Oc­to­ber 2001

Hol­land miss out on an­other big fi­nals tour­na­ment

World Soccer - - World Soccer -

Her­nan Cre­spo, top scorer in Ar­gentina’s suc­cess­ful World Cup qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign, was the cover star. How­ever, one team who would not be go­ing to Ja­pan and South Korea was Hol­land.

Si­mon Ku­per grew up in Hol­land in an era when they failed to qual­ify for the World Cup in 1981 (los­ing to France) and 1985 (los­ing to Bel­gium), and he tried to ex­plain why the Dutch had now failed to reach the 2002 fi­nals.

“Those de­feats weren’t half as shame­ful as the 1-0 loss to the Repub­lic of Ire­land which put Hol­land out,” wrote Ku­per. “In 1981 Hol­land lost be­cause the great gen­er­a­tion of the 1970s had grown old. In 1985 it was be­cause [Ruud] Gul­lit and co weren’t ready yet.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ku­per, there was no ex­cuse for de­feat at Lans­downe Road.

“You don’t lose a World Cup in just one match,” he ac­knowl­edged. “That the Oranje went to Dublin need­ing to win in the first place was due to ar­ro­gance.

“Ar­ro­gance, be­cause af­ter Euro 2000 Hol­land had taken to as­sum­ing that turn­ing up would gen­er­ally en­sure vic­tory. The Dutch tend to view foot­ball as a sort of dry syn­chro­nised swim­ming, a sport in which points are awarded on aes­thetic grounds. That wasn’t go­ing to work against Por­tu­gal.”

Por­tu­gal had won 2-0 in Rot­ter­dam and Ire­land had drawn in Am­s­ter­dam. A year later, the Ir­ish ham­mered the fi­nal nail into the Dutch cof­fin.

“Hol­land could still eas­ily have got the three points in Dublin,” ex­plained Ku­per. “In the first half they were brilliant, cre­at­ing a cav­al­cade of chances, re­mind­ing us that much the same play­ers had got within a cou­ple of penalty kicks of the Fi­nal of the last Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship and World Cup. Then Arthur Nu­man was car­ried off with a head in­jury. For sev­eral min­utes Hol­land played with 10 men and they chose to waste time. The bat­tered Ir­ish were de­lighted to let this hap­pen.

“When Nu­man re­turned, Hol­land’s rhythm had gone. They hadn’t yet scored and they be­gan to worry. On the bench, coach Louis Van Gaal pan­icked and

“The Dutch tend to view foot­ball as a sort of dry syn­chro­nised swim­ming, a sport in which points are awarded on aes­thetic grounds”

re­placed wingers Marc Over­mars and Boudewijn Zen­den with cen­tre-for­wards Pierre Van Hooi­j­donk and Jimmy Floyd Has­sel­baink. Field­ing four cen­tre-for­wards and no wingers was a tac­tic last tried by Ger­many against Croa­tia in the World Cup quar­ter-fi­nal of 1998. It didn’t work then.”

Ku­per re­vealed that af­ter the match, “Van Gaal half-re­alised what had gone wrong. ‘We used the long ball too much,’ he told re­porters. It’s a shame there wasn’t an eight-year-old on hand to tell him that with four cen­tre-for­wards and no wingers the long ball is what you get.”

Con­clud­ing, Ku­per ar­gued that there was no ob­vi­ous al­ter­na­tive to take over from Van Gaal, who should there­fore stay in the job. Van Gaal him­self had said his in­ten­tion was “to win the World Cup”.

“This will not hap­pen,” stated Ku­per. “To any Dutch foot­ball fan just en­ter­ing ado­les­cence, my ad­vice is to seek your thrills else­where.”

Out...Hol­land fail to make the 2002 World Cup

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