One for the old times


Argentina vs. Holland

When they jump to the field this Wednesday, probably John HEITINGA will be sitting on the bench, and with him the mythical ‘oranje’ number 14 that once belonged to the great Johan CRUYFF.

For the Albiceleste, ‘El Matador’ KEMPES won’t be terrorising the Dutch defense like he did in 1978. Instead, his number 10 (which now belongs forever to a certain Diego Armando MARADONA) will be on RIQUELME’s back.

In short, Argentina and Holland will play another episode of a great World Cup rivalry that saw them play three times in history.

Holland have won 2 of those 3 matches, but Argentina have won the most important for sure.

Like this Wednesday, the first time the ‘Albiceleste’ and the ‘Oranje’ played against each other in a World Cup was in Germany, but 24 years ago.

Those were the days of the ‘Clockwork Orange’ (known to all of us in Argentina as: La Naranja Mecánica, of course!). Rinus MICHELS and his concept of Total Football were setting the world alight. They won Group 3 with 2 wins (Uruguay 2-0; Bulgaria 4-1) and 1 draw (Sweden 0-0) and advanced to play against Brazil, East Germany and Argentina in the second group stage.

Gelsenkirchen saw Argentina playing the top of their game last Friday against Serbia & Montenegro, but 24 years ago, we suffered a total humiliation by CRUYFF and his mates. It was 4-0 to Holland with Johan scoring a brace and Ruud KROL and Jonny REP also in the scoreboard.

Then Holland advanced to the final and they lost to Germany on their way to become the greatest team ever to fail to win the World Cup.

Four years later the World Cup was hosted by Argentina (with our country living its darkest hour under a terrible military government guilty of killing –or disappearing- 30.000 people). Johan CRUYFF didn’t attend to that World Cup and it was believed he refused to join his team because he was against the military government. Later on there was another version saying he didn’t come to Argentina for the World Cup because he choose to stay with his wife.

In any case, his absence might have prove to be crucial as Argentina defeated Holland in the final match after 90 minutes with a 1-1 score (Mario KEMPES (ARG) and Dick NANNINGA (NED)).

NANNINGA, who scored for Holland had an incredible chance to win it near the end, but his effort hit the post and the match went to extra time.

Then Mario KEMPES and Daniel BERTONI had the final saying and Argentina won the World Cup for the first time. Denying an impressive Dutch team which was runner-up twice in a row.

20 years after that memorable day in Buenos Aires, Holland and Argentina were to play again in a World Cup. This time it was a knock-out stage: Quarter finals, France ’98.

Argentina defeated England on penalties in the second round, while Holland, through an Edgar DAVIDS’ 92nd-minute strike advanced against Yugoslavia (2-1).

Patrick KLUIVERT drew first blood for Holland, while Claudio LOPEZ equalised for Argentina.

Gabriel BATISTUTA hit the post in which would have been the winner for Argentina but the match was going to extra time again, only 20 years later. But one minute before the final whistle, a long pass towards the Argentina box, a mistake by CHAMOT and a lethal Dennis BERGKAMP, dribbling past Roberto AYALA, were just enough to beat goalkeeper Carlos ROA and the Dutch advanced to face Brazil in the semis.

With nothing at stake, compared to the previous encounters between these two footballing powers, this match in Frankfurt still have some magic about it and everybody in Holland and Argentina wants to win this one, because maybe, just maybe, we could meet again in Berlin, for the biggest match in the history of this rich rivalry.

What’s your all-time favourite memory about Argentina vs. Holland in the World Cups? Is it KEMPES’ brace in 1978? Is it CRUYFF’s magic in 1974? Maybe ORTEGA heading VAN DER SAR’s chin? Have a prediction to make?