Total Football takes centre stage at the 1974 World Cup.
The Netherlands entered the 1974 World Cup as one of the tournament favourites. In Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Johnny Rep, to name but a few, the Oranje
had a group of players recognised as the first real exponents of ‘Total Football’.
The revolutionary system, pioneered by Dutch club Ajax under the guidance of Rinus Michels, was adapted for the national side when Michels was appointed coach for the ’74 tournament.
He brought together a squad predominantly made up of players from Ajax and Feyenoord, capable of interchanging positions at a whim and playing a free-flowing, passing game where each outfield player was as integral to the system as the next.
The system initially proved unstoppable and the Netherlands waltzed through the First and Second Round group stages, culminating on this day with a 2-0 victory over reigning champions Brazil.
Both Cruyff and Neeskens were on target for the Netherlands, as a Brazil team featuring World Cup winners Jairzinho and Rivelino were unable to find an answer to the Dutch dominance. The commanding performance secured Michels’ men a place in their first World Cup Final, alongside West Germany.
And it seemed that ‘Total Football’ would continue to achieve total domination when the Final got underway at the Olympic Stadium in Munich.
The Netherlands kicked-off and within 90 seconds, thanks to some swift passing and a surging run by Cruyff, had engineered a penalty. Neeskens stepped up to drill the spot-kick home and the Netherlands had scored the quickest Final goal in history.
But the tournament was to end in disappointment for the Dutch, as the Germans staged an impressive fight-back through goals from Paul Breitner and Gerd Mueller.
The Netherlands may have lost the Final but ‘Total Football’ had won admirers all around the world.