Italy undone by Haan’s howitzer

  • Arie Haan celebrates Netherlands reaching 1978 World Cup Final

  • Haan’s second spectacular long-range goal booked place

  • Michels: “Dutch players are encouraged to shoot”

Think about the Netherlands teams of the 1970s and chances are you will picture the fluid, intricate play most commonly associated with ‘Total Football’.

But while experts in controlling and caressing the ball, those Dutch sides weren’t averse to giving it a simple, old-fashioned whack. And that tactic tended to prove just as effective. “We scored some really beautiful goals in those World Cups,” Rinus Michels would later reflect. “I think it’s because Dutch players are encouraged to shoot, and of course we had some brilliant strikers of a ball in those teams.”

Long-range strikes proved a particularly dominant feature of the Oranje’s 1978 campaign, and their star man in this respect was undoubtedly Arie Haan.

The Ajax and Anderlecht legend was famous for his versatility, and could be seen excelling in defence, attack and in both defensive and creative midfield roles for club and country. But he is perhaps best remembered for his booming shots, and the most famous of all came in the 2-1 victory over Italy that took the Dutch to a second successive Final.

Scoring from almost 40 yards was remarkable enough; beating a goalkeeper of Dino Zoff’s calibre from that distance ensured the goal’s place in World Cup folklore.

This image captures Haan celebrating that victory and match-winning strike, and the holding up of two fingers was significant in a couple of respects.

The Netherlands had, after all, beaten Gli Azzurri thanks to two long-range stunners, scored by Haan and Ernie Brandts, the player whose arm is draped around him. But the Oranje’s utility man could also have been signifying that it was his second such goal, having already netted a spectacular effort from distance in his team’s previous match against old rivals West Germany.

Either way, Haan departed Argentina having again missed out on the title, but with his place as a World Cup icon strengthened and assured.

Did you know? The FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich has a section dedicated to every edition of the FIFA World Cup. This is what the 1978 showcase looks like.