61 Orange NationSoccer and National Identity in the Netherlands

Frank J. Lechner

The Aura of 1974

We were the best. Watching the national team advance in the World Cup tournament in 1974, my fellow Dutch soccer fans and I were convinced that “we” played a special kind of soccer. Our style was more fluid, allowing players to switch positions as they kept in constant motion. We were the most creative, always looking for new ways to attack. On this team, individual players showed their genius while everyone sacrificed for the common cause. In the magical phrase of those days, we played “total soccer”. As we beat Argentina and Brazil on the way to our first appearance in the final, the nation's confidence grew. Defeating the Germans in Munich would be doubly satisfying. After a hard tackle against Johan Cruyff, our star, earned us a penalty kick in that game before any German player had even touched the ball, victory seemed assured. But, we failed to build on our early lead. The Germans fought back and took advantage of defensive lapses to win the game, 2–1, adding insult to well-remembered injury. The best team had lost, we all felt. The next day, the country nevertheless celebrated as if we had won, treating the team to a tumultuous televised welcome. At a reception with the queen, the otherwise-restrained prime minister danced with the players. The streets of Amsterdam filled with massive crowds. In later years, many in the Netherlands would recall these events as a high ...

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