Holland 1974
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Holland 1978.
The Final, Sunday 7th July 1974 (16.00):
Dutch flag Holland 1 West Germany 2 German flag
Scorers -
Neeskens (pen) Breitner (pen) Müller
2 mins 25 mins 43 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  

  17 Hölzenbein   13 Müller   9 Grabowski  
  12 Overath   14 Hoeness   16 Bonhof  
3 Breitner   5 Beckenbauer   4 Schwarzenbeck   2 Vogts
  1 Maier  

Substitutes -
10 R. Van de Kerkhof for 15 Rensenbrink 46 mins
7 De Jong for 17 Rijsbergen 69 mins
Unused Dutch Substitutes -
5 Israël 9 Keizer 18 Schrijvers

Cautioned - Vogts Van Hanegem Neeskens Cruyff

Munich Olympic Stadium

Referee - Jack Taylor (England).
Linesmen - Baretto (Uruguay), Gonzalez (Mexico).
Venue - Olympic Stadium, Munich.
Attendance 80,000.

  Few football matches have had as many words written about them as this one, but, for me, no writer has ever completely rationalised the events of this glorious, tragic game - and I'm not about to try. Let's just say history and legend overlapped for 90 unforgettable minutes.

The Dutch line-up for the final of the 1974 World Cup:
Neeskens, Krol, Van Hanegem, Jansen, Suurbier, Rep, 
Rijsbergen, Rensenbrink, Haan, Jongbloed, Cruyff

Cruyff and Beckenbauer exchange penants
  Germany were the European Champions, their 1972 team being hailed as both successful and innovative in their day, their demolition of England in the Quarter-Finals still recalled in this country as an astonishing exposition of how far Europe had progressed since 1966. Their commitment to the new "total" football was less cavalier than that of the Dutch, the "mobile sweeper", Franz Beckenbauer, playing behind the defence rather than in front, as was generally the case with Haan. Berti Vogts, Georg Schwarzenbeck, Paul Breitner and Beckenbauer made up the defence, with the one and only Sepp Maier in goals. It had taken a couple of false starts in this tournament for their midfield to get settled, but there's no rule against that, and in Wolfgang Overath, Uli Hoeness and Rainer Bonhof, they now surely boasted three of the strongest midfielders in the world. They had the extraordinarily prolific Gerd Müller up front, with Jürgen Grabowski and Bernd Hölzenbein flanking him, although neither could truly be described as out and out strikers. They included in their team no less than six players (Maier, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Breitner, Hoeness and Müller) from the Bayern Munich team which had just won the European Cup, and they were of course playing at home. How could anybody, even Holland, expect to beat them?

The Dutch were a bit surprised when Germany took the field disguised as a Bavarian oompah band
  The Dutch side was the same as it had been for the last four games, in spite of the battering they had taken from Brazil. There had been much doubt as to whether Rensenbrink would play. It was said De Jong would start, giving the side a more defensive look, then it was announced Keizer would get the nod. In fact, Rensenbrink started, though he lasted only the first half, and his replacement (to Keizer's eternal chagrin) was René van de Kerkhof, only the fifteenth player Holland had used in the competition.

  The game started late due to the lack of corner flags in the Olympic Stadium, perhaps a most atypical example of poor organisation by the competition organisers, or possibly a crafty piece of gamesmanship from the hosts - either way, it makes a good quiz question thirty years on.

Cruyff goes down for the Dutch penalty   It has never been forgotten that Holland were a goal up before Germany touched the ball. Cruyff, who, with typical disrespect for convention, was the deepest Dutch player on the field when he received the ball, strolled upfield, accelerated suddenly and dashed into the penalty area.

  Although Vogts was pursuing him, trailing in his wake, it was Hoeness who made the desperate challenge - and he needed to, as Cruyff was by now virtually certain to score one of the goals of the competition.

  Cruyff duly went flying, and referee Jack Taylor pointed to the spot. Beckenbauer is said to have turned to the referee and said, "You are an Englishman", an undeniably accurate statement - you could hardly be more English than Jack Taylor - but also a cunning piece of spontaneous footballing psychology designed no doubt to increase the pressure on the honest official should, say, Germany have a penalty claim in the near future.

Neeskens scores from penalty spot

  Neeskens was, as ever, deadly from 12 yards, his well-struck penalty more or less central, with Maier diving forlornly to his right.

Neeskens's penalty from the other end of the ground

(Left to right) Van Hanegem, Rijsbergen, M&uumlller, Bonhof (?), Neeskens
  Straight after the opening goal, Vogts was spoken to by the referee for a couple of bites at Cruyff in quick succession, and, when he lashed out a third time, Mr Taylor brandished the yellow card. In general, though, critics are in agreement that the Germans, rather than panicking at this turn of events, deserve great credit for the way they stuck to their task, future national coach Vogts in particular putting his early indiscretions behind him and eventually playing Cruyff out of the game, mostly fairly and honestly.

Cruyff takes the ball past Vogts
  Cruyff, however, has said he (and/or Michels) decided he'd play in a "self-sacrificing" role in this game, presumably meaning he dropped deeper than usual to bring the midfield players into the game. The Dutch have also pointed out that several of their key players, notably sweeper Haan, were less than a hundred percent fit.

  Without wanting to be too judgmental about the game (it was only a football match, after all!), it seems fair to say that Holland slackened off a bit after going a goal up, surrendering the initiative to the Germans. With Cruyff deep, and the half-fit Rensenbrink a bit off his game, there was no lack of effort, but the incisive runs off the ball were conspicuous by their absence; in previous games, the Dutch players were running onto through passes even before the idea of playing the pass had occurred to the man in possession, but now, everyone seemed to be waiting for someone else to make that killer run: at least, that's how I remember it.

  Possibly the memories of the 1973 European Cup Final, when Ajax had scored very early and subsequently coasted to an easy 1-0 victory, were a a bit too fresh in certain players' minds. Maybe they just paid the German defenders too much respect.

  Holland began to rely on their own defence, in which Rijsbergen, allotted the task of marking Müller, was magnificent, frustrating his distinguished opponent with a series of meaty but well-timed tackles.

  As the game got going, Neeskens fouled Bonhof a couple of times, to ensure the temperature started to rise. A solo run from the dangerous Breitner culminated in a shot that sailed well over the bar. Rep created a chance, tapping the ball along the ground to Neeskens, but the massed German defence bundled him off the ball. Haan played a one-two with Van Hanegem, but play was called back for a foul on Schwarzenbeck. Rijsbergen and Müller locked horns on the edge of the penalty area, both turned and twisted and fell over. Who had fouled whom was anybody's guess, but the Dutch defender had clearly got the worst of it. Müller ranted at the referee, who awarded him the free-kick, whereupon Van Hanegem unwisely shoved the German striker in the back, Müller, after a couple of seconds delay, fell to the ground as if he'd been shot, then got up and chased after the linesman, demanding he tell the referee what had transpired. Van Hanegem was duly cautioned, but it was an episode that did Müller little credit, and it all contributed the increasing friction between the sides. But what happened next has been the subject of controversy for a quarter of a century.

  History tells us that Hölzenbein cut into the Dutch penalty area, Jansen made contact with him, and the referee gave a penalty to the home side. The Dutch accused Hölzenbein of "looking for" the penalty, of "drawing" the foul from Jansen. Well, Jansen clearly lunged at the ball, clearly missed it, and clearly made contact with the German attacker, a player who, to be polite, was not exactly famous for riding tackles. (Chris Freddi, in The Complete Book of the World Cup, describes Hölzenbein as "a notorious diver in the Bundesliga", but concedes that Jack Taylor could not have been expected to know about this reputation.)
The highlight of Holzenbein's career

  But did Jansen intend to commit a foul or was he caught by the wiliness of a shrewd player who seemed to change direction just as the challenge came in? The initial reaction of other Dutch players, their ire seemingly directed towards their colleague rather than German or referee, is possibly not without significance. Taylor himself denied that he was in any way trying to "even things up", and has said he simply thought Jansen wasn't going for the ball. All I can offer to the debate is that Jansen caught his opponent around the ankle, but the fall was consistent with being taken out at about waist height. With an anti-tank missile. Whichever, this hugely controversial incident took about 2 seconds, and is still shown on television from time to time, so you can make up your own mind!
Holzenbein looks up to see the verdict of the jury ... sorry, referee

  Breitner's penalty was the first goal the opposition had scored against Holland in the competition. Jongbloed's somewhat half-hearted attempts at saving the penalty can perhaps be explained by the fact that Cruyff pointed him to go to his left, and Breitner rather unsportingly sent it the other way.
Breitner's penalty Jongbloed attempting to show Breitner how he should have taken the penalty
A view from behind the other goal (thanks Stefano).

  The Dutch were rattled. Maybe if they could have got to half-time, and Michels could have reorganised a bit, they could have gone on to win, but the Germans seemed to sense that victory could be theirs by the interval, and applied ever more pressure. Vogts, not resting on his defensive laurels, broke through on the left wing, ghosted past Neeskens, and his shot required a one-handed save from Jongbloed. Grabowski crossed from the right to Hölzenbein, and it took an urgent defensive header from Rep to save the day. Overath's deep cross from the left was fumbled by Jongbloed, and had to be hacked clear. Hoeness rounded Haan, and cut into the box, Rijsbergen intercepting. When Grabowski was fouled by Van Hanegem, Beckenbauer's chipped free-kick was punched clear by Jongbloed. At this point, Germany were, in all frankness, well on top. Instead of pressing their early advantage, Holland had allowed the Germans to regroup, and maybe now they were paying for it.
The Dutch wall for Beckenbauer's free-kick

Rep's legendary miss
  But, against the run of play, Holland found themselves presented with a chance. Rijsbergen broke up yet another German attack, and left the ball to Van Hanegem, whose long pass caught the defence uncharacteristically undermanned. Cruyff and Rep broke through with only Beckenbauer and Maier to beat, Cruyff famously committed Beckenbauer and squared the ball to his striking partner when he might have scored himself, and Rep, infamously, blasted it straight at Maier. The German goalkeeper, though fortunate on that occasion, was virtually unbeatable on this day. In later years, Rep somewhat ungallantly suggested Cruyff only released the ball to him because he shirked a one-to-one confrontation with the Kaiser; and presumably found himself removed from the Cruyff family's Christmas card list.

  The German domination of the game continued. After a corner, the ball broke back to Hoeness, the corner taker, and, though the linesman flagged, he was overruled by the referee, who was much further from the incident. Mercifully, Jongbloed saved the resultant shot. With tension overflowing, Neeskens fouled Hölzenbein from behind, and was cautioned: the authoritative Mr Taylor was determined to maintain order, and had done well enough up to this point, but by now was struggling to keep the game under control.

  The second, decisive goal came just before the break, as Bonhof went away down the right with sweeper Haan, not Krol, in pursuit, and cut the ball back into the box, taking Rijsbergen out of the play. Müller swivelled effortlessly away from the isolated last defender Krol, and poked the ball past Jongbloed, who stood rooted to the spot, even though the ball missed him by about a foot, as if he didn't realise the other team were allowed to shoot at him.
Muller's winning goal

  Should Haan have stopped Bonhof, by fair means or foul, outside the box? Would Krol have done better staying on his feet? Might Jongbloed have saved the shot, had he but dived? Would Schrijvers have saved it? Would Hulshoff have better stood his ground against Müller?
Muller's goal again (thanks Stefano)

Taylor asking Cruyff his name: 'And how do you spell that, son?'   No-one can ever answer these questions, nor, it seems, can anyone explain what Cruyff was grumbling about when he was cautioned for dissent at the half-time whistle. Van Hanegem had kicked the ball towards the referee with just a little more force on it than Mr Taylor had been expecting, and Cruyff felt it necessary to intervene on behalf of a colleague who had already been booked, but seemed to prolong the dialogue unnecessarily. The Dutch had, for a brief few minutes, lost the plot, and it was to cost them the World Cup.

  The second half was as gripping a game as I've ever seen. Germany made chances against an increasingly frantic Dutch defence, but couldn't wrap the game up with a third goal. Holland settled gamely to their task of carving out another gap through the German defence, which had seemed so easy in the first minute, and still looked every minute as if a further breach were imminent, but the scoreline stayed unchanged.
German goalkeeper Maier in action, at the feet of Cruyff(?) Maier again, beating Haan in the air

  Substitute René van de Kerkhof generally operated down the left, only occasionally persuading Rep to switch sides, while Cruyff began to add his presence to the attack more regularly. Suurbier hauled Overath down: it looked a bad foul, but the Dutch full-back looked suitably contrite, and escaped a booking. Bonhof found himself criminally unmarked at a corner, the header drifting narrowly wide of the post with Jongbloed rooted to the spot. Cruyff, chasing half a chance, dived in on Maier, and, though he had clearly gone for a loose ball, he was surrounded by protesting German defenders. Hölzenbein found himself through one-on-one with Suurbier, Jongbloed seizing the opportunity to make one of his celebrated charges out of goal to clear the danger. Maier fumbled a Dutch corner, Breitner being forced to head off the line. Van Hanegem got in a dangerous downward header from a Cruyff free-kick, which the grounded Maier was rather fortunate to save as the ball bounced up at him. Grabowski beat Krol down the German right, and zipped the ball to Müller, who found the net only to have play brought back for offside: though the Germans did not protest at the time, slow-motion replays after the game proved beyond any doubt that the linesman was wrong, and this goal should have stood.
The goal that never was (thanks Stefano)

  Van de Kerkhof crossed from the right wing, Cruyff headed back across the goal, and Rep was challenged at the last moment. The Dutch had clearly had a problem with Rijsbergen for some time, and he now finally limped off. His replacement was not Israël, as might have been predicted, but De Jong, with Jansen dropping into the defence. Neeskens intercepted a rare stray pass from Overath, and his low cross forced Beckenbauer into a hurried header, which narrowly missed his own goal. Van de Kerkhof crossed from the left, Rep knocked the ball across the goal, to find Neeskens virtually under the crossbar, but the chance was scrambled clear. Another left wing move from Van de Kerkhof found Neeskens unmarked beyond the far post, but the volley was into the side netting. Van Hanegem won the ball and made a chance for De Jong, who could only shoot disappointingly straight at the grateful Maier. Suurbier crossed from the right, Cruyff knocked the ball down to give Van de Kerkhof a clear sight of goal, which the substitute wasted, screwing his shot horribly wide. A Dutch free-kick was headed out of defence into the path of Haan, who drove over the bar.

De Jong and Neeskens foiled by Maier - 
but just what is that thing in the crowd behind Overath? (thanks Stefano)   There was a rare sighting of the now isolated Müller at the other end, the referee spotting he had used a hand to beat Jansen. Suurbier and Haan combined down the right to find Rep almost alone in the 6-yard box. Maier made himself as big as he could, but must have been relieved to see the ball hit the post. An astonishing, head-high challenge by Vogts on a Dutch player was allowed to pass, though the attack he set up soon petered out, amidst the barrage of protests. Cruyff won the ball with a fearless two-footed lunge through the air, and fed Rep, who outpaced Schwarzenbeck only to shoot across the goal. Jongbloed kept the crowd at the other end entertained with a well-judged header as Müller bore down on the now almost undefended Dutch goals. Neeskens challenged Maier for a deep cross, and the German keeper kept everybody waiting a long time before getting back to his feet and allowing play to resume: strangely, whenever a Dutch player was injured, he was told to get off the field quickly for treatment, yet the Germans seemed able to persuade the referee to hold play up indefinitely while their ailments were diagnosed. Jongbloed again came into the fray, to deny Hoeness, then Hölzenbein cut in from the German left and was tackled by Jansen. A penalty? The Germans have always claimed it should have been: I'd say the case was stronger than for the one which had been given. The last action of the game saw Neeskens flash yet another effort past the beaten Maier, but again past the post as well.
The final whistle blows (thanks Stefano)

Beckenbauer with World Cup
  So, at the end of the game, it was Germany who were presented with the new World Cup trophy, and Holland who were left to lick their wounds and contemplate what might have been. But, however it was portrayed at the time, the Germans' win can't be written off as simply a triumph for the old dull, defensive school of football over the new, exciting, attacking style - it was, after all, only two years since their European Championship win that had itself been hailed as a success for the "new" football - nor was it merely what you could call "lucky" - Holland might have won, certainly, but they might have lost other games along the way to the Final, had the dice rolled differently, and, their territorial dominance notwithstanding, they could even have lost this game by more than one goal.

Helmut Schon and Franz Beckenbauer argue over who gets to put the World Cup on their mantelpiece

  There's no rule in football that says the best team has to win, nor that the team who has the greater share of the play, or makes the more chances, or wears the brighter shirts, is bound to score more goals. That's part of the attraction of the game, but sometimes it works for your team, sometimes against it. On this day, my team, the Dutch team, fell foul of this rule, but this fate was far from unprecedented, even in the World Cup: there are many who say the Hungarians suffered a similar fate in 1954 (I'm a bit too young to remember), and, to be fair to the Germans, few outside these shores would seriously argue that England had been the best team in the world in 1966.

The Final scoreboard

Beckenbauer and Cruyff
  And as for the comparisons between Cruyff and Beckenbauer, you might just as well compare Van Gogh with Beethoven. Cruyff reasserted his deserved reputation as the best team player in the world, while Beckenbauer enhanced his status as a leader. No player ever wins a football match, only a team.

  Holland, the team, had lost the Final to West Germany, because the Germans, on the day, had scored more goals, it's that simple. What's clear, to me anyway, is that, even in defeat, they had written their name large in the annals of football legend. The game's over, it can never be replayed; the Dutch team of 1974 will never get another chance to win the World Cup, but, as long as the game is played on this earth, it will never be forgotten.
The Dutch line up for their runners-up medals

  In the end, you can't ask more than that.

Final Appearances: Cruyff, Haan, Van Hanegem, Jansen, Jongbloed, Krol, Neeskens, Rep, Rijsbergen, Suurbier - 6 each; Rensenbrink - 5; Keizer - 1.
As Sub: De Jong - 4 ; Israël - 3; René van de Kerkhof - 1.
Goals: Neeskens - 5; Rep - 4; Cruyff - 3; De Jong, Krol, Rensenbrink - 1 each.

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