Iconic World Cup Moments: The Netherlands losing the 1974 World Cup final
Football is a beautiful game. Every decision, be it a yellow card, a substitution or even an offside call is viewed with intent and excitement like no other. Despite the billions around the world who follow the sport, only a lucky few have actually played it. Having said that, one universal truth can be agreed. Good players were born to play the game. Special players were born to take their place in history.
Before the 1974 FIFA World Cup, one name resonated all over the football universe- Pele. His immaculate footwork and trademark Brazilian celebrations left the fans dazzled. However, since his retirement in 1971, they were indeed ready to be dazzled once again. Their prayers were answered. Thus, the 1974 FIFA World Cup was responsible for introducing the world to Johan Cruyff.
The Dutch were given a chance at glory in the 1974 World Cup final and a chance at redemption in the 1978 World Cup final. Needless to say that they squandered both opportunities. However, the 1974 World Cup final was the most iconic simply due to the fact that firstly it was the clash of the heavyweights and secondly, it sparked off a rivalry that remains very prominent till this day.
The 1974 World Cup group stages had been well and truly dominated by the Dutch. Rinus Michel’s system of ”total football” had been mastered by the Dutch juggernaut and they were favorites from match one. In the middle of it all was Johan Cruyff. He was not a man, but a phenomenon, a rare bird, one who graces the universe with their presence once in a hundred years. Apart fro being the heart-beat of Rinus Michels’ team, Cruyff has etched his name in the history books alongside the great Pele and Maradona.
Having been drawn with Sweden, Bulgaria and Uruguay, the Dutch breezed past Uruguay and Bulgaria without losing a sweat. In the 0-0 draw against Sweden, the fans witnessed a piece of genius, a move that would be emulated for years to come- the Cruyff turn.
Having secured qualification to the second set of group stages, the Dutch juggernaut continued with the determination like never witnessed before. After trouncing Argentina and East Germany, the Dutch pulled off the upset of all upsets. Two unanswered goals from Johan Neeskens and Johan Cruyff, leaving the Brazilian side who boasted of the likes of Jairzinho, Rivelino and Vladomiro shell shocked.
Build-up to the final
The picturesque Olympaistadion was the venue for the 1974 FIFA World Cup final. With a whooping 75,000 expected to fill the stands, there was absolutely no doubt that history was there to be made.
Great moments are born from great opportunity. With the World Cup and all the glory that goes with it at stake, a historic spectacle awaited the football universe.
The West Germans and the Dutch, both had star studded teams to boast of. The Kaiser – Franz Beckenbauer led the line for the Germans, along with the legendary Sepp Maier and Gerd Muller. Apart from Cruyff, the Dutch had central midfielder Johan Neeskens and striker Johnny Rep, who was the top scorer in the competition. While fans expected a match of exciting proportions, the players prepared themselves for a collision of giants on the grass of the Olympiastadion.
The referee for the final was stocky Brit Jack Taylor. A butcher by occupation, the 7th of July 1974 was definitely meant to be the biggest day of his life.