournament at the Games of the XXI Olympiad.
Oddly enough, RAMON BARRETO RUIZ had also been in charge of the historic contest at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg back in 1974 when the East Germans knocked off the host nation in the first round at the Weltmeisterschaft. Whatever the case, a steady drizzle persisted as the Uruguayan referee led the two teams out for a long walk on the athletics track ringing the playing surface in front of the 71,617 spectators at the Olympic Stadium. Ready or not, it was now time for powerful POLAND to defend its gold medal title won four years earlier against formidable EAST GERMANY, who had shared the bronze at the Munich Games in 1972.
Now, it was the Poles who were noted for all the attacking prowess entering the Olympic Final in the iconic French-Canadian city. The captain, veteran midfielder KAZIMIERZ DEYNA of Legia Warsaw, had been the top scorer at the 1972 Summer Games while striker GRZEGORZ LATO of Stal Mielec had won the prestigous Golden Boot at the last World Cup. And then there was striker ANDRZEJ SZARMACH of Stal Mielec, who just so happened to be leading the ’76 Olympic football tournament with six goals from Poland’s first four matches at the Montreal Games.
A distraught Poland captain, midfielder KAZIMIERZ DEYNA of army club Legia Warsaw, can only watch as East Germany midfielder HARTMUT SCHADE (14) of Dynamo Dresden shoots the ball into a wide-open net in only the seventh minute of the Olympic Final at the 1976 Summer Games from Montreal.
But it was the East Germans trained by GEORG BUSCHNER who burst out of the gate at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal firing on all cylinders before what is still to this day a national record audience to witness a football match in Canada. Barely a minute into the Gold Medal Match, a bad pass out of the back from inexperienced Poland defender HENRYK WIECZOREK of Gornik Zabrze — starting his very first match at the Montreal Games — was intercepted on the right by East Germany midfielder REINHARD LAUCK of Dynamo Berlin, who launched a long shot which went off target but turned out to be a lovely pass for World Cup veteran MARTIN HOFFMANN of FC Magdeburg over on the left. The blast which rebounded sharply off the post with Poland goalkeeper JAN TOMASZEWSKI of LKS Lodz completely beaten served as proper notice for the blitz that was shortly to ensue.
HARTMUT SCHADE, the Dynamo Dresden midfielder who did not start either of East Germany’s first two matches at the Montreal Games, was taken down by Poland midfielder HENRYK KASPERCZAK of Stal Mielec on the left flank in the seventh minute. Hoffmann took the free kick, which was neither controlled — nor cleared — until it ran through the box all the way over to Lauck on the right. The World Cup veteran then beat his defender and drove a low ball across the face of the net that two players in the vicinity, the captain Deyna being one, just could not reach.
Schade, in the meantime, arrived at the back post to easily steer home from close range past the stationary Tomaszewski and score the most monumental goal of his entire career while sending upstart East Germany to a 1-0 lead.
GEORG BUSCHNER, easily the most successful national football team trainer in the history of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, reflects upon his side’s gold medal success at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal.
East Germany continued to press and, to the amazement of all at the Olympic Stadium, doubled the score in Montreal a scant seven minutes later after goalkeeper JUERGEN CROY of FC Sachsenring Zwickau came way off his line to gather a long Polish ball intended for Lato at the edge of the area; a simple toss from Croy to Dynamo Dresden midfielder REINHARD HAEFNER initiated, perhaps, the most elegant and eye-pleasing movement of the entire tournament.
Starting in his own third of the field, the 24-year-old Haefner set out on a knifing run right straight through the teeth of the Polish defense before dishing off to Schade on the right. The East German goal-scorer quickly one-timed across to HANS-JUERGEN RIEDIGER on the left before the Dynamo Berlin striker, himself, returned the ball to Haefner in the center with a first touch. Haefner, in turn, immediately found Hoffmann on the left wing to compelte some rather fancy passing football.
Hoffmann proceeded to lash a low, left-footed drive from just inside the top, left hand corner of the penalty box that banked off the base of the very same post the 21-year-old had struck earlier and riccocheted into the back of the net. Once again, Tomaszewski appeared to have his boots anchored to the turf at the Olympic Stadium as Poland fell behind by a pair in only the 14th minute of the Gold Medal Match in Montreal. This one-two East German punch would prove to be devastating for the tournament’s defending champions.
Whether in an attempt to rally the troops or in a response to the ineffectiveness of the first choice, Poland trainer KAZIMIERZ GORSKI decided to pull Tomaszewski from the Olympic Final. An inglorious exit for the 28-year-old who had been named the best goalkeeper at the 1974 FIFA World Cup, then. And so, onto the biggest stage at the ’76 Summer Games stepped back-up PIOTR MOWLIK, the lightly-experienced 25-year-old for army club Legia Warsaw in only the 19th minute.
Riediger probably should have made it three-nil for East Germany roughly ten minutes after the arrival of Mowlik. The 21-year-old striker, who ended the 75/76 season third in the domestic Oberlia with 18 goals for Dynamo Berlin, accepted a slick pass from Hoffmann at the midfield stripe and raced right down the middle. The blond-haired youngster blew right past the hapless Wieczorek but fired his shot over both the shoulder of the Mowlik as well as the crossbar.
Poland actually had its share of opportunities in the first half, too, but were let down by a combination of poor finishing and the fine form of the competent East German goalkeeper. The prolific Szarmach had two clear chances from inside the penalty arc but failed to find the target each time and Deyna, after losing his marker with a nice move inside the box, mishit his angled shot so badly that a throw-in followed. A little over ten minutes before the halftime whistle, winger KAZIMIERZ KMIECIK of Wislaw Cracow rocketed a low shot from the right side of the net that Croy needed to kick out with his legs.
Shortly after the restart, the East Germans really should have, once more, extended the margin to three after winger WOLFRAM LOEWE of FC Lokomotive Leipzig successfully went around the substitute goalkeeper Mowlik but a sliding Poland right back ANTONI SZYMANOWSKI of Wislaw Cracow was able to clear the ball off the line just in the nick of time.
Szarmach forced another quality save from Croy just before the closely-marked Lato, who had not managed a single attempt at goal up to this point, was finally able to provide Poland a lifeline. Deyna, who had grabbed both Polish goals in the 2-1 triumph over Hungary in the Final at the 1972 Summer Games, swung over another corner and the leading goal-scorer at the last World Cup headed home to halve the deficit 59 minutes into the Olympic Final in Montreal. Poland was clearly not prepared to relinquish its title without some kind of fight.
Deyna, who finished third in the voting for European Player of the Year in 1974, had two legitimate chances with free kicks but hit the first straight at Croy and skied the second well over the crossbar. Szarmach might have equalized at the Olympic Stadium with a skillful side-volley but was denied by a brilliant save from the stingy East German goalkeeper. However, the Polish attack was already petering out by the time Lato had a last shot swallowed up by Croy, who ended the match with eight saves.
Haefner slammed the door shut for the German Democratic Republic after Schade picked off an errant Polish pass with six minutes remaining in the Olympic Final at Montreal’s newly-opened stadium. A square ball from the game’s first goal-scorer evolved into a 50/50 ball just over the midfield line that Wieczorek lost and so off to the races went Haefner. A smooth, clinical finish ushered in the most glorious (and golden) moment of footballing excellence that the nation of East Germany would ever know.
The full squad of EAST GERMANY, the gold medalists at the football tournament of the 1976 Summer Games, gleefully accept their just reward on the podium during the official medal ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in the iconic French-Canadian city of Montreal.