Holland miss out on another big finals tournament
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