Heartbreak for Holland

When Holland and Spain made it to the 2010 World Cup Final at the expense of Uraguay and Germany respectively, I was happy for both teams. To me, it is good to have a new team to be crowned champions. They will be only the second team in forty years, after France, to break the stranglehold of Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina.

While I congratulate Spain for lifting the World Cup after beating the Netherlands in the Final today, I feel for the losers. It must be heartbreaking for countries to have failed after reaching the final for the third time. I do wish that they will take heart and their time will come.
I remember the two previous losses clearly, especially the first. It was in 1974 when the team branded "The Flying Dutchmen" took the world by storm with their Total Football. Instead of having specialised positions, individual players became strikers, midfielders and defenders as and when required. The newly-introduced off-side trap also caught their opponents by surprise. The star-studded side stormed to the Final against the host nation West Germany beaming with confidence. When the team with household names such as Arie Haan, Johan Neeskens, Wim van Hanegem, Wim Jansen, Theo de Jong, Rene van de Kerkhof, Willy van de Kerkhof, Ruud Krol, Rob Rensenbrink, Johnny Rep and, of course, the legendary Johan Cruyff.

The game couldn't have kicked off in more spectacular fashion, as West Germany's first touch of the ball was to pick it out from their own net. Holland had a penalty, won by Cruyff and converted by Neeskens, after barely a minute of play. At that point of time, few would give West Germany a chance, but as we all know so well, the rest is history. Gerd Muller's second half strike killed off the Dutch dream.

As the Dutch later admitted, many of their key players were less than a hundred percent fit in that match, a phenomenon analysts attributed to their complacency. Apparently, they were so sure of victory that wives and girlfriends were allowed to stay at the hotel rooms of the players before the Final. Apparently, the country had printed stamps celebrating the national side's victory before the match. Such over-confidence and lack of self-restraint were in stark contrast with the highly disciplined and determined German side, and they proved to be the crucial factors for the flamboyant Dutch team's downfall.

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