Tag: Edgar Davids

Edgar Davids on Memory lane: World Cup 1998

The 1994 World Cup was a bit of a disappointment. Losing against the later winner sort of is a bandaid for the wound as the Dutch expression goes, but we didn’t have to lose that game as that particular Brazil was not that good. Or so we told ourselves…

After Advocaat, the nation wanted someone else and Guus Hiddink – of PSV Europa Cup fame – took the helm. His master class of learning was the EC1996 in England. A disastrous campaign, although it wasn’t so much an Oranje issue but an Ajax problem, Hiddink inherited.

But Hiddink learned fast. He took the right decision by sending Davids home and restoring order. More importantly he selected the right support team for the World Cup, inviting Rijkaard as assistant (who had a good feel of what the coloured Oranje players needed), Neeskens (all around good coach and Oranje legend) and Ronald Koeman.

The team Hiddink worked with in England showed quite some promise. Bergkamp, of course. Cocu. Seedorf. Davids. Players who developed and grew over the years and with the likes of Kluivert, Van Hooijdonk, Zenden and De Boer became quite a mature team.

Qualifying was easy. Hiddink finished first in a group with Belgium, Wales, San Marino and Turkey scoring 28 times in 8 games.

Holland was – as usual – seen as a potential winner of this World Cup. Although the usual suspects France (home country), Brazil and Germany were rated as high or higher.

The first game of the tournament for Holland was versus Belgium. The arch enemy of the Dutch. Hiddink started that game in a 4-4-2, the system he played with PSV and leaving Bergkamp on the bench. Goal machine Hasselbaink played next to Kluivert. We played them twice in the qualifications and we expected to beat them again in this first group game. But we didn’t. We lost. Not the game, as it ended in 0-0 but we lost Patrick Kluivert, who allowed himself to be provoked by Staelens and copped the red card.

The other opponents in the group seemed doable, with South Korea and Mexico as underdogs, but the latter was known to be a tough and pretty good opponent.

South Korea appeared an easy target and Hiddink must have made his name there, against Bum Kun Cha’s team. Holland won 5-0 in an impressive display with an outstanding Ronald de Boer and Phillip Cocu. Apart from them two on the score sheet, it was Overmars, Bergkamp – who started, and Pierre van Hooijdonk who relieved Dennis after 80 minutes.

With that performance, the world started to pay attention. A bit. As South Korea was not yet a force to reckon with. Next up Mexico. A fascinating albeit frsutrating game, with Oranje scoring twice very early in the game and seemed ready to take Mexico out altogether but the Mexicans fought back! They were no Mexican’ts… No gringo, they scored two late goals and secured a draw.

In the first knock out round, Oranje faced Yugoslavia. A dangerous opponent. Traditionally, a team full of highly skilled players and a football nation with an impressive pedigree. This Yugoslavia was getting a little bit older but was still impressive with names like Stojkovic, Savicevic, Mijatovic, Mihajovic and Stojkovic… All players employed by teams like Lazio Roma, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Sampdoria, to name a few. It was a tight match. Tough. A real battle. With even Dennis Bergkamp joining in the festivities… He scored the first for Holland but quickly in the second half the game was drawn. Yugoslavia gets to take a penalty and Oranje is lucky to escape when Mihjatovic rattles the woodwork. Oranje’s man of the tournament Edgar Davids scored the winner with a distance strike in the last minute of the game and that is when you know you have a chance to go all the way. Because that is having the luck of the champions…

In the quarter finals we met one of the favourites for the title, Argentina. And what a team it was: Batistuta, Veron, Ortega, Diego Simeone (yes him), Roberto Ayala, Zanetti (yes him) and coached by legend Danielle Passarella… In Marseille we took them on in a match that had it all. Great football, good goals, drama and red cards, balls on the post and a late winner. Probably one of the most amazing goals in the history of Dutch football.

Instead of my trying to explain what happened: watch this.

Only two games to go… Brazil in the semi finals and most likely France in the finals. Mario Zagalo’s team was having some problems. They didn’t play their usual creative game and gambled on Ronaldo’s brilliance. The young Inter and former PSV players almost succumbed under the pressure but scored the 1-0 against Oranje right after the break. Up to then, Holland (De Boer and Stam) were able to keep him from scoring but as per usual he found the net in his typical opportunistic style.

Holland outplayed Brazil in the second half and it seemed a matter of time for Oranje to score. Hiddink brought a midfielder for a defender in the 56th minute (Winter for Reiziger) and Van Hooijdonk replaced Bolo Zenden in the 75th minute (Zenden played for the injured Overmars). Van Hooijdonk deserved to get a penalty late in the extra time, after Kluivert had scored a massive header to equalise but referee Buljsaim ignored the push in the tall Forest player’s back and allowed the game to be played on.

1-1 after 120 minutes and a new penalty drama would ensue. After Zweden (1992) and England (1996), it would be Brazil (not known to be great penalty takers of stoppers for that matter) and goalie Taffarel would end up being the hero of the night. Frank de Boer and Bergkamp would score their penalties. But Phillip Cocu and Ronald de Boer would miss while all Brazilians scored theirs. With Kluivert and Van Hooijdonk on the pitch, one wonders what would have happened if these two would have taken the penalties, as one would expect….

Oranje played a last game, the little finals for the 3rd place, against Croatia, but in all honesty, I never even watched that game. I did see the Zenden goal, which was quite a special one. I also remember how his celebrations failed…

Despite not winning it (yet again) Hiddink did manage to garner a lot of credit for his work and Oranje is hailed as champions when they return. And Guus ends up signing a big deal with Real Madrid, while Cocu, the De Boer bros, Jaap Stam and Sar made nice transfers to other clubs.

Edgar Davids was the man of the tournament for many. He was the bad seed in 1996, sent home. But in 1998 he cuddled his coach in front of millions watching. The press-shy pitbull spoke once, recently, about the 1998 World Cup and what it meant to him.

Edgar Davids 2010

In 1996 Oranje failed. In 1998, Oranje impressed. With the same coach and practically the same players? How was that possible?

“It wasn’t expected I suppose. I played at Juve and people asked me “what are the Dutch going to do?”.. We were known as the imploding team. We had issues in 1990 and 1994 and then with me in 1996. But we made good agreements. We learned from that. We decided to check our egos at the door and go hard for the team and each other. We were all very proud. We wanted to show the world what we could do. And it was a tremendous tournament. The best time at Oranje ever, for me. The coaches had developed more, the players were more mature and lots of us played at European top clubs. The mix was ideal between shrewdness, youthful optimism, skills, experience and grit. We really wanted to wipe out the 1996 experience. What also helped, was that everything off pitch was really well organised. We had a lot of free time. The balance between work and play was good. And we had an amazing hotel just close to Monte Carlo, close to the Mediterranean. It was superb.”

A lot of improvements versus 1996?

“Well for me, yes…key things. The food options were better and we could use our own physios. For players, that is crucial. Hiddink was smart like that. And he didn’t want offend the KNVB so he rented rooms in a hotel next door, hahaha. That is where the so-called non-KNVB physios stayed. Also, Johan Neeskens was assistant coach and that was special for me. As a kid, he was my hero. And to train with him was just amazing.”

You insulted Hiddink in 1996 and told him he was unfair and biased. He banned you from representative football. Did that hurt?

“To be honest? At first, it didn’t. I had more time for myself. The qualification games can be horrific. Flying to Helsinki or Minsk or Malta… Playing on a bad pitch against players who are out to hurt you. But when the World Cup came on the horizon I started to feel the itch… Hans Jorritsma was instrumental. He arranged a meeting in Italy. I told him: “Beautiful words aren’t always true. And true words aren’t alway beautiful”. That struck a chord with him. Since then we were good.”

How do you look back on that incident now?

“We had a difference in culture and age groups in England. I think that this new generation deserved to play. We were better. And the better players need to play. I would have said something now again if I was in that situation. But I would have said it differently, hahahaha.”

edje zine

How was it to comeback into the group.

“Awkward. There was a lot of media and some players were a bit distant. But after half a day, all is normal. It depends how you perform, really. If you play well, you’re accepted. Easy as.”

You started on the bench against Belgium. But against South Korea we saw a very proud man listening to the anthem.

“I have always been super proud to be part of the Dutch national team.”

And then you ended up in the Team of the World Cup.

“When I arrived at Oranje I said: I am here for one reason only. To play top football and win that cup, hahahahaha.”

And in the knock out stages, you score the winner against Yugoslavia…

“Now that is a little boy’s dream eh? Scoring at the World Cup is superb but scoring the winner is super superb. And to score so late just after they missed a penalty. I was going nuts. We could have been sent home there and then you know?”

And then there was that touching embrace at the side line?

“Hahahaha, I never intended that. It just happened. But it’s good when two people get close again after such a clash.”

After the Argentina win, the semi finals clash with Brazil….

“I remember we traveled their per helicopter. I was annoyed with that. I thought that was over the top. We enjoyed traeling by bus. Having fun, singing along a CD of Dutch songs… And suddenly someone decided on that chopper to save time.”

“I was so intensely focused on winning against Brazil. I wanted to beat them the most. That is the ultimate football nation. We could have done it. We were never great in penalty kicks but I do think we would have beaten France in the finals. Brazil was weak.”

ed argent

How do you look back?

“Still gives me a headache. Because I wanted to win that Croatia game too. But most of the players had taken a beating by that loss vs Brazil so we were not there. We lost.”

How do you see Holland perform at this World Cup?

“I think Holland is an outsider. Everytime we did well, we were outsiders. Everytime we are favourites, we end up disappointing. But there are many contenders this time around. Our group is already tough with Spain and Chile although I don’t think Chile is as good as people say and Spain could be over the hill a bit. But it will be hard.”

Who is the Edgar Davids of this current team?

“If all goes well, they will all have some Edgar Davids in them. That is probably what the team needs: every player to have that mentality. Skills is not enough anymore.”

NL brazil 98

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The Big Ruud Gullit Interview (Pt 2)

Gullit current girlfiend

Ruud happy now with his current Mexican girlfriend

And we pick it up with Ruud, talking about the 1996 Euro in England. Another tournament where Holland seem to implode due to infighting.

In 1996, Edgar Davids was sent home by Guus Hiddink. What do you think was the core of the problem?

Ruud Gullit: “I was in England in 1996, but I haven’t seen it from the inside of course. It was an Ajax thing that seeped into Oranje. It wasn’t even between coloured and white lads, but between young and old. But the media turned it into a racist thing, as all the youngsters were coloured lads. And sure, the chef of Oranje didn’t know how to make Suriname food and all that but they key was that lads like Reiziger, Seedorf, Davids got paid way less than Blind, De Boer and other older Ajax players. The gap between young and old was huge. And Ajax had told the youngsters they should be proud to be playing for Ajax. That really hurt them. And I think they were also hurt that their skipper and other players didn’t support them. And they carried it with them and took it into Oranje.”

We don’t seem to learn from this?

“Yep, it’s a Dutch thing. We can’t help ourselves and we want to give our opinion all the time. I remember in Italy people having enormous trouble with that. Hierarchy is a big thing there. In Italy, players listened to the coach. And suddenly, there were three Dutchies asking Sacchi all the time “Why?”. He told us to come to his office if we had something to discuss. They simply don’t like that. They call us the professors of football in other countries. Because we are so hardheaded and know-it-alls. In England they told me: “You believe you invented football”. And I always say “But we did!”. Hahaha, look at those faces… But that mentality has given us a lot in the world. In sports, in business, in engineering… But we do forget that in other countries they think we are too direct, too blunt… But you see it in the way we want to play football. A bit naive, too attacking and too open. But our reputation abroad is superb. Look at how that trip to China and Indonesia went. Amazing. And Glenn Hoddle called me up recently. He is doing radio shows at the BBC now. Wanted to talk how Dutch youth development could help English football. That is a huge compliment.”

gullit chelsea

 Gullit winning the FA Cup at Chelsea with Di Matteo


How do you see the current Oranje squad?

“I like what Van Gaal is doing. It’s fun to watch Oranje again. I like it how the experienced lads need to fight for a spot. That is good. This mix of young and old is good for Oranje. Van Gaal has seen it well. But, with beautiful football alone you can’t win prizes. Ask Arsene Wenger.”

According to Van Gaal, there are eight other nations with more chances to win the World Cup than Holland. Do you agree?

“It’s a smart move by him. He’s covering himself a bit against huge expectations. And It’s probably realistic. Lots of players in the squad lack international experience. Playing against the opponents we had in the qualification series is not the same as playing Portugal, Columbia, Argentina or Italy. I don’t think we are without chances, but i don’t think we are amongst the faves. But Louis is an expert and he knows how to get the maximum from a group. And in 1988, we were not that seasoned. I just had one season in Italy, like Marco. Frank had a weird season. Koeman and Wouters were still in Holland, so was Vanenburg.”

Only the Koeman bros, Wouters and Van Basten are active as head coach. Why so few?

“I think most of them tried. Van Tiggelen, Vanenburg… I think Muhren always wanted to work with youth and Van Aerle never had the ambition but everyone has his own story. I mean Wouters… Come on… Great story. I always knew he would be a great coach. But that first job at Ajax was simply bad timing. He was revered at Rangers and seemed to be a good assistant more than head coach. But look at him now. Koeman is doing well at Feyenoord, after some difficult stints. You need some luck sometimes.”

When did you feel acknowledged as a good coach?

“Whoa, that was way back with Chelsea. We won the FA Cup. A big thing in England. I narrowly missed the cup final with Newcastle and with Feyenoord. People forget that. People tend to remember the last thing you did.”

Grozny… Not a great memory?

“Well, I do like to do left field, unexpected things, you know. People criticised my move to Grozny but I couldn’t care less. I am my own man. And it was quite a wonderful experience.”

Gullit Galaxy

Gullit with Becks at LA Galaxy



Do clubs find you with offers?

“Well, it’s a bit quiet, to be honest. I haven’t done great as a coach. I know this. And in all honesty, I don’t really profile myself as a coach, these days. I do have a score to settle with myself on that count. If a good club would come for me, I’d certainly consider it. But it’s not a must. I don’t need to prove myself to the outside world or anything. The key criterion is: will I enjoy doing this and is it a challenge. Because I love my life as it is now too.”

So what does an average week for Ruud Gullit look like?

“It doesn’t exist, haha. I travel a lot. My girlfriend lives abroad. I do analysis work for Sky Sports in England and Germany and I have several commercial gigs all over the place. My whole life I am offered interesting jobs, I enjoy that.”

Last year, the public saw you as an alternative to Louis van Gaal. National team manager. How did you experience that?

“I was very happy with that lobby. And it was the public, but also some influential media people (Johan Derksen, for one). It was a change from the way people approach me normally. People are highly critical of my career as a coach, as discussed, but still they could see my potential value as national coach. I was ridiculed for my work with Grozny and my private life was a mess ( Estelle Cruyff, Ruud’s wife had a public affair with a fighting champ and left Gullit). And then this candidate thing happened. It really touched me deeply. I have no idea where that suddenly came from. People did care about me and what I do. And then, I was asked to become the ambassador for the Rijksmuseum. I can still feel the emotions coming up thinking about those days. Those are big things for me.”

You need that acknowledgement?

“Maybe yes. The national team manager job is the highest job in football in Holland. And the Rijksmuseum is a key player in the cultural and historical realm of Holland. I am proud and grateful. When I told about all this in the tv program “De Wereld Draait Door” I could see later how I beamed with glee. That is something I hadn’t seen for years. For years, I couldn’t watch myself on tv. I found myself annoying. I didn’t see a happy man. Now, all is different.”

gullit married

Ruud marrying Johan’s niece Estelle. Didn’t end good.


But you appear to be so detached and relaxed?

“Well, I do feel the criticism. And now I feel like I can have some worth again. I remember that first official event for the museum. Queen Beatrix was there and suddenly someone comes up to me asking me if I had time for a talk with the Queen!! I was on Cloud Nine. I can’t remember a single word I uttered to her. I was so overwhelmed.”

If you look back…things you would have done differently? Any coaching activities you regret?

“No, none of that. I enjoyed all of them in a funny way. The criticism I received was always political. At Newcastle, they said I was shopping in Amsterdam. I have been working like this for many years. When I was successful at Chelsea, no one cared. At Newcastle, others made it into a problem to serve their agenda. I worked 4 days a week. That was my deal. I had field trainers and we worked well together. At Feyenoord, I may have relied too much on certain people in the organisation who were not too effective. In LA, well… It’s another culture. Football in the US… the travel, the sponsors… It’s hard to remain true to yourself. No my biggest regret in my career is not a coaching one, but was the World Cup 1994. I mean, we sadly missed 1986, then we had that horrific 1990 one. The 1994 World Cup was my last chance. And I really really really wanted to perform there. But yet again, the KNVB had bypassed Cruyff. For reasons we now only laugh about. Today, team managers are being paid top dollar. Back in the 90s, Cruyff wanted a decent salary. He was at Barca back then and demanded a similar sort of deal, for those two months.. And he wanted to pick his own staff. Of course!! He wouldn’t work with people who didn’t share his vision. Anyway, KNVB stifles it, picks Advocaat. Now, I don’t have anything against Dick. But when they didn’t get the message about the heat in Florida… The medical staff at Samp and Milan (Ruud was at Samdoria and returned to AC Milan that summer) were adamant about how to prepare for this. I discussed this with the staff and Dick and they sort of ridiculed it. Dick was also flippant about my role in the team. Said I had to prove myself. Was I still fast enough as a winger… I felt disrespected. I couldn’t get excited. I felt vulnerable. And I couldn’t face another debacle. Looking back at that World Cup campaign, with a bit more power, we could have won it. Brazil was not that great a team. Neither was Italy. We had exciting young lads in Bergkamp, Winter, Taument… I also should not have returned to AC Milan that summer. Another regret. But, making mistakes is not bad. It always brings you new things. Not doing anything, that is not good. But I am grateful that I always took risks…”

Gullit 94


Advocaat and Gullit at press conference where Gullit announces to leave the World Cup 1994 squad

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