Holland 1974
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Holland 1978.
Group 3, Saturday 15th June 1974 (18.00):
Dutch flag Holland 2 Uruguay 0 Uruguayan flag
Scorers -
Rep Rep
16 mins 86 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  

  9 Morena   7 Cubilla  
10 Rocha   5 Montero-Castillo   8 Esparrago   18 Mantegazza
6 Pavoni   4 Forlán   3 Masnik   2 Jaregui
  1 Mazurkiewicz  

Substitutes -
19 Milar for 7 Cubilla 68 mins
Unused Dutch Substitutes -
1 Geels 4 Van Ierssel 7 De Jong 9 Keizer 18 Schrijvers

Cautioned - Mantegazza Forlán Masnik
Sent Off - Montero-Castillo

Hanover Lower Saxony Stadium Stadium
Referee - Károly Palotai (Hungary).
Linesmen - Kazakov (USSR), Rainea (Romania).
Venue - Lower Saxony Stadium, Hanover.
Attendance 53,700.

  The opening games of the competition having been dull beyond endurance, it was on this warm, sunny day in Saxony that the 1974 World Cup started in earnest. Just seeing the teams walk onto the field, in bright sky blue and brighter orange, you kind of knew something special was about to happen. Also, I for one had never heard the Dutch national anthem until that day, and I've never forgotten it since.

Line-up v Uruguay.
The Dutch line-up against Uruguay:
Neeskens, Krol, Van Hanegem, Jansen, Suurbier, Rep,
Rijsbergen, Rensenbrink, Haan, Jongbloed, Cruyff.

  I can recall watching this game on television, over 30 years ago now, as vividly as if it were yesterday. The British commentator (the worthy Barry Davies, I believe) said something like, "The Dutch have done well at club level, but their players are not getting any younger, and it has to be this time if they want to succeed at international level".

  I'd never really been aware the Dutch had a national football team to speak of: well, obviously, I knew there was one, but they hadn't qualified for any major competition in my living memory, and I'd never really associated them with the Ajax and Feyenoord players. To find out that, not only did all these players join forces for the World Cup, but also that they were one awesomely good team, suddenly meant that the World Cup might be more than a bit interesting after all.

Neeskens on the attack
  Uruguay, twice World Cup winners, and Semi-Finalists in 1970, were strong, physical, got men behind the ball in great numbers, and tackled as if their lives depended on it.

  Their team included the celebrated goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, often held to be one of the greatest in that position in the history of the world game, and in former captain Pedro Rocha and striker Luis Cubilla they retained two players who had played with distinction in the World Cup as long ago as 1962. Midfield players Julio Montero-Castillo and Victor Esparrago had also been part of the 1970 squad, when they had narrowly lost a memorable Semi-Final to the unstoppable Brazil team of that year, so they were by no means short of experience. Nor was talent an issue: in Fernando Morena, they had one of the greatest forwards in the world, or so we were told: there was to be little evidence of his prowess during this game.

  The 1974 team had scraped through qualification on goal difference at the expense of Columbia, and had already caused outrage around the world before the tournament started by their brutal treatment of World Cup innocents Australia in what was supposed to have been a friendly. Like so many other international sides of their day, they seemed paralysed by the fear of losing, and this combination of harsh tackling and negative tactics was to win them few friends. There was also a certain amount of "history" on this game: in 1971, European Champions Ajax had refused to take part in the so-called World Club Championship against Uruguay's Nacional, for whom several of today's team played, a decision made all the more undiplomatic by their readiness to take on the Argentinians of Independiente the following year (though Ajax had declined an encore of that encounter in 1973).

  The Dutch were like a breath of fresh air. Individually, they had by far the superior players, their team spirit was stronger, their organisation much sounder, and, above all, they were much, much fitter than their opponents. They took free-kicks quickly (and did they get a lot of free-kicks!), they executed "turns" at high speed against bemused opponents who could do nothing except try and tackle them from behind, and they generally gave the impression they were enjoying themselves.

Suurbier and Rep take on the Uruguay defence
  Their defending was casual going on reckless at times, however, and their reliance on an offside trap occasionally desperately worrying, but Jongbloed's exploits behind the defence made up for any lapses by Rijsbergen and Haan, and added greatly to the entertainment value. By the end of the game, a Uruguay side who had been mentioned as contenders for the tournament themselves were pretty much humiliated as well as roundly beaten.

Cruyff as ever in the middle of the action   Right from the start, the game was played almost entirely at one end, and, also right from the start, Uruguay served notice of how they intended to match the Dutch threat. Suurbier had the first shot at goal, but his effort was ruled out for a handball offence. Shortly after, the dangerous Neeskens was kicked full in the head by Pablo Forlán out on the left wing, and took a long time getting back to his feet. In fact, Neeskens, even more than Cruyff, was to be singled out for some shocking treatment in this match and throughout the tournament.

Rep's opening goal   The first goal arrived after a quarter of an hour. Suurbier, involved in just about every dangerous move, went overlapping down the right, and was fed by Cruyff, who as ever drew most of the defence towards himself before releasing the ball. The Uruguayans might have thought they'd done their job by forcing the Dutch right-back onto his left foot, but this was no problem for Suurbier, who crossed accurately for Rep to head home at the near post. Rep, though a very good header of the ball, was no match in height for the Uruguayans he had outjumped, but Suurbier's composed cross into the space between the defenders had made him the favourite.

Rensenbrink in action against Uruguay
  Mantegazza's was the first name in the notebook, but he continued fouling with apparent impunity right to the final whistle, and Ricardo Pavoni's more serious off-the-ball foul on Jansen did not result in a caution. The Dutch were irresistible, and should surely have scored a bucketload. Their movement was the key, making space when they had the ball, denying space to the opposition as soon as they lost it, and making tackles look easy by having so many players around the ball.

  Van Hanegem's free-kick whistled narrowly past the post with Mazurkiewicz a spectator, then Krol burst into the penalty area on his own, space opening around him as defenders chased shadows, but he missed the target. Cruyff created an opportunity for Rep to cross, Rensenbrink headed the ball to Suurbier, and another chance went wide. A quick free-kick led to Cruyff releasing Rensenbrink up the middle, but the Dutch striker wanted too long, and was dispossessed. Rijsbergen, making his first start as an international, decided to join in the game, won the ball and passed to Neeskens, who in turn found Cruyff, whose rasping shot dipped just over the bar.

Cruyff challenges for the ball
  The second half was played in rather cooler conditions, but the pattern of the game changed little. Forlán was yellow carded for a whack at Krol, following a succession of nasty fouls as Uruguay tried to fight their way back the only way they knew; this was followed by an over the top challenge on Van Hanegem. Cruyff fed the ball to Neeskens in the penalty area, and his low cross towards Rep was almost bundled into his own net by Forlán, Mazurkiewicz just getting down to save. A move involving Suurbier and Jansen led to another shot over the bar, from Neeskens. There was one moment of pure comedy as the Dutch defence pushed out en masse for offside, and Rocha was tackled by almost the entire Dutch team. Jansen put Cruyff through on the left wing: again the excellent Mazurkiewicz denied him.

Neeskens at full stretch to get a shot in
  Uruguay, feeling that just maybe it was to be their lucky day, replaced Cubilla with Denis Millar, another forward, but were soon to allow their slim chance of saving the game to slip away through their own indiscipline. The captain, Juan Masnik, was cautioned for fouling Neeskens and "accidentally" stepping on the prone Dutchman as he walked away, an isolated moment of nastiness from the man who had held the defence together for much of the contest. Then the midfield strongman Montero-Castillo was sent off for putting his studs into Rensenbrink's foot after the ball had gone, by no means the worst foul of the day, but one too many for a referee who had given the game every chance.

  Yet still Holland couldn't make the game safe, while Michels, a coach never afraid to change a team when the need arose, resisted the temptation to bring on either of the two strikers he had on the bench, Keizer and Geels. Rep crossed from the right, Van Hanegem and Neeskens set up Rensenbrink, but another effort went over the bar. Cruyff executed one of his trademark "turns" on Baudilio Jaregui, and ran at the defence, but Suurbier's shot was saved. Suurbier in turn crossed for Cruyff, but he fouled a defender, and missed the goals anyway. Krol lobbed the ball through for Cruyff, who this time was penalised for a dangerously high foot as he tried to bring the ball down, and was knocked to the ground by Mazurkiewicz for his trouble. A Dutch free-kick on the right led to Jansen hitting the post, and Rensenbrink narrowly failing to connect effectively with the rebound, Cruyff following in on the goalkeeper for good measure.

  With only a few minutes left, Holland finally scored the crucial second goal, and it was a goal which epitomised the way the Dutch played. Rep, in his own half, intercepted a throw-out from the goalkeeper, passed it tidily to Suurbier and strolled forward. The ball found its way to Van Hanegem and then out to Rensenbrink on the left wing. A couple of twists and turns, and then it went back inside, to Rep, who had found his way unmarked into the heart of the Uruguayan defence, and the sidefooted finish was simplicity itself.

Rep's second goal ...
 ... Van Hanegem follows up

  Holland might have scored more even then. Neeskens crossed from the right and Cruyff flicked the ball on, but the angle was too acute. Cruyff set off an a solo run from very deep, but the final backheeled pass to Rep was perhaps misjudged, or maybe Rep was back on his heels. Finally, Neeskens was presented with a chance, but could muster no power in his shot, and the game ended 2-0.

Cruyff and Rensenbrink behind enemy lines

  Holland had been little short of brilliant all over the field (though they would perhaps need to work a bit on their finishing), while Uruguay had got exactly what their negative approach deserved. A World Cup which had started off as dullness itself had suddenly come to life. The neutral supporter had a team to follow.

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