A typically efficient and organised German outfit lifted the trophy in Australia in 1981. A narrow win over Mexico (1-0), a shock defeat by Egypt (1-2) and victory over Spain (4-2) was enough to see them through to the quarter-finals, where they came up against host nation Australia. The Young Socceroos gave their all - and it was very nearly enough - but German grit and determination won the day, with a defensive wall of Winklhofer, Zorc, Trieb and Schmidkuntz proving impossible to break down. And just as their older brethren have done so often in the past, the Young Mannschaft struck the winner five minutes from time through a Roland Wohlfarth header. It was more of the same in the semis, Dietrich Weise's side content to play a game of containment for 90 minutes against the enterprising and entertaining Romanians before Schoen headed the winner from a corner in extra-time. The Final was another story, however, as Germany at last found a rich vein of form to brush Qatar aside 4-0 in the driving wind and rain. So another title was brought home to Germany a year after their illustrious elders were crowned European champions.
In a tournament dominated by the Europeans (three semi-finalists), it was the Romanians who caught the eye of the world with their polished passing game. Constantin Cernaianu's charges gave nothing away at the back and were expertly marshalled going forward by the superb Romulus Gabor. Finally losing out to a goal at the death in the semis, it was nonetheless the first time any Romanian side had finished in the top four in a FIFA competition - and all that only after qualifying by being drawn out of a hat!
Without doubt, though, the surprise package of the tournament were the young men from Qatar, who after a lacklustre first round really set the tournament alight. Coached by Brazilian Macedo Everisto, they impressed in every facet of the game. Against Brazil in the quarter-finals, it was their dynamism and enterprising attack and an intelligent deployment of the offside trap that won the day (3-2). In the semis, up against a compact English eleven, they were able to rely on an inspired performance from their goalkeeper Ahmed. A solid defence, mettle in the tackle and effective opportunism in the penalty area did the rest.
Player of the Tournament:
In a Romanian side that will be remembered for its defensive stinginess (only three goals conceded), Romulus Gabor stood out as a real star in the making. This quick thinking midfielder with a lethal free-kick appeared to have the football world at his feet. Yet he would never truly fulfil his early promise, remaining loyal to his one and only club Corvinul, for whom he played 349 matches over 14 seasons, scoring 79 goals. He was capped 35 times at full international level and scored two goals.
Jorge Burruchaga (ARG), Sergio Goycochea (ARG), Louis Paul Mfede (CMR), Neil Webb (ENG), Adrian Chavez (MEX), Gavril Balint (ROU), Romulus Gabor (ROU), Carlos Aguilera (URU), Enzo Francescoli (URU), Nelson Gutierrez (URU),...
Australia 1981 stats:
87 (av.: 2.72)
Germany, 12 goals
Top 3 goalscorers:
Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney
443,094 (Final: 18,531)
This Australian tournament pulled in fewer spectators than any other, although average gates were lower at Argentina 2001 with 9,737 spectators per match.