Archive for the ‘Netherlands’ Category

This one could make waves, for several reasons. First, because it’s in supposedly friendly, progressive Holland. Second, because it involves an American, AZ Alkmaar’s Jozy Altidore (you can hear a little of it in the video above. Business Insider has the full story…more on this to come to be sure.

53 nations. 13 spots. For those of us in North America – Canada more specifically – the qualification process for the World Cup is a tough slog. I’m guessing our friends in Europe feel no sympathy. Yes, the heavyweights destroy the minnows – no offense, Faroe Islands. But the desperation felt by nations like Scotland and Serbia – who played to a scoreless draw today, is immense as each game takes on an almost surreal level of importance. Lets take a tour, shall we.

Bulgaria 2 – 2 Italy

Georgi Milanov’s second half strike salvaged a point for Bulgaria – the better side throughout – in Group B tussle at Vassil Levski Stadion. With apologies to Radamel Falcao, is there a more in form striker in the world than Pablo Osvaldo right now? The Roma star has scored twice in two Serie A games and added a double yesterday. Neither goal was of the exceptional variety, but you’re in form they come. In a group that features Denmark and the Czech Republic, a slow start from Italy could be dicey for Cesare Prandelli’s side.

Read the rest of this entry »

You could hear it in how high pitched her voice had become. The excitement and warmth towards the country was something I hadn’t expected from the middle aged lady but the way she drew a line under the past to focus on the present was admirable.

At the time it was hard for me to not think about the generation before her, those in their 60s and 70s, who lived through World War II when their neighbours had bombed them and killed thousands of innocent civilians who they knew as friends or family members.

Sixty-six years later, on the morning of a day in the middle of June 2006, my wife and I were making our way from Brugge in Belgium to Gelsenkirchen in Germany to watch Argentina take on Serbia & Montenegro in the World Cup. The three hour journey over two unmanned borders including a brief stop in Eindhoven to meet some locals and to grab some clogs to take home. The lady in the shop was very helpful as we found a pair and became more social when she found out we were heading to the football match in Germany.

“Have a great time there. It’s a wonderful country and the people are very friendly. We never used to like them you know? Now we’re as excited as they are to have the World Cup come here.”

Welcome to the 21st century where the Dutch let bygones be bygones.

Walking back to my car that morning I smiled as the image of Frank Rijkaard spitting on Rudi Voller in 1990 came into my mind. That day inside the San Siro these two countries hated each other.

The rivalry had been bubbling for some time on the football field. Two great nations battling in a knockout match at a major tournament once again meant memories of the past came flooding back.

Netherlands boss that day in 1990, Leo Beenhakker, would later say: “Beating Germany is something special. Losing to Germany, stays in the head, takes longer to recover from. It’s a massive emotional rivalry that’s all about one of the dark periods in Europe.”

Beenhakker is of course referring to a period that started on that fateful day of May 14th, 1940 when the Germans bombed Rotterdam killing 30,000 people in less than two hours and devastating the city, despite a surrender by Dutch forces prior to the raid. Germany began a five year occupancy of the Netherlands and when the war ended over 200,000 Dutch men and women had died.

Less than a decade after the war was over, a now divided Germany was allowed back into World Cup’s. The West German side would go on to produce ‘Das Wunder Von Bern” (The Miracle of Bern) in the 1954 final when they came from 2-0 down to beat the favoured Hungary side, 3-2. A new super power on the field was created. Five years later, in 1959, they humiliated the Dutch 7-0. At the time the Netherlands could only dream of playing like their neighbours.

West Germany would go on to play in the final of the 1966 World Cup and reach the semi’s in Mexico in 1970, tournaments the Dutch didn’t qualify for, but dreams in 1959 would soon become reality just over a decade on.

During the 1968-69 season, Hendrick Johannes Cruijff turned 22 and helped lead his Ajax side to their first ever European Cup final. His side would lose 4-1 that day to AC Milan but a valuable lesson had been learned. A year later Feyenoord went a step further, beating Celtic 2-1 in the final. Dutch football had arrived.

Cruijff’s Ajax went on to win three successive European Cup’s in 1971, 1972 and 1973, beating German champions Dynamo Dresden in ’72 on their way to glory and overcoming super power Bayern Munich on their way to a remarkable third straight Cup. The fluid, tactical system known as ‘Total Football’ had been born and extended to the national team who qualified for its first World Cup in 36 years. The destination? West Germany.

The Dutch blazed through their opponents, which included the likes of Brazil and Argentina, scoring 14 goals in six games on the way to the final. West Germany, however, struggled for momentum yet unconvincingly found themselves in another final. It would be the Dutch against the Germans in Munich for the title of World Champions.

“At that time it was still an issue in the minds of many people, that generation of players, still in their private lives, had consequences of the war. Some of the players afterwards said it was much more than a game,” said Beenhakker.

“We knew we were much better, we were not afraid at all”, added Cruiyff.

Englishman Jack Taylor blew the whistle to start the match and after 15 successful passes by the Dutch, Cruiyff was fouled in the box and his side were awarded a penalty. Johan Neeskens scored from the spot and West Germany trailed before they kicked the ball.

The hosts were not rattled, however, and after a Paul Breitner penalty made it 1-1, Gerd Muller scored to ensure the hosts had come from behind to lead at the interval. They would hold on to win their second World Cup leaving the Dutch crushed and stunned.

Johnny Rep would later confirm how the entire nation felt: “I think we thought we’d win it – a bit too sure of ourselves.”

After the World Cup, Cruiyff joined Barcelona and Bayern Munich took over from Ajax as the top club side in Europe, winning three successive European Cup’s in 1974, 1975 and 1976.

The Dutch did get further than their rivals at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina but once again it ended in tears as they lost to the hosts in the final, 3-1 after extra time. Two years later the pair were drawn together in the same group at Euro 80 in Italy, but the Dutch side was not the same and they would lose 3-2 to West Germany in Naples and fail to get out of their group. Eight days later West Germany were champions of Europe once again and the Dutch were left to reflect on a great era that was unable to get the better of the big bully.

By 1988 a new generation of players, inspired by Cruiyff, had come along and like the 1974 side before them headed to West Germany for another major tournament. They would once again meet their rivals, this time in the semi final in Hamburg and this time the Germans took the lead through a penalty, scored by Lothar Matthaus. Like the game fourteen years earlier, the game was leveled at 1-1 through a penalty and this time the Dutch would finally beat the Germans when Marco Van Basten hit the winner two minutes from time.

Captain Ruud Gullit would say: “It was already the final. Holland exploded, it was incredible. Almost like a revenge for 1974.”

The Dutch had done the hard work and did indeed go on to win the final against the Soviet Union to lift their first ever major championship.

The Germans didn’t have to wait too long to get revenge. At the San Siro in Milan during the 1990 World Cup, the Dutch, led by AC Milan’s trio Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard, were knocked out in the last 16 by their rivals who were inspired by their Inter Milan trio Andreas Brehme, Jurgen Klinsmann and Lothar Matthaus. The score was 2-1 but more people remember the incident on 20 minutes when Rudi Voller claimed to be fouled, something that incensed Rijkaard who confronted the striker and then spat in his hair. Voller was furious and the pair both got sent off. Two weeks later Voller was on the field in Rome when his team won a third World Cup title. Rijkaard, who later apologized, had no medal, simply regret.

The peak of their rivalry on the pitch had taken place and although hostility remained at Euro 92 when Netherlands beat Germany 3-1 in a group match only one team was left standing for the final and it wasn’t the Dutch. The Germans were now unified and the European Union was close to being formed. Suddenly an undivided continent was being created and the Germans and Dutch, similar people with similar likes and beliefs, realized just how alike they were, compared to other countries they now had to do business with.

By 2004, when they next met at a major tournament, the two countries were more than just friends.

Journalist Simon Kuper, who grew up in the Netherlands, added: “When we played together in 2004 in Portugal the crowd wasn’t segregated, German and Dutch fans were mixed and it was absolutely fine. There used to be hatred on the Dutch side but now there is only love.”

From the German point of view, fellow writer Raphael Honigstein agrees with Kuper: “This relationship has shifted because of the tremendous amount of Dutch players playing in the Bundesliga. The Germans have fallen in love with these players. The rivalry is a lot friendlier but it doesn’t mean the game (when they play each other) will be less intense.”

That will be put to the test on June 13th in Kharkiv when the Netherlands meet Germany once again. This time Marco Van Basten or Gerd Muller won’t be scoring the winner and it’s unlikely a player will spit at an opponent but these two giants of European football will be big rivals once again. Even if it is just for 90 minutes this time.

Kristian Jack

This morning in between an educated chat with Raphael Honigstein and note taking for this week’s Serie A matches I came across a hashtag on twitter that made the video archive system inside my head ticking.


Simple, right? Not quite. Whether you have watched this game for 25 years or 25 days you’ll have a few favourites and some will simply be because you were at that game or your favourite team or player scored. All of those reasons and more factor in for me so I decided to share mine with you. I’m sure there are some I forgot but here on a random Tuesday in April I present to you my favourite football goals. Baker’s Dozen style. Please feel free to share your favourites below. Enjoy.

13. Lothar Matthaus, West Germany vs Yugoslavia 1990.

12. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool vs West Ham, FA Cup final 2006.

11. Roberto Baggio, Italy vs Czechoslavakia 1990.

10a. 10b. Matt Le Tissier x 2, Southampton vs Newcastle 1993

9. Ryan Giggs, Manchester United vs Arsenal 1999.

8. Roberto Carlos, Brazil vs France 1997.

7. Marco Van Basten, Netherlands vs USSR, Euro 88 final.

6. David Platt, England vs Belgium 1990.

5. Dennis Bergkamp, Netherlands vs Argentina 1998.

4. Dennis Bergkamp, Arsenal vs Newcastle 2002.

3. Dalian Atkinson, Aston Villa vs Wimbledon 1993.

2. Carlos Alberto, Brazil vs Italy 1970 World Cup Final.

1. Esteban Cambiasso, Argentina vs Serbia & Montenegro 2006. (scored at the end I was sitting in five rows from the front).

Chaos at Ajax. Again.

The Ajax board in happier times

So, for reasons my non-Dutch brain can’t comprehend, Johann Cruyff’s victory in blocking the appointment of bitter rival Louis van Gaal as Ajax CEO precluded the resignation of the entire board en masse, including Cruyff himself:

The resignations of the five members follow an Amsterdam court decision on Tuesday banning the naming of Louis van Gaal as CEO. As well a Cruyff those standing down include Edgar Davids, the chairman, Steven ten Have, and the technical director, Danny Blind.

You can sort of understand the board resigning in protest against the Dutch legend, but why Cruyff? Did he not want to be the last buffoon standing? I did read a report that he will sit on the new one, which would support this explanation. Anyway, the irony of the club that founded a footballing system that stresses harmony of movement and purpose continues to be the source of bitterness and division.

Jerrad Peters shares his match notes from the day’s football action.

Parma 0-1 AS Roma, Stadio Ennio Tardini

What happened: Luis Enrique’s Barca-Roma experiment finally delivered a result as AS Roma dominated the second half against a spunky Parma side en route to a 1-0 win—their first victory of the season.

Style points: Pablo Osvaldo. The 25-year-old striker used all his neck muscles to head Roma into the lead just five minutes after the restart. Aleandro Rosi deserves mention for his superb cross from the right as well, but Osvaldo still had it all to do when he leaped at the ball from about 10 yards and sent it into the far corner of the net beyond a stranded Antonio Mirante.

From here: Roma’s first win of the campaign vaults them into 13th place in Serie A. They’ll host red-hot Atalanta next weekend (Atalanta have won three of their first four games but have only four points due to a match-fixing deduction) before going head-to-head with local rivals Lazio after the international break. Parma—now in the relegation zone—host Genoa next Sunday before facing fourth-place Napoli at the San Paolo.


Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Aston Villa, Loftus Road

What happened: A late Richard Dunne own goal denied Aston Villa the full three points, although the draw at QPR—who were exceedingly wasteful in the first half—allowed the guests to continue their unbeaten start to the season.

Style points: David Cameron. The British prime minister, along with his son, was in attendance to support Villa on Sunday afternoon. Given the responsibilities—many of them difficult and of vital importance to the prosperity of everyone else—of politicians, it’s refreshing to think they, like anyone else, enjoy the bit of escape that sport can bring.

From here: Villa’s unbeaten start comes with an asterisk. They have won just once in six outings and sit modestly in eighth place. They’ll welcome Wigan to Villa Park next weekend and will travel to Eastlands for a date with Manchester City following the international break. QPR—now ninth in the standings—have Fulham and Blackburn Rovers before Chelsea’s visit on October 23.


Werder Bremen 2-1 Hertha Berlin, Weserstadion

What happened: Claudio Pizarro’s 90th minute winner brought Bremen to within two points of leaders Bayern Munich and completed a comeback that began after Hertha Berlin—eventually reduced to nine men—opened the scoring after just three minutes.

Style points: Adrian Ramos. He played 63 minutes before being handed his marching orders for a second yellow card, but the 25-year-old Colombia international scored the best of the game’s three goals just moments after kickoff when he controlled the ball neatly in front of Sebastian Mielitz before scooping it over the Bremen ‘keeper. Ramos nearly created a second Berlin goal just 13 minutes later when he put Raffael in clear, but his good work was undone just after the hour-mark when he picked up a second booking for needlessly kicking the ball away after a whistle.

From here: Already out of the DFB Pokal Cup and having failed to qualify for European football last season, Bremen have only the Bundesliga to think about from here until May. They’re unbeaten in four league matches and will travel to Hannover next weekend before welcoming reigning champions Borussia Dortmund to the Weserstadion on October 14. Hertha Berlin—currently 12th in the table—will next host Cologne before a daunting trip to Bayern Munich.


AZ Alkmaar 2-1 Feyenoord, AFAS Stadion

What happened: Brett Holman’s late header earned Alkmaar the three points against scrappy, 10-man Feyenoord and vaulted them back to the top of the Eredivisie.

Style points: Rasmus Elm. Alkmaar went into the break on the losing end of an entertaining first half, but Elm had the hosts level on the hour-mark when his free-kick from 25 yards evaded both the wall and a helpless Erwin Mulder between the sticks.

From here: Alkmaar have now won seven matches on the trot, a stretch that goes back to mid-August and over which they’ve outscored their opponents a combined 25-3. They’re off to face Metalist Kharkiv in the Europa League on Thursday before traveling to VVV Venlo on Sunday. Their first match after the international break will be a showdown with Ajax in Amsterdam. Feyenoord, having now lost their first match of the season, will play their next two games at home—against ADO Den Haag and VVV Venlo—before traveling to Ajax for one of world football’s most vicious national derbies on October 23.

Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer

If you’re a Toronto FC fan, chances are you’ve heard the name ‘Ajax’ bandied about quite a lot at BMO Field these days. And no, I’m not talking about the Durham region suburb east of Toronto, but the Dutch Eredivisie club where many football historians believe the famous tactical system commonly known as ‘Total Football’ was born under Rinus Michels in the early 1970s. Ajax and Holland’s famous footballing system has many disciples, including TFC manager Aron Winters, but there is perhaps no player, manager or technical director who more symbolizes the aesthetic of possession football than Dutch legend Johan Cruyff.

Cruyff’s influence spans decades. Unlike many former international stars who go on after retirement to either wear a suit and join FIFA or UEFA or enter a broadcast booth, Cruyff can’t seem to stay away from football, both as a manager and now as an advisor. And it’s not a negligible influence either; it wouldn’t be a stretch to attribute Spanish football’s meteoric rise in the last five years—the tiki-taka success of the national team in winning the World Cup and Euro 2008, and FC Barcelona—to Cruyff’s stint as manager at Barca beginning in the late 1980s and continuing to 1996, where he laid the foundations for technically adept, possession football.

The problem of course is that Cruyff has always been, well, Cruyff. In one of the great contradictions of football history, the man who came to symbolize the Dutch tactical system based on balanced interplay between players and positions was also the most independent-minded player of his generation. Cruyff famously wore only two stripes on his Holland kit in the 1974 World Cup instead of the Adidas three because he had a personal sponsorship deal with Puma, something quite novel at the time. He said losing the World Cup final to Germany meant nothing to him, and he refused to travel with Holland to Argentina for the 1978 World Cup under mysterious circumstances (apparently he was the subject of a failed kidnapping attempt).

Read the rest of this entry »