Netherlands 2-0 Brazil, 3 July 1974
World Cup finals, Westfalenstadion, Dortmund, West Germany
Neeskens, Cruyff (Netherlands)
Unofficial champs the Netherlands went into this World Cup tournament game unbeaten in 14 UFWC matches. Brazil were official champions and had pretty much dominated the world game since the 50s. But more than a match between unofficial and official champions, this was a clash between two of the most skilful and entertaining sides football had ever produced.
The Dutch were all about total football – pioneered by coach Rinus Michels, and personified by captain Johan Cruyff. Their tasty side also contained the likes of Johan Neeskens, Johnny Rep, and Ruud Krol.
The Brazilians played Samba Soccer – showing legendary beach-honed skill and technique. Although Pelé and Carlos Alberto had left the scene, the likes of Jairzinho and Rivelino were very much still around.
This was the final second round group match, and essentially a World Cup semi-final. The Netherlands needed a draw to top their group and proceed to the final. But a win for Brazil would see them leapfrog the Dutch and go through.
Regrettably, the Netherlands’ brilliant orange and Brazil’s golden yellow first choice shirts were deemed to clash, so the sides lined up in unfamiliar white and blue respectively.
Lacking their most illustrious stars and their famous yellow kit, Brazil didn’t quite look like the team adored by football fans around the world. Neither did they play like them. Despite the promise of skill and technique, the first half was a tale of missed opportunities and bad tackles – mostly from the surprisingly brutal Brazilians.
But Brazil’s attempts at kicking, tripping, and stamping on the Dutch were to no avail. Five minutes after the restart Neeskens met a Cruyff cross at the near post and poked it expertly over Brazilian keeper Emerson Leao.
The confident Dutch retained possession of the ball, and struck again after 65 minutes. Krol’s cross from the left was met with a flying volley from the onrushing Cruyff, who deflected the ball into the net with an outstretched right boot.
The frustrated Brazilians had no way back, and the game was effectively over when Luis Pereira was sent off for kicking away Neeskens’ legs. The Netherlands went on to meet West Germany in the World Cup final, and Brazil went home. The Brazilians would in later years reclaim the UFWC and the World Cup, but for now their dominance of world football was over.