West Germany, weakened in recent years by the loss of such as Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Mueller and hit by key injuries has emerged again as the dominant soccer force in Europe.
Horst Hrubesch dramatically headed in a Karl-Heinz Rummenigge corner kick in the 88th minute tonight as West Germany defeated Belgium, 2-1, to regain the European Cup of Nations soccer championship.
Its victory marks West Germany as the prime contender for the World Cup in 1982. The Germans were European champions in 1972, won the World Cup in 1974, were runners-up in the European championships in 1976 and are unbeaten since the 1978 World Cup.
The European Cup, after many disappointments, small crowds and general lethargy, finally provided thrilling soccer, even if only 47,864 fans witnessed the final at the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium here.
With Italian President Sandro Pertini watching, 1,000 Roman school children saluted the players before the game and the boisterous crowd created the festive atmosphere sorely missing from earlier games in this year's cup of Nations.
The Germans dominated Belgium for much of the game with 20-year Bernd Schuster commanding the midfield.
"We expected to win, and we deserved to win," said the 29-year old Hrubesch. "We were the better team and they were a very rough team."
Germany, which became the first nation to win two European Cup titles, watched its lead disappear with five minutes remaining when Rummenigge tripped New York Cosmo player Francois (Frank to his friends) Van Der Elst in the goal area. Rene Vandereycken made the penalty kick to tie the score.
"Sure I was afraid at that point," said West German Coach Jup Derwall, whose squad has not lost since he took over in 1978. "I saw the Belgiums start to play very well and we weren't in our rhythm."
The German players looked stunned after the penalty kick. However, they then played the role of aggressor that brought them success in the first half and almost immediately threatened the Belgian goal.
The game-winner came just two minutes after Vandereycken's goal.
Hrubesch, who scored the game's first goal after taking a brilliant pass from Schuster, headed the corner kick into the left side of the net, barely over the hand of Belgian gaolie Jean-Marie Pfaff.
The German fans, 7,000 strong, broke into song for the first time since the opening half.
And the Belgians, who surprised everyone by surviving their group that included Italy and England, could not honestly complain. For most of the game, they watched the precision control of the Germans keep the action in the Belgian end of the field.
West Germany, with Schuster, Hans Mueller and Klaus Allofs as the attacking corps, delighted the crowd with pinpoint passing and exact execution. aEven the Germans' near misses looked technically handsome.
Belgium's brutal tackling tactics angered the German fans, but as in previous games, they gave the underdogs an almost inpenetrable wall in front of their goal.
Meanwhile, German sweeper back Ulrich Stielike proved as tough as any customs official rejecting any unwanted passage from Belgian into German territory. He deftly tackled intruders and acrobatically stymied the infrequent Belgian bursts in the first half.