Holland 1978
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Holland 1978
The Squad

  The Dutch squad for the finals was more noteworthy for the names of those absent from it than for those who were there. First and foremost, the unique talents of Johan Cruyff, the world's greatest player of the 1970s, would be absent.

The only picture of Johan Cruyff on this site!   By some distance the greatest star of the 1974 tournament, Cruyff had led Holland to qualification during the last couple of years, but had declined the chance to make the trip to Argentina, and had in fact announced his retirement from international football altogether. Many reasons have been advanced for this decision, prominent among them the desire not to be separated from his wife and children for the duration of the tournament. Also, as already mentioned, opposition to FIFA's insistence on holding the World Cup in Argentina was prevalent among some of the European countries, and many leading players had expressed scepticism as to the host nation's ability to guarantee a fair and safe competition, given its political instability and the volatility of the supporters.

  Maybe Cruyff didn't approve of the choice of coach, perhaps he was unhappy at the treatment of certain other players, or possibly he just plain didn't fancy it. Whatever, his absence would be the main talking point of the World Cup in the weeks before it kicked off, and has never really been satisfactorily explained.

  Another of the great players of 1974 would also not be making the journey. Wim van Hanegem had been named in the original squad, and had played against Austria just two weeks before the start of the World Cup. It appeared that, on being told by the coach he wasn't guaranteed a place in the team, he decided the season just ended had taken too much out of him, and that he really needed a rest, and promptly walked out of the training camp. Van Hanegem, by contrast, maintains he was assured he would be in the side for Holland's later matches, and that his dispute was about that eternal source of conflict among Dutch footballers of his generation, money. The best passer of the ball available to Holland at the time, his absence was arguably to be felt even more keenly than Cruyff's, especially in the Final itself.

  Also missing would be the striker Ruud Geels, a substitute in the 1974 World Cup, now playing club football with Ajax, and Jan van Beveren, the PSV goalkeeper. The former had been the top scorer in Dutch league football for the last four years, though he had never really been first choice in that position for his country. The latter was generally held to be the best in his position in Holland, and his (diplomatic?) injury before the 1974 Finals had caused much consternation in the Dutch camp, even if it had led to (or perhaps been caused by?) the elevation of Jongbloed. That Van Beveren would miss the 1978 tournament as well was little short of tragic.

  But Holland still had a large pool of talent from which to find a squad. Jan Jongbloed and Piet Schrijvers, first and second choice respectively in 1974, had vied with Van Beveren for the goalkeeper's jersey over the last four years, with Schrijvers now generally reckoned the stronger shot-stopper even if Jongbloed was still the undisputed supreme "counter-attacking" goalie. In defence, Wim Suurbier, playing club football in Germany these days, and Wim Rijsbergen were still going strong, as was Ruud Krol, now playing in the centre of the back line and captain of both club and country.

  Arie Haan was to be used in an essentially central midfield this time, with Wim Jansen adopting a more definite right-sided role than in 1974. Johan Neeskens was still as effective as ever, the nearest thing to an all-round midfield player the world had in the 1970s, although, as with Cruyff, his four years at Barcelona had brought him no major honours. The midfield was augmented by Willy van de Kerkhof and the attack by his twin brother René. Both had been fringe members of the 1974 squad, René appearing as substitute in the Final, but they had now both become regulars in the starting eleven. With Johnny Rep and Rob Rensenbrink available up front again, the Van de Kerkhofs for Cruyff and Van Hanegem were thus the only changes from the team who had come so close to lifting the World Cup four years ago.

  And, in one respect at least, Cruyff's influence would not be absent: both the Van de Kerkhofs (and, I believe, Dick Nanninga) refused to wear the standard three-striped Adidas shirts, insisting on a two-striped version as had Cruyff in 1974.

  No. Name Position Date of Birth Caps Club
Schrijvers 1 Piet Schrijvers Goalkeeper 15/12/46 16 Ajax Ajax
Poortvliet 2 Jan Poortvliet Defender 21/9/55 1 PSV Eindhoven PSVEindhoven
Schoenaker 3 Dick Schoenaker Midfield 30/11/52 0 Ajax Ajax
Van Kraay 4 Adri van Kraay Defender 1/8/53 13 PSV Eindhoven PSVEindhoven
Krol 5 Ruud Krol Defender 24/3/49 52 Ajax Ajax
Jansen 6 Wim Jansen Midfield 28/10/46 50 Feyenoord Feyenoord
Wildschut 7 Piet Wildschut Midfield 25/10/57 1 Twente Twente
Jongbloed 8 Jan Jongbloed Goalkeeper 25/11/40 10 Roda JC RodaJC
Haan 9 Arie Haan Midfield 16/11/48 24 Anderlecht Anderlecht
Rene van de Kerkhof 10 René van de Kerkhof Midfield 16/9/51 20 PSV Eindhoven PSVEindhoven
Willy van de Kerkhof 11 Willy van de Kerkhof Midfield 16/9/51 18 PSV Eindhoven PSVEindhoven
Rensenbrink 12 Rob Rensenbrink Striker 3/7/47 34 Anderlecht Anderlecht
Neeskens 13 Johan Neeskens Midfield 15/9/51 38 Barcelona Barcelona
Boskamp (Thanks, Joost) 14 Johan Boskamp Midfield 7/5/52 1 RWD Molenbeek RWDMolenbeek
Hovenkamp 15 Hugo Hovenkamp Defender 5/10/50 7 AZ67 AZ67
Rep 16 Johnny Rep Striker 25/11/51 23 Bastia Bastia
Rijsbergen 17 Wim Rijsbergen Defender 18/1/52 25 Feyenoord Feyenoord
Nanninga 18 Dick Nanninga Striker 17/1/49 1 Roda JC RodaJC
Doesburg 19 Pim Doesburg Goalkeeper 28/10/43 2 Sparta Sparta
Suurbier 20 Wim Suurbier Defender 16/1/45 56 Ajax Shalke04
Lubse (Thanks again, Joost) 21 Harry Lubse Striker 23/9/51 1 PSV Eindhoven PSVEindhoven
Brandts 22 Ernie Brandts Defender 3/2/56 1 PSV Eindhoven PSVEindhoven

  Somewhat against expectations, Happel started with Jongbloed in the yellow jersey, and the Dutch lined up with just three at the back (Suurbier, Rijsbergen and Krol), though not the five-man midfield Happel had promised. Hugo Hovenkamp, one of the discoveries of recent years, had been expected to start as left-back, but injury was to prevent him from taking any part in the competition, and his understudy, Jan Poortvliet, was untried at this level. To a large extent, therefore, the three-man defence rather than a back four was somewhat forced on the Dutch by circumstances.

  Allowing for the fact that certain of the team were still disposed towards the flexibility of the "total football" era, the formation for the opening game can be summarised as a 3-4-3 shape, with Jansen, Neeskens, Haan and Willy van de Kerkhof across the midfield.

  As two of his three strikers, Happel opted for 1974 stars Rensenbrink and Rep. The former, diligent, intelligent and a great team man, was a favourite of his manager, whereas Rep, fast, strong and tricky but occasionally a touch wayward, was not to enjoy a harmonious relationship with the dour coach. Though not really a conventional centre-forward (then again, that label hardly did Cruyff justice either!), Rep seemed happy enough to take on the central role. The more orthodox Dick Nanninga had distinguished himself in recent friendlies, and was judged by some worthy of the berth between Rep and Rensenbrink, but the third member of the chosen strike force was to be René van de Kerkhof, a right-sided attacker more dogmatic about position than most of the Dutch players. Although one of the front three would frequently drop back into midfield, adding further to the opposition defenders' confusion, René was usually to be found somewhere out on the right flank.

  Some authors put Jansen in the line-up as a defender, and some describe René van de Kerkhof as a midfield player, and the "real" formation genuinely seems to be a matter worthy of some dispute, but I've opted to illustrate the shape as 3-4-3, as I think this best depicts the team's versatility. My apologies to anyone who feels strongly the other way!

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