Friday, 13 July 2012


DELIGHT AND DISAPPOINTMENT : The Netherlands qualified for the 1990 world cup in Italy largely with the team that won the European Championship in 1988.  On this occasion , unfortunately , the Dutch enigma reared it's ugly head again . A 1-1 draw with Egypt ;   followed by 0-0 draw with England ; and another tie - 1-1 with Ireland   meant they scraped through to the second round.  They got beaten 2-1 by old foes Germany in the second round to exit the tournament. The ugly sight of Frank Rikyaard and Germany striker Rudi Voller in confrontation , spitting at each other , and both red-carded, remains one of the most dishonourable and undignified scenes in Football , and the abiding memory of a poor world cup showing by the oranje . 

Euro 92 : was a somewhat better affair. Dennis Berkamp joined forces with Brian Roy and Marco van Basten ; Gullit dropped into midfield to pair with Witchge and Wouters  in a 4-3-3 formation. A semi final exit in the hands of Denmark on penalties would be the last we saw of The Great RINUS  MICHELS , and European Footballer of the year  Marco Van Basten due to injury. 

The 1994 world cup in America witnessed a crop of new players introduced by new coach DICK ADVOCAAT , who had fallen-out with Ruud Gullit over tactical matters , and Gullit consequently opting out of the Dutch squad to the world cup. In came Inter Millan's Wim Jonk ; Lazio's Aaron Winter ;  The De boer brothers ; Marc Overmars....  again they flattered to deceive.... after beating Argentina 2-1 in the second round , they then lost 3-2 to Brazil in a comprehensive quarter final defeat. The key to that elusive world cup triumph still being searched for.  

In 1991 ,  Louis Van Gaal became manager of Ajax , and galvanized Ajax forward with an updated brand of Total Football. Ajax won the UEFA Cup in 1992 ,  and that familiar theme played-out again - the success of a big club becomes the lightning rod for a sudden explosion of very good players , and a new energy is discovered . Under Van Gaal , Ajax were rejuvenated , and another Dutch  Club became the focal point in European Football . The team played a style high in keep ball , and shifted about in zig-zag patterns which confused and disorientated the opposition . A style associated with Barcelona  , and Spain today and underlines how the Dutch legacy has truly been a standard bearer. Ajax went on to win the '96 Champions league , beating Mighty AC Millan 2-0 in the final .

Euro 96 was the next tournament for the Netherlands National team. The quality of players available was if anything augmented from the 1994 world cup because Ajax were riding a crest wave , and a lot more talent was emerging even faster for the new National coach GUUS HIDINK . After a 0-0 draw to scotland in their opening game ; they beat Switzerland 2-0 ; and before they played England the proverbial Dutch Curse struck. Edgar Davids was sent home from the Dutch camp for making sarcastic comments about Guus Hiddink during a radio interview . The Netherlands crashed out in the quarterfinals on penalties to France.
The 1998 world cup was more of a return to form. Coach Guus Hiddink had potentially the best Dutch squad if talent was the only matrix . 12 of the 22 players in the squad played for clubs overseas. 10 of the remaining 10 in the squad who played for clubs in the eredivisie ( the Dutch premier division ) went on to play overseas , or had done so before. I personally thought this had to be their year to at last win the World Cup. After beating Argentina in the quarter finals , Brazil proved the stumbling block , and they lost out on penalties , ending the tournament in 4th place , and the dreams died once again .

Personally , the 90's represents a testament to the Netherlands phenomenal predilection to produce amazing talent . The Ajax youth Academy has an enduring status for pulling , and producing gifted players . It was also a big money spinner for Dutch Clubs , and the economy as so many of their players were sought after by foreign clubs generating massive transfer fees. In this decade: Van Tiggelen ; Johnny Bosman ; Marco Van Basten , Ruud Gullit ; Ronald De Boer , Edwin Van Da Sar ; Michael Reizeger ; Winston Borgade ; Frank De Boer ; Clarence Seedorf ; Vim Jonk ; Edgar Davids ; Dennis Bergkamp ; Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink ; Patrick Kluivert ; Pierre Van Hojidonk ; Bolo Zenden , Philip Cocu ; Ronald Koeman ;Giovanni Van Bronkhorst ; Jaap Stam ; Roy makaay e.t.c ; played for the best clubs , in the best leagues winning domestic championships and cups , as no other nation produced this aggregate of quality players in diaspora, in the same generation, in Europe . I challenge anyone to better this theory .

In 2000 , The Netherlands Co-hosted the Euro championship with Belgium. One of their finest ex-players was at the helm of affairs as coach - FRANK RIKYAARD . He did not posses great coaching experience , but the KNVB believed in him , and he had a good squad. In the group stages , they played with all the characteristic Dutch fluidity , Van Vossen and Overmars were on fire down the flanks . They swept past Czech Republic, Denmark , and France to top the group on 9 points ; thrashed Yugoslavia 6-1 in the quarterfinals , before imploding in the semi-finals to Italy - missing 2 penalties in normal time to 10 man Italy , in a 0-0 stalemate . The penalty shoot-out was lost , and so too the opportunity to be Champions of Europe. The recriminations after the defeat were damaging.... Rikyaard had resigned immediately after the game , and Berkamp retired from the oranje

Louis Van Gaal took over , but of all people , failed to qualify the oranje to the 2002 world cup finals in JAPAN & SOUTH KOREA . Dick Advocaat returned to manage the oranje after 8 years , and took them to Euro 2004 . Ruud Van Nistelrooy was their star player , and goal scoring machine for manchester united . Not the most colourful of tournaments , but a respectable semifinal place was earned , before hosts portugal edged them out 2-1.

After yet another tournament drought , Who better to quench the thirst than Former Ajax and AC Millan great Marco Van Basten . They were ruthless in the qualifiers for the 2006 world cup in Germany ; i did not believe this was a collection of great talent , and Marco Van Basten looked past Ruud Van Nistelrooy , another in the series of feuding between a manager of the oranje , and a star player . The Dutch team to the world cup was fairly young , but particularly inexperienced . The campaign ended in the second round ( last 16 ) with defeat to Portugal - a nasty game , 2 oranje players sent off ( Boularouz and Van Bronkhorst ) and a 1-0 defeat . Next-up : 2008, and another excellent qualifying procession to the 2008 Euro championships . They started the championship in swashbuckling style , playing football that had tongues wagging . Van Nistelrooy had made his peace with manager Van Basten , a clutch of attacking talent was at the manager's disposal - Robben ; Van da Vaart ; Sneijder ; Kuyt ; Van Persie. Nigel De Jong had emerged as a dependable defensive midfielder. Wins - Italy 3-0 ; France 4-1 ; Romania 2-0 in the group stages shot-up expectations, till Russia shattered them in a 3-1 extra time loss for the oranje.

After the summer of 2008 , the era of Bert Van Marwiijk was ushsered in . The new manager did not have an aristocratic footballing background as most most of his predecessors. His claim to fame was leading Feynoord to UEFA cup success in 2002. Oranje swept their way to the world cup in South Africa. They appeared to somewhat buck the trend in this tournament . They played the archetypal 4-2-3-1 of Dutch teams from yesteryear ; Robben was not fit for the group stages , and his place went to Van dar Vaart . Even without being brilliant they won games , yet the critics were stinging because the coach Van Marwiijk had introduced a physical edge to the Oranje. Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong appeared to have license to foul , and i mean incessantly. That was an alien concept to the oranje. It seemed to have paid-off with group game wins : 2-1 against Denmark ; 1-0 against Japan ; 2-1 versus Cameroun ; into the second round : 2-1 against Slovakia. Into the quarter final , they got rid of the Brazil nemesis 2-1 ; and in the semifinals , they beat Uruguay 3-2. It seemed like Van Marwiijk was going to do it the maverick's way despite all the criticisms of their style , for what appeared an abdication of the Dutch heritage. In the end , the old failings resurfaced , they froze to Spain in the world cup final , and approached the game with a smash and grab attitude , and that is putting it nicely . They incurred the wrath of the neutrals with ugly and cynical fouls in order to stop Spain. It was the proverbial princes playing the pauper , and when Iniesta smashed home the winner to give Spain the World cup , justice was served , and oranje learnt a scorching lesson .
Dutch Legend , and custodian to the Total Football concepts in an interview to Spanish Newspaper El Periodico referred to the oranje methods at the world cup as such :

.... sadly , we played very dirty . This vulgar , hard , hermetic , hardly eye-catching foot ball style"....

The KNVB for some reason rewarded Van Marwiijk with a contract extension , and that unraveled when in the recently concluded Euro 2012 , Netherlands lost all 3 group games, and he wisely resigned . Louis Van Gaal stages a return to the helm , and we all wonder if he will break the voodoo spell on the oranje .

WHAT EGO ? : Observers always point to players ego , and intra-squad tensions and rivalries as the main cause for the Netherlands' inability to win the world cup as they so badly crave , and so richly deserve . I believe that is a simplistic and lazy argument. It is empirical that any football team would always have egos ; if anything egos in a squad is fuel for success. For me a player's ego should be juxtaposed with his ability . If ability surpasses ego , then his ego becomes a necessary devil. If there has been a lot of egos in the Dutch squad over the years , it's a consequence of the level of talent they have , and the desire and believe amongst them of their historic obligation to excel and win competitions . Their ego is the manifestation of their heritage.


* History has maybe dealt Netherlands a cruel hand . As pioneers of a puristic footballing culture , be it total football , or this obligation to play and adhere to the romantic values of the game ; or the legends of Cryuff , Neeskens , krol , Resembrink , and their footballing gods , their rich history shall always be a major influence to their optics of the game. The Dutch by history have been inventors and creators . It has also acted as a burden to live up to .

* Dutch Luminary Johan Cryuff said in 2010 :

..... "I thought my country wouldn't dare to , and would never renounce their style... without having great players of the past the team has it's own style" .

What the great man meant was tradition and identity. The Dutch have always been true to their concepts , and deviation amounts to apostasy . The Dutch play to a theme , play pro-actively. This is easy to legislate for by oponents... it makes them easy to shoot-down. Cowardice and bravery can be ironic terms in football .

* Victims of their own success . The Dutch like Brazil go into every tournament with the "favorites" tag hanging like an albatross. The level of expectation surrounding the oranje is tremendously high ! Sometimes it seems like tempting fate endlessly by saying this is their year . It all needs to come naturally . Football does not validate the idea of right to succeed or own anything.

* The Dutch theory to soccer has always been forward thinking. Attack is better than defense. Against this back drop , they have unwittingly under-developed the defense side of their game . Examine the ratio of excellent Dutch forwarders to defenders , and you'll see how negatively skewed it is against defenders . I suppose they could ape the current Spanish team who have a sound back fOUR.

* As much as the Nation has produced top quality players , they need characters the team can coalesce with ; to generate an even better environment for success. Sometimes , it takes just one or two players in the team to be the rallying point for all . Netherlands need that sort of player who would symbolize their history , but with sufficient charisma to mobilize the team for the cause on and off the pitch.

Prospects : Sooner than later , justice shall be served , and the Dutch shall get the hurt and frustrations out of their system . They have constantly produced good players , and as long as that continues to happen , and they stick to their footballing principles , the victory they crave is nearer than ever.

LEGACY : Footballing Legacies should not only be defined by cup success . The Dutch have an enduring legacy in football . A narrative still unfolding . Their template has been a reference point. Reading this blog, and my research covered 40 years of a nation's triumphs and tribulations in football terms , you'll find the Dutch template is refreshing , romantic , daring , and a fairy tale millions believe in . They have taught the world of football so much that still rings true , and attractive . Their Players have played in different leagues in the world , and remain in demand . They have provided world class stars and coaches , and still continue to do so... The Dutch have a legacy few can parallel . For a small country , they have impacted greatly in tangible and intangible syndrome bar none . Long live the Legacy !!!!!!!

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