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Total Football

24 Mar

Johan Cruyff, Holland

Being of a certain age, oh alright then an old git, I can remember England winning the 1966 World Cup but only faintly. I do recall the brilliant Brazilians of 1970 and what a team they were, but the first World Cup I really watched avidly was the 1974 tournament and in particular the magnificent Holland team with their “total football”

I was a young factory machinist back in 74 (And I have worked my way up to an old factory machinist now!) and being football daft I organised a World cup sweep with the premise that I would have the last team left in the hat. That last team happened to be Holland.

Holland at that time were not thought to be anything special and didn’t even qualify for the 1970 tournament. In fact they only just made it through the qualifiers topping their group on goal difference from Belgium. I wasn’t confident of winning the sweep and was slightly disappointed with my draw, how soon that would change!

The squad names that I studied intently went on to become football legends… Arie Hann, Van Hanegem, Wim Jansen, the brothers Rene & Willy van der Kerkhoff , Rudy Krol, Rob Rensenbrink, Johnny Rep, Johan Neeskens, Wim Suurbier, De Jong, and the complete footballer Johan Cruyff.

This plethora of football talent was led by one the greatest managers of all the time Rinus Michels.

At 6pm on Saturday the 15th of June 1974 I was sat in front of the television keenly watching my adopted team take on Uruguay in their first game. The team were resplendent in their orange kit and their bright football matched their colours. It took Holland only 16mins to open their account Rep heading home but it was their style of football that set them apart from the rest. The team were supremely fit and attacked ceaselessly often throwing defence to the wind. The Uruguayans resorted to fouling and it was no surprise to see them reduced to 10 men. Rep wrapped the game up 6mins from time but it could and should have been much more. I was delighted! This was “MY team” I checked my wall chart for the next game, Sweden, hah we would murder em’

Wednesday 19th June 19:30pm v Sweden

hol 74

Well it wasn’t quite “murder” the game finished 0-0 and it wasn’t the best of matches either but it did produce one moment of magic that will never ever be forgotten, the Cruyff turn was born. Receiving the ball with his back to goal and with Swedish defender Gunner Olsson in close attendance, Cruyff looked to cross the ball but then swivelled and took the ball in the opposite direction leaving Olsson as bemused as a child on the receiving end of a magicians trick. Pure genius.

Sunday 23rd of June 16:00pm

Holland 4 v Bulgaria 1

Holland were back, two penalties from Neeskens (8, 45mins) a Rep goal (71mins) and a De Jong goal (88mins) sent them through to the next phase, an o.g. from Krol being the Bulgarians only reply.

For the World Cup of 74 it was decided to do away with the Quarter Finals & Semi Finals and instead have two groups of four with the top two teams qualifying for the Final. Holland were paired with Argentina, East Germany & Brazil.

Wednesday 26th of June 19:30pm

Holland 4 v Argentina 1

This was one of the best if not the best games of 1974. Argentina were themselves a cracking football side and were by no means a pushover. Unfortunately for them they came across a Dutch side that hit top form. If I had any lingering doubts that my team were special this game removed them all, this side was outstanding.

Cruyff was the conductor orchestrating everything; the man was immense inspiring his team-mates to new levels. The master opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a brilliant goal superbly controlling Van Hanegem’s chip before rounding the keeper and slotting home from a narrow angle. Krol (25th min) Rep (73rd min) and Cruyff again (88th min) wrapped up this enthralling game.

Sunday 30th of June 16:00pm

Holland 2 v East Germany 0

Well after the heights of the Argentina game this was a more workman like display. To be truthful the Dutch wonders played within themselves and did what was necessary rather than take undue risks, and who could blame them? The weather didn’t help and the game was played in a constant downpour. An early goal from Neeskens settled Holland and a more restraint display than normal saw them take control. Rensenbrink scored their second in the 59th minute and that was that. Now only one team stood between Holland and the final…Brazil.

Wednesday 3rd of July 19:30pm

Holland 2 v Brazil 0holland

This was the ugly side of Brazil, gone was the beautiful football of 1970, in it’s place was a bruising physical team who ironically adopted a European style of play when the side they were about to meet were playing a sublime South American style of football with it’s  reliance on skill. It was a rough tough game and the Dutch team had to fight fire with fire, and then out of the blue came a marvellous goal. In the 50th minute a free kick from Van Hanegem was played to Neeskens, he knocked it wide to Cruyff and carried on with his run into the penalty area, Cruyff chipped a brilliant ball back to Neeskens who carefully volleyed it over the goalkeeper. The second goal was also superbly worked, Krol crossing hard for Cruyff to volley in low. Brazil’s misery was complete late in the game when Pereira was sent off. Brazil had lost their golden sheen and their crown, a team in orange were now the torchbearers for the beautiful game and football supporters all over the world willed them to win their last game, the final against the host country…West Germany.

Sunday 7th of July 16:00pm

Holland 1 v West Germany 2

This was the first game of the World Cup that I watched away from home, in Skegness to be precise, Billy Butlins. Whilst the rest of my family went  to watch the delights of the donkey derby or the knobbly knees competition, I set off for the TV lounge. As usual I was on the last minute foolishly thinking nobody else would bother to watch it. Imagine my dismay when I got to the lounge and it was packed! Now I’m not normally a pushy type of person but this was “MY” team, who were all these JCL? With my bright orange t-shirt on I pushed my way to the front and sat crossed legged on the floor with all the little kids, my face pillar post-box red. Jack Taylor was the referee and the kick off was delayed because the corner flags couldn’t be found. When it did start Mr Taylor awarded Holland a penalty in the first minute!  Cruyff was fouled by Hoeness and Neeskens coolly beat Maier from the spot, Germany had yet to touch the ball! This early goal with the prize so near led to Holland sacrificing their flamboyancy for a more cautious approach. This encouraged the strong German side to take a hold on the game. It’s easy to say that Holland with their superior skill could have seized the prize if they had played their normal game but the Germans are nothing if not resilient and they drew level with a contentious penalty Breitner the scorer (25th min) Gerd Muller then swivelled and scored the winner (43rd min) and despite some late Dutch pressure the game was over. West Germany won the World Cup but Holland won the hearts of football fans with their total football and their names will always be revered whenever men gather to talk about the beautiful game.


Tony Topping.