Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Statistically, Holland was… the lowest among the countries in Group 3: this was their 3rd participation in World Cup finals and the first two were 1934 and 1938. When Holland exited quickly leaving no impressions. Lowly they were until 1972, but stellarly climbed among the big favorites after that. Along with the transformation, Holland provided plenty of buzzing news and fun, a gold vein for media and fans. Revolutionary innovations, scandals, exciting football, loose behaviour, big mouths, arrogance, hard bargaining… you name it. Where to start? Winning coaches are rarely changed, yet, occasionally sacked before major tournaments, but Holland introduced different aproach. Dr. Frantisek Fadrhonc was not liked by the players – nowadays everything is trumped on Cruiff, and he was the most vocal anyway, but he was hardly sole enemy of the Czechoslvakian émigré. In typical Dutch fashion, getting rid of the coach was presented as ‘discussion’, where ‘reasonable arguments’ were voiced: to really achive anything, Holland needed Rinus Michels. Who was promptly appointed, but Fadrhonc was not sacked – he was degraded to assistant coach. Call it what you like – wise decision or ingratitude – but there was a grain of reason: since Michels was acting coach of Barcelona, he was unable to train Holland until Spanish championship ended. So some of the early preparation was still (kind of) done by Fadrhonc. When Michels finally arrived, the good doctor became… a tourist, just been at the World Cup to watch. Then the habbits of Cruiff were made public: the superstar was heavy smoker, not exactly a model for the young. Then came the amusing numbers used by the squad: yes, Ajax played with personal numbers, but the national team went a step further: goalie with number 8; a striker with number 1, etc. Fun! But a strange one: numbers were not the choice of the players, but given by alphabetical order – to all, except Cruiff, who was free to chose his favourite 14 (interesting freedom, considering that Barcelona did not permit him to use ‘his’ number – and when money spoke, Cruiff was kind of forgetful of his freedom of expression.) And finally – which became a news at the first match in the round robin stage – Cruiff played with different kit: Adidas supplied Holland, but the genius had a contract with different company, and played with his own kit – everybody had three stripes; he had only two – an amusing effort to match without matching. To the end of the World Cup Holland never failed to charm on the pitch and to amuse off the pitch: the team became perhaps the first – and last – squad in the world getting a bonus for scoring in their own net. After that German media ‘reported’ the orgies the Dutch stars had with a team of call girs (this one was refuted).
Oranje were the most talked about team and it was often difficult to distinguish purely sporting matter from personality clashes and mere gossip. Unlike the other favourites, Holland had few acute problems – the fundamental one was small pool of players. Behind the bunch of superstars there was very little to chose from. Limited choice was agrivated further by personal clashes – and it is fare to say, that Cruiff was practically always in the middle of them. Yet, saying so has to be taken with a grain of salt: recent recallections by former players tend to deny the role of Michels: most often it is claimed that Cruiff run the whole show, made all decisions, he was the one telling how to play. This is hard to believe – Michels had strong will, he was heavy handed, dominant coach with lots of ideas. He and Cruiff were very close, but it is doubdful the player was telling the coach what to do. Both had problems with other players, yet not always the same players. At the end, no doubt likes and dislikes influenced some decisions, but such decisions were not one-sided: some were ingenious and worked well. Others were never publicly stated and were only speculatevely interpreted. And, finally, some decisions were made by other people, not Michels and Cruiff.
Holland was plagued by two problems of long standing: goalkeeping and central defense. There was only one decent goalie in the country: Jan van Beveren, PSV Eindhoven. He suffered injury, making him unavailable for the World Cup. But… there was big ‘but’: Cruiff strongly disliked him, and the injury was seen as a convenient way out for van Beveren, thus sparing himself from scandals and humiliation. Nobody ever said the goalie faked injury – the suspicion is that he exaggerated it. Without him, there was nobody else even remotely good – Eddy Treijtel (Feyenoord), Piet Schrijvers (FC Twente), and Jan Jongbloed (FC Amsterdam) were selected and how great they were may be judged by their combined appearances before the World Cup: between the three of them, they had a total of 11 caps! Given the quality of the candidates, it was always strange to me that Heinz Stuy (Ajax) and Jan Ruiter (Anderlecht, Belgium) were not considered – the former played well enough as far as I saw him (true, after 1974), and the latter was no worse than the chosen ones, yet, with some advantage – been Ajax player, his quilities and deficiances were familiar to the defense of the national team, almost entirely made of Ajax players. Anyway, Schrijvers was seen the obvious starter, but I’ll jump a bit ahead – Michels surpised the world by feilding Jongbloed. The player himself was apparently taken by surprise: according to him, he was sure he was third goalie, and certain he will have nothing to do, he went to West Germany with his fishing gear. This was probably said in jest, but third goalie he was and nobody imagined him anything else, for nobody ever heard of him. He was almost 34 years old, playing for tiny FC Amsterdam (now defunct) and not full professional at that: he divided his time between football and running a bookstore. He was also a member of the Dutch Communist Party, a rather amusing detail, considering the quite capitalist attitudes of his teammates (however, Jongbloed was not even the most extravagant political animal at 1974 World Cup – the Italian Giorgio Chinaglia was a Fascist and the West German Paul Breitner was a Maoist. May be weird time, but back then players talked about politics, not about fashion and hot models.) As for his abilities, his record tells best: he debuted for Holland in 1962 and until the 1974 World Cup amassed a grand total of 2 caps. Michels had no illusions about his goalies and chose Jongbloed not because he was able to stop a ball – it was the tendency of the goalie to rush ahead and Michels saw him more as a sweeper, helping his improvised defense.
Which needed improvisation… Gerry Muhren and Barry Hulshoff suffered heavy injuries and if the midfielder was relatively easy to replace, the great central defenseman of Ajax stretched defensive options not to the limit, but beyond the limits. For one thing there was no classy libero in Holland – for instance, Ajax used the German Horst Blankenburg and PSV Eindhoven depended on the Swede Bjorn Nordqvist. The situation was so grave, the Dutch Federation approached Blankenburg and offered him to play for Holland. The German never played for West Germany – and with Beckenbauer at hand, had no chance even to be invited to the national team – so he was legitible; the Dutch were ready to give him citizenship rapidly. But Blankenburg declined the offer. Fadrhonc used occasionally Aad Mansveld , but Michels did not include him in his selection - Mansveld may have been ADO Den Haag legend, but hardly thaught a great player outside the Dutch capital (for which his 6 caps amply testify). With Hulshoff injured and out, the only players left were Feyenoord veterans. Michels halfheartedly included Rinus Israel in the squad, but… he desliked the chubby bespectabled player. Michels considered Israel – may be rightly – too heavy, too slow, and too conventional for total football. And with this all options ended – and improvisation arrived, of which later, although I half spilled the beans already, for Jongbloed was part of the indeginious plan.
Just before the World Cup started, Holland was seen as one of the big favourites. Nobody doubted the Oranje will win easily their round robin group. Going further was not so certain: other teams were seen as more balanced and considering the Dutch problematic defense and goalkeeping, they were hardly envisioned as potential champions of the world. But… who knows, may be with some luck… after all, they had Cruiff! Holland was generally ranked among the 4 best teams and expected to be the most exciting to watch. Long hairs and goalkeeper with number 8 – nobody would beat at least the fun the Dutch were expected to provide.
Coach:Rinus Michels
No.Pos.Player DoB/Age Caps Club
1 FW Ruud Geels 28 July 1948 (aged 25)3 Club Brugge
2 MF Arie Haan 16 November 1948 (aged 25) 10 Ajax Amsterdam
3 MF Willem van Hanegem 20 February 1944 (aged 30) 29 Feyenoord
4 DF Kees van Ierssel 6 December 1945 (aged 28) 4 F.C. Twente
5 DF Rinus Israël 19 March 1943 (aged 31) 44 Feyenoord
6 MF Wim Jansen 28 October 1946 (aged 27) 25 Feyenoord
7 MF Theo de Jong 11 August 1947 (aged 26) 8 Feyenoord
8 GK Jan Jongbloed 25 November 1940 (aged 33) 2 F.C. Amsterdam
9 FW Piet Keizer 14 June 1943 (aged 30) 33 Ajax Amsterdam
10 MF René van de Kerkhof 16 September 1951 (aged 22)5 PSV Eindhoven
11 MF Willy van de Kerkhof 16 September 1951 (aged 22)1 PSV Eindhoven
12 DF Ruud Krol 24 March 1949 (aged 25) 20 Ajax Amsterdam
13 MF Johan Neeskens 15 September 1951 (aged 22) 17 Ajax Amsterdam
14 FW Johan Cruijff 25 April 1947 (aged 27) 28 F.C. Barcelona
15 FW Rob Rensenbrink 3 July 1947 (aged 26) 13 R.S.C. Anderlecht
16 FW Johnny Rep 25 November 1951 (aged 22) 5 Ajax Amsterdam
17 DF Wim Rijsbergen 18 January 1952 (aged 22) 1 Feyenoord
18 GK Piet Schrijvers 15 December 1946 (aged 27) 5 F.C. Twente
19 DF Pleun Strik 27 May 1944 (aged 30) 8 PSV Eindhoven
20 DF Wim Suurbier 16 January 1945 (aged 29) 27 Ajax Amsterdam
21 GK Eddy Treijtel 28 May 1946 (aged 28) 4 Feyenoord
22 DF Harry Vos 4 September 1946 (aged 27) 0 Feyenoord
Orange glory: Back: Van Ierssel, Cruyff, Jongbloed, Schrijvers, Haan, Rijsbergen, Neeskens, Israël, Keizer, Treytel, Krol, Suurbier, Van Hanegem.
Front: Jansen, Rep, Willy van de Kerkhof, René van de Kerkhof, Geels, Rensenbrink, Strik, Vos, De Jong.
A lot of great names of Ajax and Feyenoord fame, complimented by largely unknown reserves. And nobody imagined reserves to play – they were here just because FIFA required 22 players. To outsiders, it was a team to be recited in advance with very little uncertainty: Schrijvers (or Treytel); Suurbier, Strik (or van Ierssel, or Vos), Israel, Krol; Haan, Neeskens, van Hanegem; Rep, Cruiff, Keizer. The rest were to go fishing.

N.B. There is inconsistancy with the name of His Majesty: Hendrik Johannes Cruijff is often spelled differently – Johan Cruyff; Johan Cruiff; Johann Cruyff… Unfortunately, the correct spelling of his name is almost never used outside Holland, unlike the names of his lesser teammates. By habbit, I write Cruiff. Sorry.