Thursday, 8 July 2010

Who Will Johan Cruyff Cheer For?

Whatever about replacing one of the Netherlands best footballers as National Manager or the thought of following some of their greatest managers – Rinus Michels, Guus Hiddink, Leo Benhaaker, Leo van Gaal, Frank Rijkaard – replacing the accepted national philosophy of Total Football and the place of Johan Cruyff as a National Treasure - is surely a too huge a step. 

But for Bert van Marwijk, who only played once for Holland, none of it really seems a problem as under his guidance Holland remain unbeaten for twenty five matches in a run that has taken them to a World Cup Final for the first time in thirty two years – the last being 1978 in Buenos Aires with Rob Rensenbrink and company. The previous occasion was 1974 in Muenich when Johan Cruyff and Coach Rinus Michels reached the final playing text book Total Football in West Germany. 

On reaching the final in Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday July 11th Van Marwijk has equalled those feats and placing himself in the Dutch Managers Hall of Fame – even though the style of football seems to have few admirers - all longing for the stylish of the 1970’s generation. 

According to Van Marwijk though Dutch style and Brazilian flair no longer have a place at major tournaments such as the World Cup: 

"I know the Brazilian team played beautiful did the Dutch but there is no more space for 'total' or 'samba' football these days," Van Marwijk told a news conference. 

"The sport has changed and everything goes faster. Players are fitter and teams better organised so you can't display that sort of football any longer at a World Cup." 

Van Marwijk is also happy to point out that Holland actually lost those two World Cup Finals. 

In his playing career Van Marwijk had a chronic knee injury and was a winger in Dutch football when they had the likes of Piet Kiezer, Rob Rensenbrink and Johnny Rep around – so it was not easy. He earned his only cap against Yugoslavia in 1975 and was replaced after half time by Manager, George Knobel. 

A very different international career to his predecessor at the Dutch Football Federation [KNVB], Marco Van Basten, who played 58 times for the Oranje, scoring 24 goals, winning European Footballer of the Year three times (1988, '89 and '92) and also the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1992. 

But the contrast does not end there as the Van Basten era was a turbulent period with the manager in very public spats with leading stars of the time, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorff, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Denis Bergkamp - refusing to include them in his squads for the first two years of his reign. Although eventually recalling some of them for EURO 2008. 

Van Basten suffered a loss to Portugal in the 2006 World Cup in the Last 16 followed by a quarter final exit to Russia - managed by Guus Hiddink - in EURO 2008 when a stunning performance by Andrei Arshavin delivered two goals for a final score line of 3-1. Incidentally the last time Holland lost match. 

In 2004 Van Marwijk became manager of Borussia Dortmund leaving his job at Feyenoord to Ruud Gullit only to return there in 2007 when the job changes did not work out for either manager. On his return to Feyenoord he brought Giovanni van Bronckhorst back to the club establishing an ethos of team work that saw the club win the 2008 KNVB Cup. When the Dutch Federation came calling after Van Basten accepted a role at Ajax in 2008, Van Marwijk was ready to take up the job at the KNVB. 

The current Dutch team is built on team work – despite the rival personalities and ego’s - maintaining a unity that delivers consistent results that previous Dutch teams failed to do. The former winger is clearly appreciative of the skills offered by Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt - allowing them a freedom to attack at every opportunity - ably supported by the rugged defensive role of his son-in-law, Mark van Bommel and De Jong allowing the creative flair of Wesley Sneijder, a key component of the Dutch midfield, to attack or shot at speed. 

The priority of Van Marwijk is functionality, playing to defend first as opposed to allowing flair players dictate the pace of the game then losing discipline under pressure. 

The team that the Netherlands meet on Sunday is for the most part Barcelona FC with a midfield built around Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez with a defence centred around Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. 

Like the Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola these players have all grown up familiar with the Dutch footballing philosophy fostered by Johan Cruyff who over the past thirty years has had a huge influence on the Catalan Club. Indeed Guardiola became a first team regular under Cruyff in the 1991-92 season and part of the side that won La Liga, the European Cup that year. 

The Dutch influence all started when Marinus ("Rinus") Jacobus Hendricus Michels arrived at the club in 1971 after establishing a successful Ajax side that won the national championship four times and the KNVB Cup three times, as well as reaching the European Cup final in Madrid where they were defeated by Milan. 

In the summer of 1973 Michels brought Cruyff to Barcelona and the two Dutchmen made an immediate impact winning la Liga that season. The following season they were joined by a third Dutchman midfielder Johan Neeskens and the club went on to win a Copa del Rey and in 1979 UEFA Cup Winners Cup. After leaving the club in 1978 Johan Cruyff returned to Barcelona as manager a decade later. 

During his eight years he mixed Catalan players with international stars adding Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário, Gheorghe Hagi and Hristo Stoichkov to the playing roster winning La Liga four times between 1991 and 1994. In Europe Barcelona beat Sampdoria to win the 1989 European Cup Winners' Cup and then again in the 1992 European Cup final at Wembley. The team also won the Copa del Rey in 1990, the European Super Cup in 1992 and three Supercopa de España. 

Known as a player's coach with deep convictions Cruyff was considered a visionary and his presence at Barcelona changed many things and the beginning of what is known as the "Dutch influence" at Barcelona. 

Johan Cruyff still lives in Catalunya although as a result of the latest Barca Presidential elections will lose some influence at the club for the first time in three decades. Undoubtedly this weekend his loyalties are split as the Spain's Barcelona players are closer to his footballing vision than the team playing under Bert Van Marwijk. So for the moment he is uncharacteristically silent 

Should Holland win on Sunday then the 74 generation - Jongbloed, Suurbier, Van Hanegem, Jansen, Rijsbergen, Haan, Krol, Neeskens, Cruyff, Rensenbrink, Rep - may lose their place forever. Somewhat a sad thought for the neutral bystander. 

But not so if Spain win playing the Barcelona way - keeping the Johan Cruyff legacy alive.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cruyff will support Barca!!