Holland 1974
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Holland 1978.
Group A, Sunday 30th June 1974 (16.00):
Dutch flag Holland 2 East Germany 0 E.German flag
Scorers -
Neeskens Rensenbrink
8 mins 59 mins

Teams -
  8 Jongbloed  
20 Suurbier   17 Rijsbergen   2 Haan   12 Krol
  6 Jansen   13 Neeskens   3 Van Hanegem  
  16 Rep   14 Cruyff   15 Rensenbrink  

  20 Hoffmann   8 Löwe  
14 Sparwasse   13 Lauck   7 Pommerenke   18 Kische
6 Schnuphase   4 Weise   3 Bransch   2 Kurbjuweit
  1 Croy  

Substitutes -
9 Ducke for 8 Löwe 46 mins
10 Kreische for 13 Lauck 76 mins
Unused Dutch Substitutes -
5 Israël 7 De Jong 9 Keizer 11 W. Van de Kerkhof 18 Schrijvers

Gelsenkirchen Park Stadium
Referee - Rudolph Scheurer (Switzerland).
Linesmen - Linemayr (Austria), Delgado (Colombia).
Venue - Park Stadium, Gelsenkirchen.
Attendance 69,600.

  With Brazil winning their first game in Group A, against East Germany, it was likely they and Holland would meet to decide the place in the Final, unless either slipped up in their respective next matches.

Line-up v E Germany.

Line-up against East Germany.
Cruyff, Jongbloed, Haan, Rensenbrink, Rijsbergen, Rep,
Suurbier, Jansen, Van Hanegem, Krol, Neeskens.

  East Germany, or, to give them their proper name, the German Democratic Republic, had surprised a few people along the way to the last eight, not least their neighbours the host country, whom they had beaten in what was admittedly a "dead" group match, with both sides already qualified for the second phase. Though they seemed to have a surfeit of rather chunkily-built players (their kit, which could be politely described as "retro", did them few favours in this regard), they were all full of running, and all sound of technique. Also, they appeared ready to change positions in a way not dissimilar to that of the Dutch themselves.

  The weather in Gelsenkirchen was, again, awful, and this time the rain had soaked through to the pitch before the game started, rendering decent ball control difficult and turning with the ball more or less impossible.

Cruyff shampooing a German defender's hair
  Holland were measured in this game, less exciting than against Argentina or Bulgaria, but no less effective. They played patiently, knowing their superiority would tell in the end against a very decent side, but hardly one in the same class as themselves. It was, essentially, a controlled performance, doing just enough to win, knowing that sterner challenges lay around the corner.

  The opening exchanges were even, but an early goal by Neeskens meant Holland could take the game at a canter. Rensenbrink got in a powerful header a corner, only to see his goalbound effort cleared off the line by Jürgen Pommerenke, but Jansen retrieved the ball for Rensenbrink to shoot again. This shot was deflected through to the lurking Neeskens, who struck the ball powerfully with his right foot from the edge of the 6-yard area.
Neeskens's goal Neeskens's goal, rear view (that's him on the ground between the goalie and no 7)
The usual low-key Dutch celebrations after the opening goal. Thanks to 'fratellipretari' for the photo Another shot of the Dutch celebrations (thanks Stefano).

  The game settled down as best it could in such poor conditions. Neeskens had what appeared a good shout for a penalty rejected, when he was brought down while chasing a low cross. A free-kick from Cruyff way out on the right almost crept in. Cruyff played the ball through to give the advancing Rijsbergen a chance, but goalkeeper Jürgen Croy came off his line confidently to deny the Dutch defender at full stretch. The other nominal centre-back, Haan, came forward, picking up an astute throw-in from Cruyff, and attacked the penalty area dangerously, but his shot was charged down by the massed ranks of German defenders. A flicked header by Rensenbrink from a corner was well saved by Croy. The Germans had one presentable chance at the end of the first half, when Jongbloed made a meal of saving a long, speculative shot by Martin Hoffmann as it bounced off the sodden turf, and was forced to gather smartly as Konrad Weise chased in the rebound.

  The second half continued in much the same vein as the first, Holland well in command but always on the lookout for a clinching second goal. Unusually, the Dutch team kept pretty much constant positions throughout this game (somewhat in contrast to the Germans, as already mentioned), as they closed the game down as effectively as they could without ever ceasing to be a threat themselves.
Rep in action (thanks Stefano)

  Rensenbrink evaded a series of tackles and sent the ball towards Jansen, only for the defence to intercept just in time. There was always time for some slapstick defending with this Holland team, and Jongbloed's cavalry charge from his goal to chase Hoffmann down the Dutch left wing provided this game's best entertainment. The goalkeeper's challenge was so late that, if it had made contact, he might just as well have carried on running down the tunnel. Inevitably, Hoffmann knocked the ball out of play himself anyway, but Jongbloed's attempts at punching the slippery ball at corners continued to divert the crowd. He got something on the ball every time, even if it didn't always go exactly where he intended.
Van Hanegem in aerial duel in the E.Germany game Rensenbrink in action

  East Germany brought on substitute Peter Ducke for Wolfram Löwe, to try and make something happen up front, but it never really seemed they could save a point. Cruyff, winning the ball inside his own half, and Jansen carved out a chance for Rep, but the ball was drilled against the side netting. That the game ended, almost uniquely in the 1974 World Cup, without a single caution was a great credit to two sporting teams and a fine referee who made generous allowance for the conditions. However, following a mix-up in the German defence, Lothar Kurbjuweit fouled Rep crudely, painfully, late and from behind down the Dutch right and escaped admonishment, and it did seem the referee had taken discretion a little too far.

Rensenbrink's goal
  Hard though the East Germans had fought, a second goal for Holland was no more than they deserved, and it was particularly apt that one of this day's most effective players, the unselfish Rob Rensenbrink, was the one to score it. Krol played the ball through to Neeskens in the penalty area, then Rep took over, holding the play up and laying the ball perfectly into the path of Rensenbrink for the Dutch striker to sidefoot home what was to be his only goal of the competition.

  The Germans, who now surely sensed their World Cup was over, brought on Hans-Jürgen Kreische for one last attempt at regaining the initiative, but really it was exhibition football from here on in. The referee awarded an indirect free-kick against the increasingly scatty Jongbloed, possibly for taking more than four steps, possibly for wasting time, possibly just to liven the game up a bit, but Holland seemed to have about twelve defenders by now, and charged the kick down unceremoniously. Neeskens exchanged passes with Suurbier and bludgeoned his way to the by-line, his clever cut-back being spotted just in time. Finally, Cruyff was dropped by Weise on the edge of the penalty area, and Van Hanegem, strangely destined not to score in this World Cup with one of his many excellent free-kicks, was just a foot away from the top left hand corner.

Cruyff and Jongbloed celebrate after the game Neeskens milks the applause (thanks, Stefano)

  East Germany, in what was to be their only World Cup, had given a creditable account of themselves, but had to bow to the inevitable. Even in cruise control, the Dutch had been far too strong for them. The Germans had only a meaningless game with Argentina to look forward to. For Holland, only one team now stood between them and the World Cup Final.

  But what a team.

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