Netherlands, under the guidance of Guus Hiddink, had a lot to prove after a poor Euro ’96 where they were fortunate to get through the group stage, and their squad was beset by internal squabbling.
Hiddink did manage to unite the team in the following two years however, and they went into the World Cup in France with the usual high expectations placed upon them.
They started with a far from convincing 0-0 draw against neighbours Belgium before exploding into life and demolishing South Korea 5-0. They secured qualification to the last 16 with an entertaining 2-2 draw against Mexico.
They won their tricky second round match against Yugoslavia, thanks to an injury time winner from Edgar Davids, to set up a quarter final with Argentina.
The South Americans had come through a topsy-turvy encounter against England to reach the last 8.
This was the first competitive meeting between the two sides since the 1978 World Cup final – a young Bergkamp had sat teary-eyed through it all. He and the Dutch were out for revenge in Marseille.
The quarter final was played out in scorching heat in the The Stade Vélodrome. Bergkamp set up Patrick Kluivert to put the Dutch ahead minutes after Wim Jonk had hit the post.
However, the Argentines hit back quickly when Claudio Lopez sprang the offside trap and poked the ball through the legs of Edwin van der Sar.
In the 76th minute, Arthur Numan was sent off for the Dutch. This made the Argentines favourites as extra-time loomed large.
The last two minutes of the game were simply incredible. In the 88th minute Ariel Ortega dives in the box and the ref doesn’t fall for it, The Argentine number 10 then bizarrely heads the chin of the towering van der Sar and earns himself a red card. Amusingly the ref can’t find his red card.
And then…well take it away Jack van Gelder…
What happened next?
Netherlands went on to lose their final two matches of the World Cup.
A heart-breaking penalty shoot-out defeat against Brazil and then a somewhat meek display against Croatia in the third place play-off which left them finishing France ’98 in fourth place.