Monday, May 17, 2010

Group 3: Holland qualified, winning a group with only one real opponent.
1. Holland 4 2 0 24-2 10
2. Belgium 4 2 0 12-0 10
3. Norway 2 0 4 9-16 4
4. Iceland 0 0 6 2-29 0
Not long ago Holland was mentioned mostly as a provider of comic relief:

A moment from a match between Holland and Finland, where a Fin rides on top of a Dutch in the mud. Having the best clubs and a pool of world stars, Holland hardly had a competitive national team until 1972 and even then it was suspect: most Dutch stars, Cruiff probably the worst offender, refused to play for the national team. In part, it was money. Partly, the coach. Until 1974 it was considered mostly a duty or a honor to play for country; money been scarce if any. But the Dutch pointed out that they are professional players and if playing for the national team, they were risking their careers – an injury would prevent them from doing their paying job, so why playing for Holland? More or less, the Dutch were the leaders of the change – since 1974 the sums paid to national players constantly increased. But there was something else: Dr. Frantisek Fadrhonc was the national team coach. Very little is known about him: born in Czechoslovakia, likely an early defector, he settled in Holland and led Willem II (Tilburg) to two titles in 1952 and 1955. He was appointed national team coach in 1970, but most key players did not like him much – perhaps because he was not inventive at time when total football was the Dutch game. The man was obviously old school – something clear even from the year of his last success. He did not risk including young players (Neeskens, for instance, was more likely to play for the Under-23 team than for the A-team). Cruiff preferred to be ‘injured’ when international match was approaching, but some other stars were more open, flatly refusing invitations. Apparently, some kind of agreement was achieved during 1972 and the best players participated more or less regularly during the qualifications for the World Cup.

Dr. Frantisek Fadrhonc – the coach relegated to assistant coach for qualifying Holland to the World Cup finals. Dutch-fashion ‘gratitude’ or realization that the coach was not good? Holland qualified, but Fadrhonc was not to be – he was quickly replaced by Rinus Michels before the World Cup, Fadrhonc becoming assistant coach. In 1975 he went to coach AEK (Athens). Cruiff & Co had their way at the end, but how successful were the Dutch?Belgium was their traditional arch-rival, which made for tough games. Both legs ended scoreless – 0-0. Belgium finished the group without allowing a single goal in their net! Holland was first thanks to better goal difference. Holland were not really hot news - it was predicted that Holland will be weak with stars refusing to play at the finals. Well, Fadrhonc was still coaching… The qualification of Holland was partly expected – or pretended to be expected – because of Ajax and Feyenoord dominating club football. But it was pointed out that Belgium was in decline and yet the Dutch were unable to beat the neighbours. Goal difference was a suspect way of qualifying. Nobody envisioned that Holland will be a world cup contender – not until the spring of 1974, when Michels took the rains, and public opinion immediately changed. And nobody forecasted that Holland would be world football power for long… As it turned out, this campaign was only the beginning of an ascent – Holland moved from the rank of ‘also run’ to the rank of the mighty few. For the moment, it was bringing total football really to the world stage and thus not a fad, despite criticism from Pele (he said that Ajax did not have defense at all and therefore were not really great team.)

Crujff (right) tackled by van den Daele – may be best in the world, but not best against Belgians.

Goalless draws, with van Himst going down and Muhren still going up (contrary to their poses here). Once again, a battle between the 60s – where aging van Himst belongs – and the 70s – with young turks Gerrie Muhren tackling and Barry Hulshoff ready to tackle the status quo. Nobody won head to head, but the edge was the attack and scoring – the new football professed by Holland reached the finals. The football of the 60s was still great in defense, but unable to score goals.
Holland at their last match against Belgium at Amsterdam.Top, left to right: Barry Hulshoff (Ajax), Piet Schrijvers (Twente), Aad Mansfeld (ADO Den Haag), Wim Suurbier (Ajax), Johan Neeskens (Ajax), Rudi Krol (Ajax).Bottom: Arie Haan (Ajax), Johan Cruiff – captain (Ajax), Gerrie Muhren (Ajax), Johnny Rep (Ajax), Rob Rensenbrink (Anderlecht, Belgium).
Holland was almost eliminated:
Schrijvers watches Semmeling (left) scoring. Luckily, the linesman flagged offside. The future was orange by chance.