By 90Min
April 06, 2018

As the seconds trickled away inside the Olympiastadion in Munich, West Germany's box was bombarded by unattractive, bland long balls that reeked of a lack of imagination from the Dutch. You would be quickly forgiven for thinking that Tony Pulis' Stoke side of 2010 had jumped in a time machine and taken to the pitch - such was the lacklustre nature of the play - but, why?

Why, and how, did one of the most insightful, innovative sides of their generation wilt so pathetically on the biggest stage when glory seemed all but theirs?

A side that played a style of football was more synonymous with that of a finely tuned orchestra, the great Johan Cruyff as the conductor, everybody expected the Netherlands to walk the 1974 World Cup. The fluidity within their system rendered positional play void. This was a group of players that saw the game differently to their peers, and one that was widely considered as one of the best sides of all time.  

Up until the final, the Oranje had pretty much waltzed through the tournament. They topped their group, winning two of their three games, scoring six and conceding just once. If you thought their group stage form was impressive, Rinus Michels' men went on to smash the next phase of play. 

Holland swatted aside Argentina, East Germany and Brazil with incredible ease by an aggregate scoreline of 8-0, thoroughly earning their ticket to the final in doing so. Naturally - and justifiably so - most felt that the Netherlands had all but secured the trophy with their innovative yet laid back style of play. 

Having said that, perhaps it all become a bit too laid back... allegedly anyway.

Bild - the biggest tabloid in Germany - ran a story which suggested that four unnamed Dutch internationals were alleged to have taken part in a naked pool party with two German girls shortly before their match against Brazil. 

In order to gain the story added attention, the tabloid went with the headline 'Cruyff, Champagne and Naked Girls' as they targeted Holland's star man. Michels angrily denied the allegations of any such event taking place, and accused Bild of attempting to distract his side through physiological warfare. 

Netherlands midfielder Arie Haan went on to admit: 


"We changed a little bit that night. Before we did not think, but afterwards we were starting to know what it was like to be famous, to be the best. Everybody was looking at you and everybody was following you. That started with the articles. Then came the pressure and the stress – the women were on the phone.”

Most significantly, Haan's last point is said to have hit the Dutch the hardest. Johan Cruyff, arguably the finest footballer of the 70's, was allegedly kept up all night prior to the day of the final. The floppy-haired number 14's wife was extremely unhappy upon seeing the now infamous headline appear in Bild, prompting her to call her husband when he really should've been resting before the biggest game of his life. 

Whether or not the phone call had a direct impact on Cruyff's mediocre performance against West Germany is still fairly ambiguous, but it was clear to all that he was not at his immense best. 

Despite taking the lead through Johan Neeskens in front of 75,000 spectators, West Germany hit back through Paul Breitner and Gerd Muller to lead before the break. In what had been a free flowing tournament draped in the orange of Holland, their unique style of play setting the tone for teams still deploying the system today, Bild's smearing of their professionalism truly rocked the boat. 

The Dutch were renowned for their laid back, chilled personalities, and those traits were evident in their football. However, those aforementioned characteristics were swiftly replaced by stress and denial; not pleasant feelings at any given time, but specifically not before a World Cup final. 

Cruyff never played for the Oranje at a World Cup again, and it is rumoured that this was part of an agreement with his wife in that confrontational phone call just hours before the showpiece event in Munich. 

He has since denied that, saying that he simply chose to spend more time with his family on his own accord. However, if the aforementioned is in fact true, Bild may have robbed the world of the chance to witness one of the greats grace the biggest stage more often.

Of course, Bild set out to dismantle the Dutch, as it was strikingly evident that they were the overriding favourites to take him the illustrious silverware; in that respect, it was job well done. 

Those of German origin may have lauded the story as a stroke of genius as they revelled in their World Cup glory. But for everyone else, a feeling of injustice still hits home as the realisation that one of the game's greatest ever sides never got their hands of football's biggest prize.  

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Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
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