It is said that you should not kick a man when he is down. But sometimes, it just cannot be helped. The Netherlands are not at the World Cup, and I cannot stop sniggering. As a FC Bayern München fan, part of me feels sorry for Arjen Robben. But as soon as he pulls on that lurid orange monstrosity? I will let you work it out.
Despite the Dutch not being at this summer’s festivities in Russia, we will probably get to see the famous “Cruyff turn” on our television sets. Probably as part of some “greatest moments” montage. That moment in 1974 in Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion, when the late Dutch legend Johan Cruyff turned Swedish defender Jan Olsson inside out.
A fantastic move, yes. But one that arguably, well, meh. You just need to watch what happens afterwards. After leaving the flatfooted and discombobulated Olsson in his wake, Cruyff surely has plenty of time in the world to deliver the perfect cross into the box. A cross befitting that swift feint and twist.
But no. On nearly every clip you can find, the actions ends pretty quickly. Why? Because the the finish doesn’t quite live up to the expectation. Rather than ending with a Johnny Rep header at the far post, or a spectacular volley from Johan Neeskens, the ball bobbles across the Swedish box. It does end up with a Dutch player, but the move goes nowhere. The action usually cuts before Sweden clear the danger.
Oh, and the game finished 0-0.
Mêlée in Milan
In 1990, the Mannschaft met the Dutch in the second round of Italia 90 in Milan. For many, it will be largely remembered for the flashpoint involving Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Völler. For others, it was the dynamic display from Jürgen Klinsmann as he filled the void left following Völler’s unfair dismissal.
Dutch supporters, and the football writer hipsters, can keep the Cruyff turn. Long may they continue to watch it on an endless loop. For on that balmy evening in Milan, there was a moment that has never been accorded the same glorious fanfare. A moment of magic from Guido Buchwald.
That’s right. Guido Buchwald. The gangly and somewhat awkward-looking VfB Stuttgart utility man.
If one is asked to name any player from the winning Italia 90 squad, Buchwald would not be high on the list. There was Lothar Matthäus, captain and midfield maestro. The blond bomber Klinsmann. The tousle-haired Völler. The cultured left-back and tournament winner Andy Brehme. The dynamically slippery winger Pierre Littbarski.
When Buchwald took possession of the ball six minutes into the second half in Milan, nobody expected much. Out by the touchline, out on the left. Making use of the space in front of him, the tall defender barrelled his way into the opposition half. He then stopped to plot his next move, some ten yards short of the byline. Up against him, the shorter, faster, and far more nimble Aron Winter.
With Littbarski making good ground to his right, the safe pass back inside was clearly the easy option. But then, a stepover feint. Another stepover feint. The sudden and unexpected burst of pace. Winter left chasing ghosts. Buchwald, Guido Buchwald, galloping towards the byline.
Then, something that even Cruyff was unable to do. A perfectly weighted, pinpoint cross. A cross laid on a plate for the fast-advancing Klinsmann, who tucked the ball away past Hans van Breukelen in the Dutch goal. It was a truly glorious moment. To see the goal, jump to 3:34.
The scoreboard will always show “Klinsmann, 51”. But for me it was all about Guido Buchwald. Or “Diego”, as he was aptly nicknamed. Just watch it again. The double feint, the sprint, the perfect cross.
Brehme would curl a stunner to put the Mannschaft two goals in front, but there were more than a few moments of worry right at the end. A Marco van Basten flail and flop, and an undeserved penalty for the Dutch. But there was to be no dramatic comeback.
Johan Cruyff will always be Johan Cruyff. A footballing genius, a player who transformed the modern game. But for that one glorious moment in Milan, Guido Buchwald was better. Better than Cruyff.