In the run up to the WC1978, most people thought Oranje would never ever be able to reprise their Germany 74 performance. When it became clear that JC wouldn’t go, the odds became even worse.
And why exactly didn’t JC come? Some thought he was injured and didn’t want to fail. Others said Danny didn’t want him to go due to that swimming pool incident in 1974. Who knows?
Much later, the real reason was finally published. For those who don’t know: sometime before the WC, some Dutch idiot traveled to Barcelona and broke into the Cruyff house, with Danny Cruyff at gunpoint. Any Dutch person traveling to Barcelona only had to ask where JC lived and any taxi driver would take him there. This bloke pretended to be a journalist and when Danny answered the door, he drew a gun (not loaded, it appeared later) and gagged her. Johan was told to go to the bank to get some cash. I can’t remember what actually happened… Either the neighbours spotted the arse or Danny freed herself, but someone called the police. When they appeared, the guy broke down and surrendered. He was disturbed and a sad case and all that. I’m not sure if he went to jail or not, but since that moment – close before the WC – Danny was scared to remain at home alone and JC promised her not to go to the WC in Argentina. There you have it.
Ernst Happel, the maverick mastermind who coached Feyenoord and HSV Hamburg to the EC1 cup, was selected to coach Oranje to the world title.
Willem van Hanegem wasn’t in his best form. Injured and somewhat disenchanted with Feyenoord. Happel couldn’t promise his former protege a starting position and decided with Willem, that De Kromme shouldn’t come. A bit like Seedorf and Oranje: Seedorf is too good (and too dominant) to bench. Same with Willem. If he can’t play, you shouldn’t take him.
So, Johan didn’t come, Willem didn’t come… The Dutch fans were in shock. Without them, what could we achieve…?
On top of that, a number of Dutch media people and entertainers, followed by leftish politicians thought Oranje shouldn’t even go at all. The Argentina junta wasn’t too serious about human rights and stories about the atrocities committed in Argentina found their way to the Dutch media.
A whole media-circus was started, Holland needed to boycott the tournament.
The Dutch fans seemed to lose interest. We wouldn’t be able to get results anyway. It was a long way from home. The political situation… How on Earth could we expect to do as well as in Germany four years before?
Ernst Happel took the following players to Argentina (still not a bad group):
Jan Poortvliet * Ruud Krol * Wim Jansen * Jan Jongbloed * Arie Haan * René van de Kerkhof * Willy van de Kerkhof * Rob Rensenbrink * Johan Neeskens * Johnny Rep * Ernie Brandts * Piet Schrijvers * Dick Schoenaker * Adri van Kraaij * Piet Wildschut * Wim Suurbier * Dick Nanninga * Jan Boskamp * Hugo Hovenkamp * Wim Rijsbergen * Pim Doesburg * Harrie Lubse
Lots of PSV players. Youngsters like Poortvliet, Brandts, van Kraaij, Wildschut and Lubse weren’t your regular football heroes, but Happel saw their potential for the WC. Part of the Dutch games had to be played a high altitude and good lungs were essential. Happel had a good eye for these sort of things.
What I remember from the first round is the late time the games were boradcast.
Holland didn’t start well at this WC. We beat Iran 3-0 in the first game, with three goals by Rensenbrink (two penalties). The match against Peru ended in 0-0. Peru would win the group by the way. The last group match was against the Scots, with one Kenny Dalglish and Archie Gemmill. Rensenbrink scored the 1-0 (again a penalty) but the Scots came back into the game thanks to the aforementioned players. John Rep scored the essential goal, allowing Oranje to go through. It was a tight one. And the fans back home really didn’t believe in any good things anymore.
In the second round, Oranje drew Italy, Germany and Austria. Not an easy task. The first game was against Austria. Coach Ernst Happel, from Austria, had mixed the Oranje team up severely. The youngsters were given a chance and Happel picked Piet Wildschut and Ernie Brandts. And Piet Schrijvers replaced goalie Jan Jongbloed. The Austria of 1978 was a tough oppnent, with Prohaska and Hans Krankl in their midst. Ernie Brandts, however, made an end of the Austrian hopes after six minutes. At half time, Oranje led 3-0, with another Rensenbrink penalty goal. We won 5-1 and Oranje fever started again, back in Holland.
Holland – Germany was the next match, and a sort of revenge opportunity for the lost finals in 1974. Sepp Maier was still their goalie and Cruyff’s marker Berti Vogts was still one of the defenders. The inventor of the schwalbe, Bernd Holzenbein, was also present. Beckenbauer was replaced by young Kalle Rummenigge and Gerd Muller was replaced by one Dieter Muller. No relation. Germany took the lead twice, and Holland equalized twice. The rocket of Arie Haan will still be remembered by Sepp whenever he ate fish that’s a bit off. The 2-2 meant Germany could forget the finals. If Holland and Italy would draw, Germany would have a chance, but our Eastern neighbors forgot to win against Austria. Hans Krankl scored two to send the Germans back to the Heimat. The winner of Holland – Italy would move on to the finals, to meet Brazil. Or so it seemed…
In 1978, not conceding goals was as important for the Italians as it is today. Dino Zoff was synonymous to keeping a clean sheet. Roberto Bettega impressed with his hairdo and the young Paolo Rossi was too light and young to make a difference. Rossi’s time would come, although he did score twice in the first round. Italy took the lead, thanks to an Ernie Brandts own goal. A sliding/back pass while Schrijvers had left his goal to block the ball. Not only did Brandts score, he also injured his goalie. Schrijvers wasn’t able to play the finals. On the second half, the same Ernie Brandts took revenge, by copying Haan’s goal against Germany: a thundering shot from outside the box, passed Zoff. Arie Haan couldn’t accept this stealing of thunder and decided to give Brandts, and Zoff, their comeuppance by hitting the ball even harder from 30 meters. The 2-1 was enough to reach the finals, and Haan’s two goals would make him world famous.
Argentina would do the impossible in the other group: beating the strong Peru by 6-0, there with ousting Brazil from the finals. Holland had to face the host nation, again.
I remember the stadium being filled with an enormous amount of paper snippets and the hurricane like sound coming from the stands. It was clear that the organizers and fans wanted Argentina to win. With that support, they already were half a goal up. It was clear in the second round that Argentina got some help. They needed to beat Peru with a lot of goals, which seemed impossible with Peru’s form and quality in those days. The 6-0 win meant Brazil went home (arch-nemesis Brazil was definitely not supposed to play for the title in Argentina) and it also meant someone or some team received a nice Christmas bonus that year… The psychological warfare started at the toss. Rene van der Kerkhof had broken his hand and was playing with a manchette. The ref in the game against Italy was fine with it, but Daniel Passarella, the Argentine skipper, objected to the plaster hand of the quick right winger and the ref was cajoled into forcing the Dutchman to take the plaster off. Ernst Happel had seen worse storms in his life and knew how to play the game. Without help from grandmaster Johan C. (who was with Danny in Spain) the stoic Austrian told all Dutch players to grab their stuff and leave the pitch. Happel knew he was playing with fire, but the ref didn’t have the cojones to allow this happen and decided to allow Rene van der K. to play with his plaster. A psychological win for Ernst “Kein Geloel” Happel.
Ernie Brandts, scoring twice in this match. Once for Italy, once against them…
But there was more. After every match, the players needed to pee in some cup for doping control. Only the urine of the Argentine players was taken to a remote lab via a helicopter. Some time after the match, it became clear that one of the Argentines was actually pregnant… Yeah right….
Anyway, the game… Argentina scored the first goal – Mario Kempes scoring – in the first half. In the second half, Holland never looked like scoring and Happel did something that most fans couldn’t understand. Golden Goose John Rep, the guy with luck in his shoes and scoring many an important goal for Oranje, was taken off for Dick Nanninga, the 1978 version of Vennegoor of Hesselink.
In the 82nd minute, Happel was proven right.
René van de Kerkhof crossed the ball in to the penalty spot, where Dick Nanninga came gliding in for a typical Nanninga header: 1-1. A couple of minutes later, Oranje deserved a penalty when Johan Neeskens was clearly fouled in the box. A couple of 100 million viewers in the world saw this, except for the referee. But in the dying seconds, Ruud Krol gets to take a free kick. The ball is sent to Rob Rensenbrink who seems out of balance, but is capable of caressing the ball past goalie Fillol. The ball rolls tauntingly slow towards the goal but hits the bar. No goal. No victory for Oranje. No World Cup.
The extra time (2 x 15 minutes) was too much for Oranje. Kempes scored his second and Bertoni even scored the 3-1. Holland lost again to a WC host.
After the World Cup lots of conspiracy theories came to the fore. With Argentina’s semi finals game against Peru being the one that raised some brows.
Very recently more information came out on that topic but the Dutch internationals felt it was of no use to challenge the end result of the World Cup 1978. If Peru sold the semis to Argentina, Holland would be the rightful title holder for the record, but that’s clearly not how we want to win it (Bert and his merry troupe experienced this Dutch purity when they almost won Gold in South Africa with “shameful un-Dutch football….).
Thanks to Lucas Bezembinder
Here are the high lights of the games:
Holland vs Iran
Holland vs Peru
Scotland vs Holland
Holland vs Austria
Holland vs West Germany
Holland vs Italy
FINALS: Argentina vs Holland