- More Dutch devastation as Oranje miss out again
- After 1974 Final loss, the Netherlands suffer more heartbreak
- Atmosphere at the Estadio Monumental in 1978 was "boiling"
Think Total Football and the Dutch football revolution of the 1970s, and chances are that the 1974 FIFA World Cup™ will immediately come into focus. Yet amid the frequent eulogies to Cruyff and Co and their dazzling near miss in Germany, it is often forgotten that the Netherlands went closer still four years later.
Whereas Gerd Muller landed an ultimately decisive blow before half-time in the 1974 final, it took extra time to settle the 1978 decider – and only after the Dutch had been millimetres away from winning.
Not that it was ever going to be easy, of course. Once again, and this time without their talisman Cruyff, the Oranje went into the Final against the might of the host nation. And while an army of their supporters had been able to make the journey across the border four years earlier, this time the atmosphere was altogether more partisan – and volatile.
As Rudi Krol recalled in the book ‘Brilliant Orange’: “We were in a hotel outside Buenos Aires and they took us a very long way round to the stadium. The bus stopped in a village and people were banging on the windows, really banging and shouting ‘Argentina! Argentina! Argentina!’ We couldn’t go backwards or forwards. We were trapped. For 20 minutes we stood in a village like this and some players were really frightened because the crowd was really banging and pushing on the windows of the bus.”
The atmosphere in the Estadio Monumental was no less welcoming. Johnny Rep would later describe it as “boiling” and, backed by the vociferous 70,000-plus crowd, Argentina ultimately prevailed in extra time. The Netherlands’ golden generation’s chance had passed, and the reaction of Johan Neeskens in this evocative image offers a flavour of what it’s like to lose successive World Cup Finals.
Yet the match might not have ended this way, or even have reached extra time, but for a famous - or infamous for the Dutch - incident seconds from the end of the regulation 90. Robbie Rensenbrink will certainly never forget the moment he broke through and, from a tight angle and under heavy pressure, shot against the face of the post. "Of course, it's engraved in my memory," he told The Herald newspaper in 2014. "It'll be there until my dying day.
”If the trajectory of my shot had been five centimetres different, we would have been world champions,” he added. “On top of that, I would have been crowned top scorer and perhaps chosen as the best player of the tournament – all in the same match.”
As it was, the Netherlands remained the tragic heroes of the 1970s, and the nearly men of the World Cup.
Did you know?
The 1978 World Cup Final is commemorated at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich with two of the finalists’ jerseys: one worn by Argentina’s Americo Gallego, the other by the Netherlands’ Ruud Krol.