Ruud Doevendans

Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of the World Cup.

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A post and a referee helped Total Football a lot

    It could have been totally, totally different. Holland’s Total Football of 1974 could have never existed. During the qualifications, Holland were more than once very close to elimination.

    Holland, Belgium, Norway, Iceland. That was the draw for qualification group 3, European zone, for the World Cup 1974. It brought two old enemies together, Holland and Belgium having a long and illustrious history behind them from 1905 on, when Eddy de Neve’s four goals gave the Dutch their first international win. For many years Holland and Belgium played two Derbies of the Low Lands, and these were the most dramatic matches of the year for both countries. Norway and Iceland would be nothing more than cannonfodder in this group. Just to add to your goaldifference, but in that respect still very important. And that’s how it happened. Although Belgium needed three penalties to score a total four times against Norway, and the Scandinavian amateurs could have surprised the Dutch when they nearly held on for a 1-1 draw, until a masterly backheel by Cruijff put Hulshoff free, who scored a hardfought winner in Oslo. But all in all, it was clear that the last match between Holland and Belgium would decide, who would go to Germany.

    The first match between Belgium and Holland had taken place on november 19, 1972 in “De hel van Deurne”, the Antwerpen-stadium. It turned out not to be a soccermatch, but a fight, a battle. When it became clear that it would be very difficult to grab a win, Holland went for a 0-0. Both goalkeepers, Christian Piot and Jan van Beveren, were in magnificent form that night, although the Dutch Giant had no chance when leftback Jean Thissen beat him with a powerful left-footed shot, that hit the post. Holland, that had played a very physical match, escaped for the first time. Their best teammate had been the left post next to Van Beveren.

    Because Holland won 1-2 in Norway, with that late Barry Hulshoff goal I mentioned before, Belgium had to win the last match, on november 18, 1973 in the old Amsterdam Olympic Stadium. Holland had the far better goaldifference, a 9-0 humiliation of Norway helped a lot. I remember the match in Amsterdam very well, it was – after the Oslo game two months earlier – the second game a saw live on television in my life. I remember I had difficulties keeping Paul Van Himst and Gilbert Van Binst apart, their names being almost the same. My father gave me my first football-lessons: “Van Himst is the one with the armband, he plays in attack near the Dutch goal. Van Binst is a defender, he plays just in front of the Belgian goal.”

    We all expected Belgium to play “all or nothing”, but no: nothing like it. They defended with everything they had, and Holland didn’t know what to do. Hold on for a draw, or try to win the match and take the risk that one Belgian counter-attack would throw everything to tatters. Holland had to miss goalkeeper Jan van Beveren and sweeper Rinus Israël because of injuries, but their substitutes Piet Schrijvers and Aad Mansveld were never seriously tested. On the other end, Belgium goalie Christian Piot made some fine saves, especially on a Johnny Rep header, that could have decided the whole thing. But Piot managed to tip the short range effort wide.

    The last 15 minutes, and still no pressure from Paul Van Himst and his men. We couldn’t believe our eyes. Didn’t these guys want to go to the World Cup? Were they thinking that a second spot would still give them a play-off, or what? Then, one minute from time, Johan Neeskens fouled Van Himst like he had done numerous times before, and the Belgian captain took the free kick himself. Holland tried the off-side trap. Piet Schrijvers misjudged the curling ball that landed at the far post, for Jan Verheyen to tap it in. Bang!!! No World Cup for Holland, down and out, end of the show, eliminated once again.

    And this is were the Russian referee came in. And were Holland escaped for the second time during this qualificationseries. Pawel Nikolaiewich Kazakow changed the history of the game. He gave off-side. The slow-motion of the situation let space for doubts, Verheyen seemed to be on-side when Van Himst touched the ball, and of course that was the moment that mattered. There was no protest whatsoever from the Belgian players, play went on immediately but we felt we had been extremely lucky. After having missed the World Cup 1970 and Euro 1972, this would have been a disaster for Dutch football, with all their talented players and all their European Cups under their belt. Looking back in time, we can say that there would never have been a Cruijff or a Van Hanegem at the World Cup.

    A few years ago, a new computerprogram was introduced at Studio Sport, Holland’s most famous sportsprogram. With this, it is possible to stop a certain situation on the field and watch it from different angles. One of the first situations they examined with it, was this Belgian goal from Verheyen that was disallowed. The computer showed clearly that Verheyen had not been off-side, not by a mile. We have to be very grateful to this referee from Russia. Without him, without his decision, Holland wouldn’t have made it to the World Cup 1974 at all, and their famous campaign that brought them to the final would never have taken place. And even now, we would have looked in a very different way to Dutch football, since this 1974 competition brought Holland worldwide fame for the first time.

    Belgian coach Raymond Goethals, never a daredevil in his whole career, after the Amsterdam-clash declared, that he praised Christian Piot for not letting in a single goal in 6 games. He told the world that he was very satisfied with the result. So were we.



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