Holland 1978
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Holland 1974.
The Final, Sunday 25th June 1978 (15.00):
Dutch flag Holland 1 Argentina 3 Argentinian flag
(After Extra Time)
Scorers -
Kempes Nanninga Kempes Bertoni
38 mins 82 mins 105 mins 115 mins

Teams -
  8 Jongbloed  
  22 Brandts   5 Krol   2 Poortvliet  
6 Jansen   9 Haan   13 Neeskens   11 W. Van de Kerkhof
  10 R. Van de Kerkhof   16 Rep   12 Rensenbrink  

  16 Ortiz   14 Luque   4 Bertoni  
  10 Kempes   2 Ardiles   6 Gallego  
20 Tarantini   19 Passarella   7 L. Galván   15 Olguin
  5 Fillol  

Substitutes -
18 Nanninga for 16 Rep 58 mins
12 Larrosa for 2 Ardiles 66 mins
20 Suurbier for 6 Jansen 75 mins
9 Houseman for 16 Ortiz 75 mins
Unused Substitutes -
4 Van Kraay 17 Rijsbergen 19 Doesburg
TV caption indicates six Argentinian subs: Larrosa and Houseman, plus
1 Alonso, 3 Baley (the reserve goalkeeper), 8 R. Galván and 17 Oviedo.

Cautioned - Poortvliet Krol Ardiles Larrosa

Referee - Sergio Gonella (Italy).
Linesmen - Barreto (Uruguay),
Linemayr (Austria).
Venue - Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires.
Attendance 77,260.
Estadio Monumental

    Once again, the Dutch found themselves facing the hosts in the World Cup Final, and this time their task, in psychological terms at least, was even harder. The Argentinian supporters, fanatical in the extreme, had been worth an extra player during the early matches, and were now probably worth a goal start for the home side.

A monumental welcome

  In different circumstances, this might have put their team under intolerable pressure, but the opening games had gone well for them, and the Argentinian team were making home advantage work for them in a way even the West Germans in 1974 hadn't managed.

  Their passage to the Final, however, will always be tainted by the manner of their second phase triumph over Brazil. The arrangement of the deciding game against Peru to kick-off after Brazil had played Poland in their final game meant that they had a blatantly unfair advantage over their opponents, an advantage that flagrantly abused their privilege as home side. That a hitherto strong Peru team contrived to lose 6-0 in that game has had tongues wagging for over 25 years, and that controversy won't die down, but the real injustice was the timetabling of the game. FIFA abolished the unloved four-team groups in the second phase after 1978 (replacing them with a ridiculous three-team group system, in which one team always arrived in the third game needing only to draw), but in truth it was not the four-team group system itself that stood discredited, just the scheduling.

Ardiles in action against Rensenbrink
  Let us not forget, though, that Argentina were one pretty good football team. Strong in defence, where the rugged Daniel Passarella ruled the roost, they were flamboyant in attack, Leopoldo Luque leading the line as well as any centre-forward in the tournament, and formidable in midfield, where they not only boasted one of the world's all-time greatest ball players in Osvaldo Ardiles but also the prodigiously talented Mario Kempes, surely the star of the 1978 World Cup.

Kempes making friends with Neeskens
(Thanks to Miguel Rodriguez for the photo)
  Coach César Menotti had declined to recall many of the Argentinian players exiled in Europe, in a bid to preserve morale among his team, but he made an exception for Kempes, and the Valencia player more than repaid his coach's faith in him.

  Holland had defenders Suurbier and Rijsbergen available again after lengthy spells out injured, but kept faith with the same eleven who had done the trick against Italy. Nanninga was back from suspension, and on hand for substitute duty as usual.

Line-up v Argentina.
Line-up against Argentina.
Back: Rep, Jongbloed, Haan, Brandts, Neeskens, Krol.
Front: Jansen, Poortvliet, Willy van de Kerkhof, René van de Kerkhof, Rensenbrink.

  The Dutch thus included seven of the side who had so memorably defeated Argentina 4-0 in Gelsenkirchen four years earlier. For Argentina, Kempes had played as a substitute in that game, whereas only René Houseman, a sub himself today, had figured in the starting line-up.

The teams line up for the national anthems - yes, the mascot's back!

  The game started as it was to go on, amid controversy and poor sportsmanship. With the crowd in the "Monumental", as the River Plate stadium was nicknamed, whipped up to a crescendo, the Dutch slouched onto the field, casually and in ragged formation, as was their wont. Fully five minutes later, no doubt in a planned move, the Argentinians strode on, to a deafening reception, and into the hall of football infamy.
Referee Gonella challenges Rene van de Kerkhof to an arm-wrestling contest

  The well-orchestrated protests about the plaster protecting the broken bone in René van de Kerkhof's wrist were a crude and cynical attempt at gamesmanship. That the referee entertained such complaints was weak enough, that he upheld them ludicrous: the injury dated back to the penalty René had won against Iran, and he'd worn the plaster in every game since then, without objection. Surely any legitimate concerns should have been voiced to FIFA before the game?
Rene in that plaster cast

  The kick-off was further delayed while the Dutchman put another bandage over the first one, a move of no benefit to other players' safety, but the damage had been done to the Dutch team's collective concentration - at one point, it had looked as if they were about to walk off!

  Regrettably, this insipid piece of refereeing set the scene for what was to follow. The Italian referee was, frankly, dreadful, and the linesmen, both international referees of considerable reputation, were, as linesmen, almost unbelievably bad, and, sad to say, it appeared all the bad decisions went Argentina's way.

  Rene van de Kerkhof offers to shake hands with Passarella When the game started, it was brutal beyond expectation. Poortvliet clattered in on Daniel Bertoni, then Haan fouled Ardiles, and Américo Gallego squared up to Neeskens in the fracas which followed. The Dutch were angry, and didn't trouble to disguise it, the Argentinians, as ever, more than ready for any physical confrontation, with the hysterical crowd on their side and the referee utterly unable to exert authority.

  When people complain about FIFA's periodic clampdowns on discipline in the 1980s and 1990s, the mandatory yellow cards and lack of "discretion" allowed to individual referees, just ask them to watch a video of this game, if game it can be called. Had it been played according to, say, 1998 rules, it would probably have ended up as a five-a-side match.

Neeskens discussing merits of tackle from behind with Argentina defender Haan and Rene van de Kerkhof against Passarella

  In those days where the tackle from behind was not so much tolerated as almost compulsory, football was still far from being a true world game. The Dutch, in common with most of the northern Europeans, regarded a two-footed challenge as fair as long as the ball was somewhere in view; the Argentinians, like all South Americans, saw it as a crime. Yet the cynical, off-the-ball tripping and elbowing so popular among the Latin nations at the time were anathema to the Dutch, and the diving, which had consistently infuriated Argentina's opponents throughout the competition, would have been pitiful had it not proved so effective at winning free-kicks from a succession of supposedly experienced referees who should surely have been less impressionable. Neither hemisphere really understood the other's footballing mindset, and the efforts FIFA have since made to standardise the interpretation of the rules worldwide can perhaps be fully appreciated only in the context of culture clashes like the World Cup Final of 1978.

Kempes (and Jongbloed) can't quite master the new Dutch Silly Walk as patented by Suurbier and Krol
(Thanks to Miguel Rodriguez for the photo) Neeskens and Tarantini (?)
(Thanks to Miguel Rodriguez for the photo)

  The Dutch had much the better of the dour early stages, Rep heading past the post when an early goal might have set the game up for a very different storyline. Although Passarella got on the end of a dangerous cross, the Dutch defence looked as if they weren't unduly troubled. Jansen's cross from the right was terribly misjudged by the Argentinian defenders, presenting Rep with another gilt-edged opportunity, but Ubaldo Fillol, one of the least celebrated of the home side's players, rose to the occasion and saved splendidly.

Neeskens shares a waltz with Rensenbrink Neeskens and Luis Galvan in action
Thanks to 'fratellipretari' for the photo.

  The Argentinians steadied themselves, and gradually came back into the game. Bertoni broke the Dutch offside trap (well, the linesman said he did!), but missed the target badly, and Passarella had a good header scrambled clear by the alert Jongbloed.

  The Argentinians took the lead in the last few minutes of the first period. From one of many disputed throw-ins awarded to the hosts, Ardiles, using his low centre of gravity to keep control of the ball in the jungle of midfield, started the move, evaded two tackles, and fed Luque. The moustachioed striker cut the ball inside to Kempes, who took it deftly in his stride and ran the ball past Jongbloed.

Kempes's opening goal
(Thanks to Miguel Rodriguez for the photo) Another view of Kempes's first goal.
Thanks to 'fratellipretari' for the photo.

  Ardiles was cautioned shortly after, for an incident involving an attempted mugging of René van de Kerkhof. That the diminutive, dignified midfielder was the first Argentinian name in the referee's notebook was ridiculous: his part in the affair was negligible, and throughout his conduct was uniquely sportsmanlike. Yet straight away a blatant hand-ball by Luis Galván went unpunished, further evidence of the referee's inadequacy.

Kempes and Haan in a rare moment of good humour,
while Fillol contemplates picking the Dutchman's pocket
  As the half ended, Passarella (again!) got himself unmarked at a free-kick to cause more consternation in the Dutch defence, then Neeskens headed Willy van de Kerkhof's cross down to Rensenbrink, only for Fillol to save again, this time with his feet. The scoreline apart, it was, as they say, anyone's game.

Krol misses a tackle on Luque
  The second half was a different game altogether, much more open, the Dutch pressing strongly, and the Argentinians always eager to press home on the counter-attack. It seemed more goals were imminent, but at which end?

Neeskens attempts to tackle Ardiles while running away from him
  René van de Kerkhof laid the ball back into Haan's path, but the shot was deflected wide. Haan also saved the Dutch at the other end, when Argentina took a quick free-kick while - not for the first time - the rest of the orange-shirted players were arguing with the referee. Another long shot, by Haan again, was well saved by Fillol. Bertoni broke through, and squared the ball to the unmarked Luque, but Jongbloed did just enough to put him off.

Fillol catches under pressure
  Happel played his final cards, bringing on Nanninga for Rep and Suurbier for the flagging Jansen. Having tried the slick interpassing way of getting through the Argentinian defence, the Dutch were now adopting a strategy of power in the air and raw brute force, as central defender Brandts was also pushed right forward, the experienced Suurbier filling in the gap in the defence. Argentina in turn brought on Omar Larrosa for the half-fit Ardiles, and Houseman for the hard-running but somewhat ineffective left-winger Oscar Ortiz.

  The quality of the game did not improve. Another awful foul by Passarella was ignored by the referee, then Willy van de Kerkhof illegally held back Kempes, who had surely been offside anyway. Even by the standards of this game, the foul on Neeskens just outside the box by Galván was shocking; still no action was taken. And the free-kick was wasted. Alberto Tarantini hauled Neeskens down, Nanninga was fouled off the ball, again no yellow card, then Krol was booked for tripping Bertoni amid a chorus of Argentinian protests.

Haan goes flying
(Thanks to Miguel Rodriguez for the photo) A Brandts tackle on Luque
(Thanks to Miguel Rodriguez for the photo)

  With time fast running out, the equaliser arrived, a moment of real magic. The industrious Poortvliet capitalised on a wild clearance by the desperate Tarantini, found Haan in space centre field, and he in turn spotted that René van de Kerkhof out on the right wing had been untypically neglected by the outrushing defence. The cross on the run was perfect for Nanninga, who rose majestically to beat a couple of off-balance defenders and head home.
Nanninga's equaliser (aerial view)
Nanninga's equaliser (view from ground level)
Nanninga (left) turns away after scoring - Poortvliet (right) was wrongly credited with the goal on television Celebrations after Nanninga's goal

  Before too much longer, with a certain inevitability, Neeskens was punched to the ground by Passarella, with the referee unsighted (though the linesman must have been talking to a friend in the stand not to have seen it), and the lengthy stoppage ensured the game was bound for extra-time.

Haan challenges bravely for a header, while Neeskens sneakily resorts to pulling the Argentinian defenders' shorts down
(Thanks to Miguel Rodriguez for the photo) The same incident (I think) from another angle
(Thanks to Miguel Rodriguez for the photo)

  Yet it could have been even better for Holland: Krol's hammer-blow of a free-kick found its way through to Rensenbrink, the Argentinian defence mesmerised. Though off-balance, Rensenbrink still had enough composure to turn the ball past Fillol, and, apparently, into the unguarded net. But somehow the ball was deflected, onto the post and away to safety. Whether the debris that had been strewn across the pitch had played a key part, or whether the Hand of God had made a save, who could tell? Players from both teams afterwards confirmed that the ball seemed to all intents and purposes to be as good as in, yet it stayed out. Perhaps, at that moment, the Dutch realised it wouldn't be their day after all.

Krol and Brandts in action
  Extra time is always a difficult thing to predict. Sometimes the team which has just scored has an unstoppable advantage, sometimes a side who has been hanging on for the whistle at the end of 90 minutes comes out for the extra 30 with renewed energy for no apparent reason. Whatever spell Argentinian Coach Menotti weaved, his side, who looked visibly deflated when the Dutch equalised, came out with an increased vigour, and began playing football again. In between the fouls anyway.

  Bertoni went down from a Suurbier challenge: if it wasn't actually a dive, it certainly hadn't been the worst foul seen today, but Larrosa attacked Suurbier with such ferocity he was lucky only to be cautioned. A minute later, the same Argentinian committed an awful, scything foul on Poortvliet, but escaped further censure. Poortvliet brought Kempes down from behind, and the referee quickly found the notebook he'd obviously been looking for over the previous couple of minutes.

Luque is denied by Jongbloed (thanks Stefano for the photo)

  And, in amongst the spate of fouls and squabbling, Houseman found himself through on goals, to be thwarted by Jongbloed. It was a warning the Dutch didn't heed.

  Kempes, increasingly the dominant force in the game, attacked the Dutch defence, rode two tackles to give himself a chance. Jongbloed threw himself at the striker's feet, but Kempes managed one final touch before going down. The ball bounced agonisingly over the line, with Poortvliet and Suurbier trying gallantly to clear, but to no avail.

Kempes's second goal
(Thanks to Miguel Rodriguez for the photo)

  All credit to the worthy Kempes, any of his team-mates would have hit the ground and claimed a penalty, and probably got it, but his performance on this day was worthy of winning any match, and this moment, which essentially won the World Cup for Argentina, epitomised it.

Kempes's second goal, the aftermath

Kempes's second goal, the (thanks Stefano)

  In the second overtime period, the game was just about on the brink of anarchy. Larrosa fouled Haan, who in turn brought Luque down, and it took several minutes to persuade Luque to get to his feet. Houseman carved out for himself another chance, but shot against the side netting, then Luque burst past Krol, and was denied by Jongbloed.

Bertoni's goal
  With the game stretched at both ends, Kempes ran riot again, and, the third goal owed as much to his talent as had the previous two. He ran boldly into the danger area, as ever, tried to play a one-two with Bertoni, a defender intervened, and Bertoni appeared to use a hand to get the ball under control again, a foul spotted by everybody in the world except Signor Gonella.

Bertoni's goal, another angle

Muted Argentinian celebrations after the third goal (thanks Stefano)   Jongbloed's attempt at a dive looked like a man who expected the whistle to blow, or perhaps just a man who realised the game was up. Anyway, Bertoni's shot hit the back of the net, and the referee ignored the Dutch protests. It was not the first decision that had gone Argentina's way, but it ended any hope the Dutch might have had.

  The sight of Passarella being presented with the World Cup by Jorge Videla, head of the military junta which ruled Argentina at that time, was an appropriate note on which to end a game that had always been exciting but never pleasing, and indeed the tournament, which had always been interesting but never satisfying.

Passarella with the World Cup - I've declined to put a picture of Videla on this site
  So Argentina were crowned World Champions, and the party began in the streets of Buenos Aires, but few outside the country celebrated with them. Would they have won the World Cup had it not been held in their own country? Some commentators have asserted they wouldn't have got past Hungary, France and Italy in the first phase, let alone overcome Holland, had the competition been held in Europe, or refereed with a bit more steadfastness.

  The Germans of 1974, by contrast, had enjoyed home advantage, exploited it even, but had stopped short of abusing it. They may not have been loved, but they were respected. Holland may have deserved to win in 1974, but had only their own mistakes, and perhaps the bounce of the ball, to blame for their failure - if "failure" is the right word for it. But, in 1978, it always seemed that something more sinister was afoot, as if not everyone was playing by the same rules.

A somewhat disconsolate Jongbloed - 'Oh well, only another 4 years until the next one'
(Thanks to Miguel Rodriguez for the photo)   Of course, every team that plays at home is likely to get the benefit of some refereeing decisions, whether playing in the World Cup or in the Scarborough Sunday League, and all opinions offered about match officials will always be personal and subjective. In Argentina, it is generally accepted that the Holland team of 1978 was simply too long in the tooth to cope with the demands of extra time, and that on its own explains the result. And, if the tournament had actually been "fixed", no doubt some irrefutable evidence would have come to light by now, so it seems reasonable to say that the result wasn't actually preordained. But, during this World Cup, Argentina seemed to get the benefit of every decision, on and off the field, from beginning to end. Not the result of a "fix", maybe, but many people, especially outside the game, did have an interest in securing a victory for the home side, and anyone who knows the game must concede that the favouritism shown them by match officials and bureaucrats alike was striking. These two observations, taken together, will always prevent Argentina's triumph from receiving the world-wide acclaim its people would maintain it deserves.

  I'd sum it up by saying that Argentina were a good team, indeed, but just how good we'll never know - and that's their own fault. Their evident determination to win at any cost to their reputation will always mean that, having succeeded, the triumph must be put into that context, must always be qualified by dark accusations which, if they can never be substantiated, can never be disproved either, and won't go away. It's just the price you have to pay.

  Football in general, and the World Cup in particular, continued its decline for several years. The abiding memories of 1982 will always be Harald Schumacher's unpunished challenge on France's Patrick Battiston, and Germany's shameful, wretched 1-0 win against Austria, while 1986 will be remembered for Maradona's "Hand of God" cheating rather than as a triumph for the truly world-class Argentina team which he led to victory. It wasn't until 1990, when Argentina and Germany played out an abomination of a football match in the Final, that FIFA decided they had to act to clean the game up. If they had done so in 1978, the World Cup Final of that year might at least have served some useful purpose.

Nanninga (I think) consoles a team mate   As for Holland, Jongbloed and Suurbier would not play international football again, nor would Rijsbergen, injured against Scotland.

  But their team had again done the nation proud, and written another glorious chapter in the history of the game. Again, their "failure" would perhaps become more legendary than winning the World Cup could have been.

  Whatever, they had given the world some more great memories. Thanks.

Final Appearances: Jansen, Krol, René van de Kerkhof, Willy van de Kerkhof, Rensenbrink - 7 each; Haan, Poortvliet, Rep - 6 each; Neeskens - 5; Brandts, Jongbloed - 4 each; Rijsbergen, Schrijvers, Suurbier - 3 each; Wildschut - 2.
As Sub: Nanninga - 4; Van Kraay - 2; Boskamp, Jongbloed, Rep, Schoenaker, Suurbier, Wildschut - 1 each.
Goals: Rensenbrink - 5; Rep - 3; Brandts, Haan - 2 each; Nanninga, René van de Kerkhof, Willy van de Kerkhof - 1 each.

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