National Team Statistics: Netherlands
Nickname: The Oranje (The Orange) and Holland
Most Appearances: Edwin van der Saar: 128 Caps, 0 goals
Leading Goalscorer: Patrick Kluivert: 79 Caps, 40 goals
World Ranking: 4
World Cup Performances: 8 Appearances: Runners Up: twice 1974 & 1978
UEFA European Performances: 8 Appearances: Winners: Once 1988
Dutch Legends: Johan Cruyff: 48 Caps, 33 Goals
Marco van Basten: 58 Caps, 24 Goals
Dennis Bergkamp: 79 Caps, 37 Goals
Guus Hiddink: 1995-1998
Rinus Michel: 1974 & 1986-1988
Ryan Babel (Liverpool) 19/12/86, 28 Caps, 5 Goals
Royston Drenthe (Real Madrid) 08/04/87, 13 Caps, 5 Goals (u21)
Dutch Team History:
The Dutch National team has, over the past forty years, been one of the most stylish and technically gifted sides in world football. The Total Football teams of the 1970’s are rightly regarded as some of the best teams ever to have been assembled. However, despite such huge talent available, the Oranje only have one international title to show for all their panache, the 1988 European Championships. Their colourful fans, instantly recognisable by their luminous orange shirts have entertained thousands over the years, but if we go back to the beginning, things weren’t always so good.
The Dutch began well with a 4-1 victory away to Belgium in their 1st every match back in 1905. They also qualified for the 1934 and 1938 World Cups but were eliminated in the first round on both occasions. The Netherlands then faded into obscurity and didn’t qualify for another major international tournament until the 1970’s. The Dutch’s return from obscurity was done in style. Using the Total Football tactic developed at the all conquering Ajax team of the early 1970’s with legend of the game Johan Cruyff as the figure head, coach Rinus Michels took the Netherlands back to the World Cup in 1974 in West Germany. Their fluid, interchanging style proved too much for nearly every team they faced and Cruyff’s position as a superstar of the game was cemented. On the way to the final, only Sweden was able to prevent the mercurial Dutch from taking maximum points as Uruguay, Bulgaria, East Germany, Argentina and reigning champions Brazil were swept aside to set up a final meeting with hosts West Germany. In a stunning start, the Netherlands took the lead with a penalty before the German’s had even touched the ball. In the end substance overcame style and the hosts rallied to win the match by two goals to one.
After the highs of 1974, the Netherland’s then qualified for the European Championships for the first time in their history. In what would become synonymous with future Dutch teams, their campaign was beset by fighting within the camp and they were eliminated by eventual winners Czechoslovakia. 1978 proved to be far better. Despite the withdrawal of some of their top players, including Cruyff, due to a military coup in Argentina, the Oranje once again made it through to the final where they would also face the host nation. They began the tournament in indifferent style winning, drawing and losing their opening three matches. In the second group stage they finally came to life, thrashing Austria, drawing with Germany and then defeating Italy to set up the final match. The Dutch trailed to a first half goal from Mario Kempes until Nanninga equalised with eight minutes remaining. Tragically for the Netherlands Rob Rensenbrink hit the post with seconds remaining of normal time. In extra time, Kempes added a second and Bertoni wrapped up the match to leave the Dutch beaten in their second successive final.
The European Championships saw the last of the Total Football from the Dutch. The team qualified but exited at the group stage prompting the retirement of a number of senior Dutch players. This had a long term effect as the Netherlands failed to qualify for the next three tournaments.
1988 saw the return of Rinus Michels and the return to prominence of Dutch football. In the European Championships held in Germany, the Oranje faithful was finally rewarded with a trophy on the international stage. After suffering a defeat in the opening game against the USSR, the Netherlands bounced back to beat England, with a hat trick from Marco van Basten, and then the Republic of Ireland. This set up a rematch of the 1974 final against Germany and with the score line reversed it was the Dutch who emerged victorious thanks to a last minute goal by van Basten and progressed to a final match with group opponents the USSR. The final, a two nil win by the Netherlands, is mostly remembered for a stunning volley by van Basten that gave the Dutch a two goal lead and wrapped up the match.
After such a high in 1988, much was expected of the Oranje at Italia ’90. Once again the Dutch would disappoint as they never got going in the tournament. Drawing their opening three games they squeezed into the second round, where they would lose 2-1 to eventual winners, West Germany, a result that is never popular in Holland. In Euro 92, they performed well again reaching the semi finals. It was the tournament which marked the rise of Dennis Bergkamp and also the end of Marco van Basten. It was his spot kick that was saved by Danish ‘keeper Schmeichel that sent the Dutch home and the Danes through to the final which they would win. Van Basten retired soon after the finals.
In 1994, the Netherland’s again qualified for the World Cup and reached the quarter finals largely thanks to the presence of Dennis Bergkamp who scored three times in five matches until the Dutch were once again eliminated by the eventual winners of the tournament, this time Brazil. In Euro ’96 the Dutch tradition for infighting came to the fore once more as claims of racial division within the squad resulted in players being sent home. Before this happened, the Netherlands had made a decent start to their campaign with a draw against Scotland and a win against the Swiss. Very few people could have predicted what would happen next. They lined up to face an England side, flush with confidence after a solid victory over the Scots and were hit by a sledgehammer of a performance. Four goals down and the Dutch were facing elimination until Patrick Kluivert reduced the deficit to send Scotland out instead. In the quarter finals they were unable to capitalise on their good fortune and succumbed to France on penalties after a nil nil draw.
The Dutch team of 1998 was a good blend of youth and experience as they qualified for the finals in France and was widely expected to do well. They did in fact make the semi finals and produced some good performances along the way. The group stage was won in steady fashion, drawing two matches but thrashing South Korea by five goals to nil. A goal two minutes into stoppage time by Edgar Davids gave the Dutch a 2-1 win against Yugoslavia and set up a quarter final with Argentina. The match was memorable for two red cards, one for each side, and a sublime winning goal by Dennis Bergkamp. Controlling a 60 yard pass on the toe of his right boot, he turned inside Ayala with the same foot and then curled it past Carlos Roa with the outside of that same right foot. The semi final saw them succumb to Brazil but only after a penalty shootout after an entertaining game had finished one each and the Dutch were then beaten by Croatia in the 3rd/4th place match to end the finals in fourth place.
As co-hosts of Euro 2000, the Netherlands were again tipped to shine as they had assembled a hugely talented squad and had the backing of the home support. The Dutch began the tournament in the style of champion claiming three wins from three in the group stage, including a victory against World Champion’s France. In the quarter finals, things got even better for the Oranje fans as they crushed Yugoslavia 6-1, with Kluivert netting a hat trick, to set up a meeting with Italy. In true Dutch style, they then imploded. The semi final saw Italy reduced to ten men in the first half and Holland missed two penalties in the ninety minutes. Unable to break the deadlock over the course of 120 minutes, the Netherlands missed two subsequent penalties in the shoot out to be eliminated.
After another glorious failure, the team failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea but bounced back to reach the semi finals of Euro 2004 where they were beaten by host nation Portugal thanks to a stunning goal by Maniche. After this campaign, Coach Dick Advocaat stepped down and a number of high profile players retired from international football. Appointed in his place was Marco van Basten and the former playing legend was lauded as the returning Messiah. Backed by Johan Cruyff it was an appointment that pleased everybody. In an attempt to avoid the conflict of previous campaigns, van Basten looked to build a new Dutch team, one without the ego and looked at players from other parts of the Netherlands and not just Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. It appeared to be a tactic that was working well as the Netherlands qualified for the 2006 finals and then finished second in the group, winning two and drawing one.
The team then came unstuck in the round of 16 against Portugal losing 1-0 in a match that will be remembered for the 16 yellow and 4 red cards that the teams accrued.
With rumblings of discontent beginning to grow louder back in Holland, van Basten’s team was under pressure to perform with more attacking intent. A change in formation brought with it instant results and confidence was high within the squad going into Euro 2008 if not within the press. In the group stage the team made a mockery of the stories written about them as the blitzed Italy 3-0, France 4-1 and then comfortably beat Romania 2-0 to waltz through “the Group of Death.” With momentum behind them many expected the Oranje to advance to the latter stages if not win the tournament, but stumbled in the next match being beaten by Russia 3-1 after extra time. Before the finals it had already been announced that van Basten was stepping down as national coach and would be replaced by Bert van Marwijk as the Dutch looked to qualify for the 2010 finals in South Africa.