Before the 1974 World Cup the Netherlands had only two World Cup matches to their name, and that was back in the 1930s when they lost in the first round of both the 1934 and 1938 World Cups.
They would have to wait thirty-six years before competing in football’s greatest competition again, but when they did, they showed the world they had revolutionised the game.
During the sixties a transformation took place in the Dutch game which saw the two leading clubs in the country produce an array of talent.
Feyenoord and Ajax were fierce rivals but their rivalry sparked the constant improvement of the national game over a decade, which eventually led to them becoming a world force in the seventies.
The style of play, which became known as Total Football, was pioneered by Ajax coach Rinus Michels, who in turn was influenced by the Austrian Wunderteam of the 1930’s and the dazzling Hungary side of the 1950’s.
An Englishman, John “Jack” Reynolds, is the man credited with laying down the foundations of the system, with various spells with Ajax over three decades.
Michels certainly took it further, and arguably perfected it with playmaker Johan Cruyff at the centre of everything for Ajax and the national team in the early seventies.
By the time the 1974 World Cup came around, the Ajax and Feyenoord sides had dominated European club football from 1969 to 1973, which made the Netherlands one of the big favourites for the World Cup.
They got off to good start, working their way past a tough Uruguayan defence to win by two goals, both scored by Johnny Rep.
However, they couldn’t score against Sweden in their next game which finished level.
Their last group game was in Dortmund, and their fans had travelled in great numbers to cheer them on dressed in their now famous orange shirts, and they were rewarded with a stunning display and a 4-1 victory.
The Netherlands topped the group and went onto comfortably beat Argentina and East Germany in the second group stage, meaning they just needed a draw against Brazil in their last group match for a place in the final.
The Brazilians had to win — the match subsequently has gone down in history as one of the most violent ever played.
The Brazilians were a shadow of the glorious 1970 side in Mexico, and became frustrated once the Dutch gained control of the match.
Brazil’s roughhouse tactics were an attempt to break the Total Football game of the Dutch, and the first half ended 0-0.
However, five minutes after the break, Oranje finally made their class count and found a breakthrough when Neeksens combined with Cruyff for 1-0.
The Netherlands’ movement and pace was too much for the Brazilians again as Resenbrink crossed to Cruyff to seal a place in the World Cup final and the three-time European Footballer of the Year looked to be heading for his crowning glory.
What Happened Next?
That game against Brazil was heavily criticised for its dirtiness, but despite being on the end of some heavy challenges the Dutch came through with their best players still intact.
In the final they took the lead in the second minute but it ended in heartbreak as the hosts West Germany fought back to win 2-1.
Cruyff continued to win trophies and have a huge influence on the game in club football with Ajax and Barcelona as both a player and then manager.
Brazil v Netherlands 1974 – The Violence!
The famous Cruyff turn
14 (appropriately) minutes of Cruyff