Posts Tagged ‘Cruyff’

Germany aren’t as good at football as Spain are

July 8th, 2010 No comments

Will the Dutch finally emerge from the stains of the 70s?  Down the years, the ongoing style of their play has been tarnished  by internal bickering creating at times laughable self induced implosion yet the elephant in the room of the collective Dutch football psyche is the memory of Munich on July 7th 1974.  Even lifting the European Championship trophy (ironically in Munich) has only papered over the cracks.  On Sunday they have the chance to exorcise their demons.  Their style is more pragmatic than their predecessors of 36 years ago but if the post semi final euphoric scenes in Amsterdam are a any barometer they are prepared to forego that for a chance of a crack at the big one!  Mind you, despite modern pragmatism, Cruyff or Neeskens would have been proud of Van Bronckhorst’s opener. 

If ever there was a 1-0 thrashing it was the semi final between Germany and Spain.  Germany missed the forward mobility of Muller but it’s unlikely his presence would have altered the result.  For minutes on end Germany just couldn’t get the ball.  Pedro was important.  His movement dragged the German defence out of their comfort zone.  Del Bosque proved he  could make the big decisions by omitting Torres from the starting line up and the decision making throughout the team was just as excellent.   The real decisive factor was that all the possession Spain had, and there was plenty of it, it was all for a purpose.  They played positive skillful football and played with their mind.  The irony was that for all the style and skill in this brilliant generation of players, the goal came from the old warhorse Puyol from a simple a method as a header from a corner!   And when Germany did press Spain didn’t just get men behind the ball… they had men behind the ball defending.  There was five of them everywhere.  And when it was required Casillas did his job well.   Class throughout the whole team.  I wonder how Raul feels seeing his compatriots making their mark on history.  His nation’s rich potential only started to be fulfilled when he’d been dumped…. coincidence?  Both semi finals were cracking games.  Well worth getting up at 4am for!!  

That sodding octopus was right again.  Paul is turning out to be my least favourite octupus ever…. and that’s saying something.  Never mind squelching around in a tank, if he had any sense he’d be at the bookies raking the money in.  What a waste of talent. 

It’s been a groundbreaking World Cup.  The first to be held in Africa.   The first time the hosts have failed to get through the group stage.  If Spain win the trophy it’ll mean the only unbeaten side in the tournament will have been New Zealand.  If Spain win it’ll be the first time a team has lost the first game and gone on to win the competition.  And whoever wins  it’ll definitely be be the first time a European team has won it outside Europe.   History being made all over the place.  Milestones appropriate to what has been an excellent tournament. 

Alex Ferguson has spoken out to say the pressure on Wayne Rooney was too high.  Well it’s understandable he’s defending his player but the point has to be made that Rooney was happy to declare he was about to ‘Write the Future”.  The pressure was intense but could it be any other way at an event of this magnitude?  The weight of expectation may well be overpowering at times but in choosing to do those adverts, for which we can assume he received handsome financial rewards, Wayne willingly contributed to his own burden.

The Dutch enigma

June 15th, 2010 No comments

There is something familiar about the current Dutch squad….rifts.   The Netherlands for many years have had their huge potential disrupted by infighting.   When he managed Chelsea, Ruud Gullit said he had deliberately triggered off some conflict in the squad claiming the creative tension was good for the team dynamic.  It wasn’t particularly good for the Dutch team dynamic in 1994 when Gullit himself stormed out of the squad.  As for the claim about ‘creative tension’ being good for the team,the facts suggest otherwise…the only time the  squad has been devoid of this squabbling was 1988 and they fulfilled their potential by becoming European champions.   The staggering thing is that in their current set up the tension is between Snejider and Van Persie and was partly triggered off by a disagreement over who should take a free kick.  For heavens sake, are they twelve years old??  In a squad of 22 people there is bound to be friction but are the egos really so huge and fragile?

In West Germany in 1974 The Netherlands played harmonious artistic football. Led by Cruyff the ‘Conductor of the orchestra’ they fulfilled manager Rinus Michels dream of total football….that being that each player could fit into each role in the team with a seamless transition. This created a dazzling display of kaleidoscopic movement which charmed the world.

There can be an intoxicating danger in knowing you have an ablity superior to that of all others. In the final against West Germany, The Dutch were awarded a penalty in the first minute by English ref Jack Taylor which Neeskens hammered home. This led to complacency….instead of playing the game they started to think they had achieved the dream of beating the Germans on their own soil. Fiercely competitive, West Germany started to play their way into the game and Breitner equalised with a penalty. With the Germans roared on by the home crowd Holland became bedraggled. It was no surprise when Muller gave them the lead shortly before half time. Then came the focal point of the whole game. Walking off at half time Cruyff was gived a yellow card for incessant arguing with the ref. Everything in the team went through Cruyff. He provided inspiration and the intelligence to execute their total football. But at half time the devastated conductor of the orchestra sat in the dressing room head in hands. His teammates sank with him and never recovered. West Germany became world champions.

To dismiss this as a Dutch failure is a story but not the whole story. It’s easy to forget that the West German side was filled with players who were worthy of World Cup winners medals. As with the Hungarians twenty years before, German pramatism had overcome style and grace. But the lesson to be learned is that football teams,however skillful and stylish, don’t win trophies at that level without discipline and reslience. A sobering reality but a reality all the same.