Video of the Day: Netherlands vs Argentina, June 1974
It’s difficult to imagine the extent to which the Dutch football teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s must have looked, to contemporary audiences, as if they had landed on the earth from outer space. Feyenoord and Ajax took four consecutive European Cups between 1969 and 1973, and any lingering pretensions that the England team that was knocked out of the tournament by Poland in qualifying may have been ill-starred were rendered obsolete by the Dutch national team’s performances at the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany. The lumpen English were irrelevance in comparison with the Netherlands and West Germany, two national teams who took the international game to a new plane that summer.
The Dutch started slowly, with a workmanlike win over a tepid Uruguay team and a goalless draw against European middle-rankers Sweden. In their final group match they brushed aside Bulgaria by four goals to one, but the lingering suspicion remained that the world hadn’t seen the best of this team of exceptional individuals just yet. The 1974 World Cup finals had two group stages and only the winners of the second group stages would go on to play in the final in Munich, so a strong start to the second group phase was critical. The Netherlands’ opponents in that first match were Argentina, who had been a little underwhelming in the first group stage but would be hosting the tournament in four years time and, perhaps, had a point to prove after having failed to qualify for the 1970 finals and having been knocked out by England in controversial circumstances four years prior to that. On this particular evening in Gelsenkirchen, though, it was the Dutch team that truly came of age. Commentary comes from Hugh Johns, with Sir Alf Ramsey summarising.
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