FC Bayern Munchen are poised to round off an exceptionally successful 2013 with another piece of silverware. Pep Guardiola’s team have reached the final of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 in Marrakech, where they play hosts and Moroccan champions Raja Club Atletic. The match takes place on Saturday 21 December, which happens to be a historically significant date for the Bavarian giants.
It was 21 December 1976 when Germany’s most successful club won their maiden Intercontinental Cup, the forerunner to the Club World Cup of today. The contest was a two-legged affair at the time. The European Cup winners defeated Cruzeiro Belo Horizonte 2-0 at the Olympic Stadium in Munich courtesy of goals from Gerd Muller and Hans-Josef Kapellmann. A goalless draw in the return in Mineirao was enough for the Germans to bring home the trophy.
Thirty-seven years on from this triumph Muller, who scored the crucial opening goal in the home leg, still has fond memories of the occasion and especially of the atmosphere in Brazil, as he told FIFA.com. "Winning Bayern’s first Intercontinental Cup in 1976 was definitely very special. And lifting the trophy after playing the return in front of a 117,000 crowd at Cruzeiro's home ground in Belo Horizonte was one of the best moments of my career.”
Bayern’s team back then rates as one of the best in their history, featuring stars such as Sepp Maier, Uli Hoeness, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Franz ‘Der Kaiser’ Beckenbauer. Apart from an impressive array of domestic honours, Beckenbauer and his men won the forerunner to the UEFA Champions League three times in succession between 1974 and 1976.
Extremes of climate
Captain at the time Beckenbauer recently spoke to TV station ARD about the home and away Intercontinental Cup final: "The set-up was very different back then. It was always South America against Europe. We won the European Cup three times, but declined to play the Intercontinental Cup final twice because it was of no real significance.
"It’s completely different today of course," he continued. "And we stepped up to the challenge in 1976. We won 2-0 in Munich in temperatures of -20°C, and we travelled to Brazil a few weeks later where it was 40°C. That wasn’t really our normal operating temperature."
Bayern then went through two lean decades on the international stage. It was 1996 before the club’s next European trophy, their first and only UEFA Cup success. It took another five years before they laid hands on the Champions League trophy, edging past Valencia on penalties in Milan and earning themselves another shot at the Intercontinental Cup.
The final in Tokyo against Argentine powerhouses Boca Juniors in late 2001 went to extra-time, before Sammy Kuffour scored the only goal of the game after 109 minutes to hand Munich their second Intercontinental Cup. One of the members of the team that day was Claudio Pizarro.
Valuable and important trophy
The Peru striker played all but the very last minute of stoppage time and looks back on the match with great fondness, as he told FIFA.com: "I can remember it very clearly of course. It was a game against Boca Juniors in 2001 and the goal was scored by Sammy Kuffour. It was the first trophy I won with Bayern. It’s very moving and special, and I’ll never forget it.“
The striker had joined the Bavarians the previous summer after a spell with his first German club Werder Bremen. The triumph in Japan meant a great deal to him personally. "Every player dreams of winning the tournament, but it definitely means an awful lot more to us South Americans than to the Europeans.
"The minute a team wins the Copa Libertadores, all the talk is about the Intercontinental Cup and meeting the European representatives," he went on. "In South America, this competition really is all about who is the best team in the world.“
The leading non-German goalscorer in Bundesliga history is back at FC Bayern where he is poised to lay hands on the intercontinental title again. Pizarro makes no secret of his desire for the trophy. "Obviously the format of the competition is different now but I really hope we win it again. The title is very significant in the course of any career.“
In the event of a Munich victory, Pizarro would join Thiago Alcantara as a two-time winner of the intercontinental showdown. Thiago claimed the title with Barcelona in 2011, but ‘Pizza’ would be doing so a second time with Bayern.
Exactly 37 years to the day since collecting their first honours on the global stage, Bayern are aiming to climb to the top of the world for the third time in three attempts. Muller and Munich fans everywhere are crossing their fingers and hoping it comes off. "I’m wishing the team plenty of success at the Club World Cup 2013," Der Bomber said, "and I hope they bring the trophy back to Munich for the third time after 1976 and 2001."