It’s the Final Countdown: 7 Days

7(4)

As I boot up xbox live and log in to my account, I start to see nothing but international match after international match. I see Maradona’s squad mercilessly smashed by Englishmen and in turn Englishmen ruthlessly defeated by Brazilians. What does this all mean? No, not that Maradona’s back on the blow for leaving off Javier Zanetti or Esteban Cambiasso (though he may as well be). Nor does it mean that Cabbage Man Capello is unconfident in the youth of young Theo Walcott. What it does mean, plain and simple, is that IT’S TIME FOR WHAT WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR, FOR FOUR YEARS!

While my colleagues here have been relentlessly arguing, as has everyone else in the world, over who will lift the cup this summer – I’ve continually argued for the team that is regarded as “The Greatest to Have Never Won”. I’m talking of course, of the Brilliant Oranje – The Dutch.

When given any chance to spread my Nederland propaganda, I bite. Thus, when I found out we were doing a countdown segment for the beginning of the WC, I knew I had to find a way to secure a spot for the namesake of our blog. So, why the Dutch and why 7(4)?

In 1974, Holland played in the cup for the first time since 1938. Following their ’74 World Cup appearance, the Dutch began swallowing up European competitions, be it for the European Cup or the European Championships – of which, since their championship in 1988, have not finished lower than a quarterfinal berth – all thanks to the playing style of Total Football.

Total Football has is roots in Amsterdam – nestled in the tight laced boots and cigarette filled lips of Johann Cruyff. Rinus Michels, who coached the Holland National Team and Ajax, is credited for teaching the philosophy which brought Ajax European glory in 1971, 1972 and 1973. These European Cups all seemingly the precursor  to what appeared would be Holland’s first World Cup win with their first appearance in nearly forty years.

During the group stages of the 1974 World Cup, Holland seemed to be in line with what so many were predicting as their year: allowing only one goal in a 4-1 win over Bulgaria – the irony being that it was an own goal, as it were, the Dutch were not scored on a single time by any opponent.

En route to the final against hosts West Germany, Holland encountered Argentina and defeated them in a crushing 4-0 victory. So far in the tournament, their largest victory – both on the field and in the minds of spectators around the world.

Perhaps the greatest and worst moment for Dutch football comes in the final of the 1974 World Cup against arch rivals, West Germany. Post War tensions from 1945 echo throughout Europe to this day, and with regard to these neighboring countries, football has been seen as the way to continually hash out emotions from generations past. When a coach tells his players, “Every 50-50 ball is a battle. If we win our battles, we win the war” the metaphor could not be more aptly applied than upon the meetings of these two giants in Europe.

What could be hailed as the greatest moment for Total Football under the Dutch National Team, and a heartbreaking false reality, is the first half – and more importantly – the first minute of play. From the first touch of the ball by Cruyff, the Dutch kept possession for 13 passes until the ball found Cruyff’s feet on the run to the edge of the box where he was taken down. Immediately the referee pointed to the spot. Within a minute and a half, the Dutch were up 1-0 against arch rivals West Germany, who were yet to touch the ball, on home ground in the final match of the World Cup. However, as it were, the Dutch were not to win. An equalizing PK from Breitner in the 25th minute and the go-ahead goal from Mueller just before the break gave the Germans the win and the Cup.

Following their tragic loss, the Dutch continued to dominate Europe – again appearing in the 1978 World Cup Final in Argentina against the hosts – losing 3-1 in extra time to the Argentines. Regardless, in Club competition and through European Championships, the Dutch continued to prove their brand of football was here to stay. With years upon years of frustration for coming so close, will 2010 be the year of the Oranje?

Be sure to check in tomorrow for Jon Ballenger’s analysis of the six African nations for 2010!

* I choose to leave you with a wee bit of humor:

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