In The World Cup’s Finest we ask various individuals to delve into their own personal history of football’s quadrennial showpiece extravaganza, selecting a number of favourites as well as revealing what is their very first World Cup memory.
A Dutch theme descends over The World Cup’s Finest this afternoon, as Eric Konings, a Sports Betting Integrity Officer at Kindred Group, talks us through total football and the best team to have never won the tournament, as well as explaining why they were robbed in the 2010 final.
First World Cup memory
24 June 1990 (Netherlands v Germany)/ 4 July 1994 (USA v Brazil). I vaguely remember my father being extremely grumpy after the Netherlands lost to Germany in the second round in 1990. But my first vivid memory is the 1994 tournament, in the USA. As a kid already, I was fascinated by this country, and this tournament fueled that even more. I loved all of it: The huge stadiums, the large turnout, Team USA, everything. They heroically lost to Brazil, but definitely made an unforgettable impression on the 10-year old me.
Favourite World Cup
Johan Cruijff. There can be only one: Johan Cruijff. In 1974, he showed total football to the world. Not coach Michels but Cruijff himself is the mastermind behind the team that went on to amaze the world. He transformed the whole game – the first team playing the offside trap, midfielders positioned as central defenders doing more than just defending, applying high pressure, all of it. Such a shame they just missed out on winning the tournament, but the beautiful game would never be the same again.
Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands v Argentina, 1998). That would be the Dennis Bergkamp goal against Argentina. Such a tight game, and with just seconds remaining, Frank de Boer and Bergkamp displayed a masterpiece. A long ball over 65 meters by De Boer, controlled in one go by Bergkamp, going past Ayala I think it was, and then blasting the ball past Roa. In three seconds from the one end of the pitch to the other, and all of a sudden we were in the semis of the 1998 World Cup. The joy, unbelievable.
Netherlands, 1974. Cruijff, Van Hanegem, Neeskens, Krol, Rep, Haan and all these others. The best team never to have won the tournament, but also an inspiration for lots of other countries and teams. They reshaped the dominant way of thinking about football. In 1978 and 2010 we also reached the final, but they weren’t nearly as good as good as the 1974 squad. Total football at its best.
Netherlands v Spain, 2010. Most frustrating yet memorable game in my lifetime is the World Cup final of 2010, Netherlands v Spain. I was sitting high up in the stands in Soccer City, and was so nervous that I acted like a complete idiot. Please allow me to make a few controversial statements: Iniesta should have been red carded early on for kicking Van Bommel. The ref was supposed to give a corner to us instead of a goal kick to Spain, prior to the decisive goal. Fabregas was offside in the build-up to the Iniesta goal. We were robbed, and I can’t get over it.
Netherlands, 2014. There’s no kit that can beat our beautiful Orange shirt, especially the 2014 one was classic, but if I need to mention another one: the Team USA home kit during World Cup 1994 was amazing. The blue shirt with the stars and stripes on them, truly amazing. Legendary.
The World Cup’s Finest is to be a regular feature during the Russia World Cup, profiling a different individual each week day.