In a game that produced only one major save all afternoon. West Germany and Poland played to a 0-0 tie yesterday in the opening game of the 1978 World Cup.

Both teams were whistled and booed by the capcity crowd of 77,000 fans at the River Plate Stadium. The game resembled two heavyweight boxers stalking each other, each of them with too much respect for the other knockout punch.

Neither goaltender made a save until the 44th minute of play when West Germany's Sepp Maier, playing in his third World Cup, dived to stop a clever, curling free kick from the left by Ploand's Kazimierz Deyha.

The West Germans were generally outplayed in midfield, and only Maier and his four fullbacks saved the day for the 1974 Cupt winners.

The Polish coach, Jacek Gmovh, expressed grudging praise of Maier.

"I don't think there is any doubt among the spectators that we should have won this game," Gmoch said. "Only the German goalkeeper prevented Germany from losing. He made a few excellent saves, especially in the second half."

West German Coach Helmut Schoen expressed some optimism about the unpopular outcome.

"The draw gives us a good chance to qualify from Group II because Poland was obviously our strongest opponent in the first round." Schoen said. "But I hope our players improve in the coming days."

The West Germans gave the ball away often on and unforced errors. On the other hnd, the Polish defendor twice got themselves on the wrong side of their men in the first half, a miscue that could well have cost them a goal.

The West Germans might have scored as early as the third minute when Rainer Bobhof made a solo run and found Mansi Mueller, whose pass was then wasted by Klaus Fischer.

Bonhof, Mueller and Heinz Flohe played midfield for the Germans, a spot formerly held down by the renowed Franz Beckenbaur, now with the Cosmos of the North American Soccer Leauge.

THis was the fourth consecutive World Cup opening game to end in a scoreless tie.

The game was played under tight security, with every spectator being searched. Thousands of police ringed the stadium and a helicopter hovered overhead.

(In Washington an audience of about 1,000 - about one-third capacity - watched the game on television at DAR Constitution Hall.

(Today's games may be seen at the Warner Theater, 513 13th ST. NW. Admission will be between France and Italy at 12:45 p.m. and between Hungary and Argentina at 6:15 p.m. Tunisia will play Mexico in th third game of the day, but it will not be televised in Washington.