Scotland 3 The Netherlands 2 - first round (group 4)

Scotland had to beat the Netherlands by three clear goals, or it would be their last match of this World Cup. Yet even if they managed this, Scotland would almost certainly be penalised by Fifa because of Johnstone’s drug test, and not go through anyway. The enormity of this task was underlined by the Dutch status as one of the favourites of the tournament. It was a different Scottish team that took the field for the Holland match. Their intent was signalled after only five minutes when Rioch’s header hit the crossbar. Then five minutes later the Scots had a stroke of good fortune when Neeskens had to withdraw owing to a rib injury. Within two minutes Dalglish had the ball in the net; unfortunately the goal was not given, in the opinion of the referee Dalglish had jostled unfairly an opponent en route. With ten minutes to go to half time it looked like the Dutch would weather the storm and emerge on top when Rep was tripped inside the penalty area and Rensenbrink scored from the penalty awarded. With one minute to go to half time a header from Joe Jordan was firmly struck by Dalglish into the back of the net. After the half time interval was over the Scots continue to show intent; Souness ran into the penalty area and was mercilessly hacked down; Gemmill converted. Suddenly Scotland were two-one up with most of the half remaining to score the two goals required. For twenty minutes the Scots pounded the Dutch defences, and then it came: Kenny Dalglish had the ball in the Dutch half trying to initiate yet another bombardment when he was dispossessed; instantly Gemmill stormed in and won the ball back, he then set off at pace towards the Dutch goal, twisting and turning as he went, at the left hand corner of the penalty area Wildschut put in a strong tackle which Gemmill managed to dodge, seconds later Suubier put his leg out which Gemmill met by turning inside, he then slipped the ball through Krol’s legs and recovered possession, there was only one Hollander between Gemmill and the goal, Jongbloed, who spread himself expertly to deny Gemmill, yet the “wee mon” was not to be denied, he just delicately chipped Jongbloed to make the score three-one. This, the greatest goal of the tournament, and one of the greatest of all time, had the Scots’ fans screaming. But it was not to be, just three minutes had elapsed when Johnny Rep gained possession at the half way line, ran forward and smashed the ball thirty yards to undo all Gemmill’s work. And there the score remained, despite all the best efforts of the players on the pitch. At least Scotland could return with their heads held high, yet one couldn’t help but wonder: if only: if only they had played like that against Peru and Iran.

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Netherlands 2-1 Italy second round (group A)

The first half of the game between Italy and the Netherlands was dominated by the Mediterranean side, and thus they went into the lead after nineteen minutes plays thanks to an own goal from Brandts who was under pressure from Bettega. Rather unexpectedly it looked as if Italy would reach the final, but then the defensive mentality that had cost them so dearly in the past began to resurrect itself, the Italians withdrew for the second half, permitting the Dutch to pile on the pressure. The Italian decision was all the more strange as the Dutch only needed to draw to go through. Soon Brandts made up for his slip, scoring the equaliser by shooting from twenty yards out and thereby exposing the folly of the Italian plan. Then, inside the final quarter of an hour, Haan underlined the known vulnerability of Zoff to long distance shots, belting one with all the power he could muster. Italy were now two-one down with no hope at all of scoring twice in retaliation, the match was over and the Dutch would face the hosts in the final.

Final result
Buenos Aires 25 June 1978

Argentina: Fillol, Olguin, Galvan, Passarella, Taratini, Ardiles (66 Larossa),
Gallego, Kempes, Bertoni, Luque, Ortiz (78 Houseman).

The Netherlands: Jongbloed, Brandts, Krol, Jansen (73 Suubier), Poortvliet,
Neeskans, Haan, W. Van der Kerkhof, R. Van der Kerkhof,
Rep (58 Nanninga), Resenbrink.

Referee: Sergio Gonella (Italy).

Half time scores in brackets.

Argentina 3 (1) The Netherlands 1 (0) after extra time.
Attendance: 77,260

Kempes (38, 104), Bertoni (115);
Nanninga (82).

Forty-eight years of waiting had taken their toll on the Argentines sense of fair play. Thus when the Dutch team trooped out in front of the seventy-six thousand strong crowd at the River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires on 25 June 1978, they were left to stand for five minutes, eventually the Dutch started to kick some balls to relieve the tension. Soon afterwards captain Daniel Passarella lead his players out. The crowd erupted and unleashed ticker tape all over their players. Seeking to capitalise on this act of gamesmanship, Passarella then complained to the referee about the plaster on the right hand of Rene van der Kerkhof, who had been wearing it ever since injuring two bones in the first game the Dutch had played in the tournament. This gamesmanship was clearly pre-planned, and it was surprising that the referee, Sergio Gonella of Italy, fell for it. Quite rightly Neeskans protested, and he was supported by his captain Rud Krol who indicated to his players that they should leave the pitch. At which point it began to dawn upon the referee that he was being made a fool of; fortunately, he came up with a face saving solution, Kerkhof would have to wrap his hand and the plaster in a soft bandage, which, of course made no real difference. But at least the game could begin. However, the Argentine ruse had one effect, the Dutch players were angered. An anger not lessened by persistent Argentine fouling, particularly by Galvan, who went unpunished. The Dutch dominated the opening exchanges, but were unable to exchange their advantages for something tangible, like a goal. Slowly the Argentine players began to come back into the game. Then Kempes scored, thirty-eight minutes into the game, which sent the crowd into paroxysms of joy. Yet the Dutch did not wilt, again and again they attacked the Argentine goal. With the referee losing some control over the game there was an enormous amount of kicking, from both sides; somehow the Dutch managed to keep going, and then with eight minutes to go, Nanninga headed home the equaliser. The players were tired, especially the Dutch, thus it was a disappointment for the European players when Resenbrink’s last shot of the ninety minutes struck the post instead of going in. In extra time, the Dutch, who were thoroughly exhausted, had no answer to Kempes’s rampaging runs. Hence it was no surprise when the South Americans scored two more. Argentina had won the World Cup for the first time.

© 2006 World Cup Years Ltd.