13 June 2012

European Superpowers Set to Clash Once More

When the Netherlands were hit by Blitzkrieg in May 1940 the Germans began an occupation of the country that would last for five years. Over 2,000 Dutch soldiers and 2,000 civilians lost their lives in the Battle of the Netherlands and a further 110,000 Dutch Jews died in the five years that followed, including Anne Frank. For the next 34 years many Dutch people held an unrivalled hatred against Germany. 

In the summer of 1974 Holland were poised for revenge as their multi-talented 'total-footballing' side took the lead against West Germany in the World Cup final before their rivals had even touched the ball. Surprisingly the Germans came from behind to win 2-1 with a winner from star striker Gerd Muller. The Dutch people were distraught and the game became known as 'the mother of all defeats'. Dutch midfielder Wim van Hanegem illustrated his country's hatred for the Germans after the match: 
"I didn't give a damn about the score. 1–0 was enough, as long as we could humiliate them. I hate them. They murdered my family. My father, my sister, two of my brothers."
Van Hanegem left the field that day in tears.

However in 1988 came Dutch football's greatest hour. In the German's back garden they met in one of football's most titanic clashes with a place in the European Championship final up for grabs. After scoring a penalty each and the match heading for extra-time Marco van Basten slid in to score a dramatic 88th minute winner. That night 9 million Dutch people celebrated on the streets. They chanted 'In 1940 they came! In 1988 we came!'. Dutch defender Ronald Koeman pretended to wipe his backside with Olaf Thon's shirt and the Dutch peoples' joy was unconfined.
Goalkeeper Hans van Breukelen displayed these emotions: "I had been waiting for that moment for fourteen years. Before the game I remembered my feelings watching TV as a teenager, and that boosted up my anger. I am happy to have been able to give this gift to the older generation, the ones that lived through the War."

In World Cup 1990 they met again and this time there was conflict on the pitch. After being booked for a tackle on Rudi Voller Frank Rijkaard spat in his opponent's hair. The Dutch players then felt that Voller dived in an attempt to win a penalty and Rijkaard proceeded to twist Voller's ear and stamp on his foot. Both players were sent off and as they left the field the Dutch midfielder spat in the German's hair again. This earned him the nickname 'llama' in Germany. West Germany went on to win the match and their third World Cup.

In Euro 2004 the Dutch met their greatest foe once more with German manager Rudi Voller seeking revenge for the incident from 14 years before. He didn't get it though as a late Ruud van Nistelrooy equaliser condemned Germany to a second successive Euro group-stage exit. 

This evening they meet again. Tournament favourites Germany are on a high after their opening 1-0 win over Portugal; Holland in desperate need of a result following a shock defeat by the same scoreline to Denmark. The hatred that used to surround these matches has faded into the distant past and now the games are more focused on the football. Despite this Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder says that he 'has always dreamt of scoring the winning goal against the Germans'. 
Two sides are primed for battle and nothing but a win will do. 

No comments:

Post a Comment