Poland being mostly unknown on the international soccer scene before 1974 shook up the soccer world during the World Cup in Germany. With their lighting speed and incredible team chemistry they were almost unstoppable.
In qualifying they surprised everyone by eliminating England, quarter-finalists in 1970 and Champions in 1966.
In their opening match of Germany 74 Poland met Argentina, a team that was appearing in their 6th World Cup. Within eight minutes Poland were up 2-0, Grzegorz Lato (7') and Andrzej Szarmach (8') had opened the scoring. In the 60th minute Argentina cut the lead in half when Ramon Heredia scored. But two minutes later Lato got his second which turned out to be the winning goal as Carlos Babington gave Argentina their second in the 66th.
Poland destroyed Caribbean nation Haiti 7-0 in their second game. The goals included a hat-trick from Szarmach and two from Lato.
In their final match of the first stage Poland met Italy, who were 2nd at the previous World Cup in 1970. Poland were already through to the Second Round but needed at least a tie to win the group. At half-time Poland was leading 2-0 on goals from Andrzej Szarmach ('38) and Kazimierz Deyna ('45). It was not until the 86th minute that Italy managed a consilation goal through Fabio Capello. This gave Poland their third convincing win in as many games.
In the second round Poland first won 1-0 against a Swedish side which had not let in any goals in their first three matches. Lato scored the only goal.
Next was Yugoslavia who had drawn with Brazil and Scotland and won 9-0 against Zaire. Poland was awarded a penalty in the 24th minute and took the lead when Deyna converted. Stanislav Karasi tied it up for Yugoslavia in the 43rd. Lato won it for Poland again when he scored in the 62nd.
Every Pole thought this team was heading for the final. Than on July 3, 1974 came the game against the eventual champions West Germany. It had rained all day long, the field was more like a pond. Poland wanted the game postponed but Germany would not agree. The game went ahead. Poland needed a win, a tie was enough for the Germans. But in the miserably wet conditions Poland's speed was of no use since the ball would not roll like it does on a dry field. Gerd Muller scored in the 76th minute for Germany, the ball just trickled into the Polish net. The whole country was crushed.
Poland went on to defeat Brazil (1-0) in the third place game. Lato scored the winning goal; he was also the top scorer of Germany 74.