Wednesday, 11 July 2012

DUTCH LEGACY ( part one )

The Netherlands , commonly referred to as Holland , a Country of over 16 million people , has given the world  famous painters like Rembrandt,  and Van Gogh ; renowned for it's Cheese, Tulips ,  Clogs ( wooden shoe )  Pottery , Red-light district , and Cafes where soft drugs can be purchased and used.  This Nation is also synonymous with it's footballing excellence , particularly it's use of  the tactical formation known as " total football ".  It's over  four decades of  churning-out  ultra-talented Footballers , Football coaches , and home to Footballing institutions like AJAX AMSTERDAM ; PSV EINDHOVEN ;  and FEYNOORD . The Dutch National team have graced many international soccer tournaments with their signature Orange coloured Shirts , and their ever resplendent fans largely in shiny Orange costumes. It's been a thrill, and a beauty to witness this sight  in many stadia over the years .

TOTAL FOOTBALL :  History tells us this much revered and successful tactical formation has it's origins in Hungary,  and perhaps to an extent in Argentina;  but there is certainly no doubt it gained prominence from it's use by the AJAX team in the early 1970's  under that master tactician RINUS MICHELS as they  claimed three consecutive European Cups , and domestic dominance. MICHELS also employed this tactical concept in his time in charge of the oranje ( the Netherlands national team ) If  Total Foot ball flourished , one man whom it could be argued is the embodiment of  this ideology is Netherlands greatest player JOHAN CRYUFF .  The Ajax and Dutch National team revolved around the genius of this player .  Total Football was a phrase for  fluidity of play attained through interchangeability of  positions and functions of all 10 outfield players. The effect being space is always  created through constant movement. If you thought how Barcelona Play , and  Spain did with their tactical approach in Euro 2012 is new,  perhaps it  is not quite a novelty. The style of play associated with Barcelona currently is an off-shoot of Total Football . Pep Guardiola was a protege of the Dutch Maestro Johan Cryuff .
The 1970's was defined by the Dutch revolution to football ; it's successes at International and Club football especially in the early parts of the decade remains an important part of the Dutch soccer Legacy to date . From 1970 - 1973 . The European Cup ( now champions league ) found residence in the Netherlands . Johan Cruyff was European Footballer of the year 71 , 73 and 74 . 
In the 1973 / 74 season , Barcelona paid then a world record of approximately £950.000.000 to Ajax for the services of Johan Cruyff , to rejoin his mentor Rinus Michels who had left in the same direction 3 years earlier . Together they  interpolated the Total Football concept to the character of  Barcelona , which still exists today .  It is pertinent to add that Barcelona won the Spanish Championship that year. Johan Cruyff also managed the catalan Club from 1988 to 1996 , and won the European Cup Winners' Cup ;  The European Champions League ; in addition to 4 straight LA LIGA Tittles  91. 92 . 93 , 94 .
In 1999 , the Senior Dutch Master RINUS MICHELS  was voted by FIFA as Coach of the Century . 
Rinus Michels , Johan Cruyff , and Total Football  have left a phenomenal Legacy and foot print in the story line of Foot ball forever  Total Football is an exceptional innovation , and would remain a precursor to modern and future playing styles for ages to come. 

DUTCH DELIGHT AND DISAPPOINTMENTS :  Clubs from the Netherlands ruled Europe at the height of Total Football  in the early 70's.  But it was the 1974 World Cup that the Netherlands introduced itself to the World Stage . Rinus Michels had just taken over the Oranje  a few months before the world Cup , and took the tournament by storm playing some of the best football the tournament witnessed. In the second round group stage , the Netherlands destroyed Argentina 4-0 , and overpowered defending champions Brazil 2 - 0  . Cryuff , Neeskens , krol , all playing wonderfully . In the epic 1974 World Cup Final against West Germany , Total Football probably had it's outstanding one minute of passage  play..... Without West Germany touching the ball after kick off , the Dutch strung together a sequence of passes leading up to Cryuff making a stab at the German defense , and subsequently brought down for  a penalty , converted by Neeskens . The Germans went on win 2-1  and become world Champions . Yet , The Netherlands had left an impact on that tournament that  reverberates to this day . It's remained the standards to which they still get judged .
In many ways , the loss to West Germany in the 74 world cup final  marked the start of their decline ,  after a spectacular rise in stock . In '78 , they ran into Argentina in the world cup final , and after some breath taking football from both sides, the hosts Argentina won  3-1 . Cryuff had refused to partake in that World cup for personal reasons . It went pretty quiet for a decade by their standards , till yet again , the other Dutch Master , now retired as a player , took over the helm at Ajax in 1985 , and another wave of talent was unleashed featuring  Marco Van Basten , Frank Rikyaard , Dennis Bergkamp . Ajax won the European Cup Winners' cup  in 1887 , and that sparked the Dutch renaissance. 
1n 1988 ,  PSV EINDHOVEN  under another visionary coach called  GUUS HIDDINK  won the European Cup beating BENFICA on penalties . With Ajax back in the groove , and PSV EINDHOVEN emerging as a team to be feared across Europe , the heartbeat had returned to Dutch Soccer . Later in 1988 ,  with Rinus Michels back in charge , the Netherlands gained their revenge  for their 1974 world cup final loss , by beating West Germany 2-1 in the Euro championship semifinals. Van Basten scoring a late winner. They went on to beat the USSR in the final 2-0 to become European Champions , and win their first major International tournament.  The team did not play to the Total Football concept in Euro '88 ,  but it executed a perfect balance of pace , penetration , solidity , and had the goal scoring brilliance of Marco Van Basten , the tournament's top scorer. You could argue the players in this team might not have been as talented as their predecessors in the 70's.  It was a 4-4-2 set-up , and probably had the best back four of any Dutch National side i have seen :  Ronald Koeman and Frank Rikyaard were solid in the middle of defense , so too were the full backs Van Tiggelen and Van Aerle ; the midfield had two grafters in the middle Muhren and Wouters ;  the wide men Erwin Koeman and Vanenburg  were quick , but always attached to the central midfielders ; and upfront , Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gulllit needed no introduction . Van Breuklen  was a top keeper too. 

AFFIRMATION : The European Championship victory for the Dutch in 1988 was an affirmation of the pedigree to their football . It rubbed-off the theory Dutch football could never deliver on the big stage. For a  Nation , it healed the doubts and wounds to it's psyche , and exorcised the screaming demons from the 1974 world cup final defeat to West Germany .  Like everyone in football knows , confirmation of superiority is only measured by triumphs and trophies .  1988 was  a perfect sweet year for the Netherlands , and kicked-off another phase : The rise in demand for Dutch talent by major European Clubs .

Join me later in the week for final part of this Write-up , when i shine the light on other aspects of the Dutch Legacy .  Thanks for your readership . Stay Close .

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