Thirty-six years later: European success from Munich to Berlin?

This weekend the European Championship begins for the Dutch team in Germany. It will be the fourth final phase of the Dutch team on German soil. After the famous silver in the 1974 World Cup and the glorious victory in the 1988 European Championship, the 2006 World Cup became an inglorious exercise. Once again, the team of experienced Ronald Koeman is going for gold with our eastern neighbors.

After qualifying for the 1974 World Cup under the guidance of Czechoslovakian Frantisek Fadrhonc, Rinus Michels, the experienced coach of FC Barcelona, ​​was appointed supervisor of the KNVB. ‘The General’, then 46 years old, had to provide the necessary stability and experience. Even though Michels could not always be present at the Oranje’s training sessions (Barcelona was still playing in the Spanish Cup and would reach the final, forcing Michels to travel to Spain several times), the praised ‘Total’ was created football’. It was a style in which any player could play in any position, after losing the ball immense pressure was placed on the opponent to recover the ball and in which the offside trap was used emphatically.

Especially in the second round of that World Cup in West Germany there was no stopping: Cruijff & Co, supported by a huge legion of orange-clad enthusiasts, defeated Argentina (4-0), the GDR (2-0) and the world reigning. The champion Brazil (2-0) is completely under his feet. Before the final battle, the world press was unanimous: Holland became the new world champion, there was no other way. But in the final, the Dutch team still had to face the host country, West Germany, the reigning European champion.


After the victory against the GDR, which guaranteed the Dutch team a place in the final four, there was already a big party at the Oranje hotel. The Cats played there, Michels let go of the reins and the players were able to let loose. Because the hotel in Hiltrup, south of Münster, was not rented exclusively for the Dutch national team, but for a sensation-seeker. BILD journalist to reserve a room in the Dutch enclave. When Cruijff and some companions went skinny dipping and a group of local girls joined them, the dolls were dancing. BILD He had gold in his hands and quickly came across a newspaper headline screaming: Cruyff, Sekt, nackte Mädchen und ein kühles Bad! A revolt was born.

Cruyff’s wife Danny was logical Not fun upon reading the story and the national number 14 had to speak like Brugman in countless telephone conversations to convince her that she was a sewer magazine as such. BILD I shouldn’t have believed. Suddenly, the Dutch captain’s attention was no longer on football but on saving his marriage.

But there was more. The team traveled to Munich just one day before the final and it turned out to be a miscalculation. Some players, including Ruud Krol, always had to get used to a new bed, and it doesn’t help if you have to play in a World Cup final after the first night on an unfamiliar mattress. Additionally, assistant Cor van der Hart was fired for allegedly looking too deeply into the glass. A loss, because Van der Hart was the man who wrote very clear reports for Michels about the upcoming opponents. For example, if he had still belonged to the Orange team, he would undoubtedly have realized that Bernd Hölzenbein could swing perfectly.


But perhaps the orange delegation’s biggest error in judgment was underestimating the height difference of more than 700 meters between Hiltrup and Munich. Such a large difference must be overcome in time to achieve optimal sports performance and this requires gradual acclimatization. We know how the final went. In the first minute, a great attack by Cruijff led to a penalty that Johan Neeskens converted. After that moment, the Dutch team forgot to press and the ball was passed (too) often. Did the Dutch want to humiliate their rival after 1-0 at home? The fact is that the German equalizer came from a penalty taken after a shot by Hölzenbein over the extended leg of Wim Jansen, almost identical to how he had already scored from a penalty against Poland. Didn’t the Dutch players know that?

The decisive 2-1 just before the break was a typical Gerd Müller goal, in which both Arie Haan (against Rainer Bonhof, who crossed) and Krol (against Müller) arrived a little late. The Netherlands made a strong effort in the second half, but almost fell back into a larger deficit. A very clear goal by Müller was disallowed by mistake and a strong foul by Wim Jansen on Hölzenbein should have resulted in a justified penalty this time, but the whistle did not blow. Michels, the man from ‘Football is War’, saw that his men had already fired their gunpowder in the first minutes while the Mannschaft , and in particular goalkeeper Sepp Maier, continued to improve. The Dutch were not world champions and a deep wound was created in Dutch football.


In the 1988 European Championship it was once again Rinus Michels who dominated. With the Gullit-Rijkaard-Van Basten-Koeman generation, the Dutch started the tournament as one of the favorites. After the 1-0 defeat against the USSR, they beat England (3-1) and Ireland (narrowly 1-0) and the semi-final against West Germany was scheduled for June 21. As was usual in those years, everything was included: the Second World War and stolen bicycles, the proverbial arrogance of the Germans and, of course, the lost final of 1974. In Hamburg, the Dutch team played a great game, but Germany Occidental won easily. The best in the second half conceded a penalty: 1-0 by Matthäus. Things seemed to be going wrong again, but a penalty taken by Ronald Koeman made it 1-1 late in the second half.

The match headed into extra time when Van Basten made his famous from time to time done at the last minute. The entire Netherlands roared. The general opinion was immediately that the European Championship could no longer be ruined, but Michels, now 60 years old, had learned his lesson fourteen years earlier. Amid all the euphoria, he remained stoic when, just before the final, he was presented with a watch with an inscription as a thank you from the players. He would return it immediately if he lost the final, he claimed. The warning fell on deaf ears: the Dutch team defeated the USSR, won the European title and Michels was able to participate in the polonaise with a new watch on his wrist.

It was played quickly

In 2006 the World Cup was held again in Germany. The national coach was the young and surprisingly inexperienced Marco van Basten. At 41 years old, after his active football career, he had distanced himself from the world for a long time. It was not until 2003 that he returned to public view as coach of Jong Ajax. A year later, the KNVB appointed him national coach, with his friend John van ‘t Schip as assistant. Just before the tournament began, Van Basten realized that it might take a strong man to perform well on the highest stage. He asked Johan Cruijff to act as supervisor, but he flatly rejected the request. Holland was quickly overtaken. The results of the first round initially seemed to offer perspective: after two victories (1-0 against Serbia and Montenegro and 2-1 against Ivory Coast), in the third group match against Argentina no goals were scored: 0-0. But in the round of 16, the Dutch team perished in what is known as “The Battle of Nuremberg.” Russian referee Valentin Ivanov handed out no less than twelve yellow cards and four red cards (evenly distributed between both teams). The inexperienced Van Basten could not change the course from the bench after Portugal’s 1-0 and the Dutch team was eliminated without glory.

The pragmatic Koeman

National coach Ronald Koeman’s Eurocup campaign begins on Sunday. As a footballer and coach, he has already experienced it all. The Netherlands are not one of the big favorites for overall victory and with the recent injury withdrawals of Frenkie de Jong and Teun Koopmeiners, midfield stability appears to be undermined beforehand. But Koeman is a pragmatist who can get by with the resources he has. At 61, he is a year older than Michels in 1988 and will do everything possible to, together with his brother Erwin, one of his assistants, 36 years after the greatest success in the history of the Dutch national team, also as a coach to win the European title. This time not in Munich but in Berlin.

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