Home | Features | Music | Fashion | Interviews | Archive | Contact Us
Brilliant Orange - The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner
By Martin Hall
David Winner's Brilliant Orange - The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football is
an ambitious book, interweaving as it does an analysis of Dutch football
with commentary on and comparisons with the country's politics, culture,
art and architecture. Winner is a fine writer who is fortunately up to the
He has obviously done his research and concludes that for much of the last 40 years, Holland's teams have been amongst the best at international tournaments but have spectacularly failed to accrue trophies with the same ease they accrued admirers.
Winner's book is laid out unusually. Instead of the chapters running
consecutively, they are in a random order: Chapter 5 comes first, followed
by 7, then 9, then 14 and so on. This is a nod to the concept of Total
Football, where players interchange positions to conserve energy and close
down - or open up - space. Therefore, the right winger needs to be adept
as a left-back and vice versa. Total Football is the perfect embodiment of
the sport as it should be played and nowhere did it reach its fulfilment
more thrillingly than in the 1974 World Cup in Germany.
build-up to the tournament had not captured the imagination of the Dutch
public. Holland scraped through their qualification group (containing
Belgium, Iceland and Norway) on goal difference. In the final game, a 0-0
draw with Belgium in Amsterdam, the visitors had a legitimate goal
disallowed. If it had stood, one of the most electrifying chapters in
European football history may never have been written.
their opening game Holland beat an aggressive Uruguay. As they would do in
the final, the Dutch went 1-0 up and dominated their opponents. They
seemed to lack the killer instinct to put the game beyond the South
Americansí reach but in the dying minutes, Johnny Rep made it 2-0 after
some nice work from Rob Rensenbrink.
up was a stalemate against Sweden. Neither side were able to convert their
chances and the Dutch media concluded Holland lacked the firepower to be
serious contenders at this tournament. Despite not being a classic, this
match will always be remembered for the first display of the Cruyff turn.
This famous trick completely bamboozled the Swedish full-back Gunnar
Ollson, leaving him sprawled on the floor as Johan Cruyff accelerated
towards goal. That the move came to nothing was not important; the Cruyff
turn was a wonderful embodiment of everything Dutch football was about -
skill, technique and arrogance.
was the next game, against Bulgaria, where Holland showed the kind of form
that would take them to the final. They dominated the first half and went
in 2-0 up, both goals from penalties. Rep added the third with a stunning
volley and after a Bulgarian consolation goal to make it 3-1, Nigel De
Jong headed home a fourth from a well-designed Cruyff cross.
in Holland people became increasingly excited about what was happening in
Germany. Sales of colour televisions (a relatively new phenomenon) soared
and there was a tangible sense of something special unfolding. The
legendary Ajax team had broken up a few years previously but Germany Ď74
was the perfect reunion.
Their first game of the knockout stages (this competitionís structure was
different from previous World Cups) was possibly the apotheosis of Total
Football. Holland played Argentina, who would become world champions four
years later, in Gelsenkirchen in front of 55,000.
Holland blitzed them. In attack they were irresistible; all fluency,
intelligence and confidence. Players swapped positions at will. It was a
symphony in football and Cruyff conducted the orchestra. He tracked back,
he destroyed the Argentinianís down the flanks and in the middle and
cajoled his team mates into wringing every ounce of skill and effort from
themselves. 4-0 it finished. The result flattered the losers. Cruyff
scored the first and last goals with Krol and Rep the other names on the
Their next match was against East Germany in the same stadium four days
later. The East Germans had been the surprise package of this tournament
but they were no match for the increasingly confident Dutch. The rain
lashed down, making it difficult for Holland to play in their usual style.
It didnít matter. This 2-0 victory was a professional, controlled
performance and the Dutch were through to the semi-finals to play a Brazil
team featuring Jairzhino and Rivelino.
Brazilians were a shadow of the glorious team that won the 1970 World Cup.
Pele was absent as was Carlos Alberto. This game was the most physical
Holland would face in this tournament. Brazil lacked the class they
possessed in 1958, 1962 and 1970 so treated every contest as trench
warfare. Their group match against Scotland was particularly bruising -
the players should have taken to the pitch wearing gum shields with the
Managers doubling as corner men.
with all great teams, Holland would not be bullied into submission.
Belying their reputation, they matched Brazil for aggression. Once they
had shown they would not be intimidated, they set about imposing their
class. Brazil had no answers. Holland won 2-0 with a steely determination
underpinning their flair.
Germany were Hollandís opponents in the final on Sunday 7th July 1974 at
Munichís Olympic Stadium. Winner writes wonderfully about this match and
explains the significance of the game for the Dutch. As with many small
countries, Holland had a complex about their bigger neighbours. Germanyís
invasion of Holland during the war fuelled their hatred (a characteristic
not traditionally associated with the Dutch) and, when West Germany beat
them 2-1, it exacerbated the pain and elongated the post-mortem, which
still goes on to this day.
feelings of the Dutch following the West Germanís victory can be compared
to the feelings amongst sectors of the African-American community after
Joe Frazier defeated Muhammad Ali in 1971. The broadcaster Bryant Gumbel
outlines his emotions in Thomas Hauserís Muhammad Ali - His Life and
Times: ĎIt was as though everything I believed in was wrong. I was
devastated, it was awful. I felt as though everything I stood for had been
beaten down and trampled. It was a terrible, terrible night.í In Brilliant
Orange, a playwright says the 1974 defeat signalled the death of 1960s
euphoria. It was that bad.
tome, though, is far more than merely a book about football. Winner
doesnít neglect the political and cultural world that is affected by and
has an affect on the world of sport. He interviews architects, playwrights
and journalists and paints a compelling picture of Holland. The crowded
nature of the country and its relatively flat landscape means people have
to utilise the space they have. Winner argues that this bred the concept
of Total Football where the notion of space is the main philosophy.
so, when allís said and done, Dutch football deserves a book of honour
like Brilliant Orange. One which documents the many aspects of Hollandís
history - from Total Football to total disaster at numerous tournaments;
from Johan Neeskens to Ruud Van Nistelrooy; and from The Lost Final to
Euro 88. Happiness is orange coloured.
| Features | Music
| Fashion | Interviews |
| Contact Us
Copyright © 2006 Swine Magazine. All rights reserved.