Just as PST looked at Brazil and Germany’s World Cup history before Tuesday’s semifinal, ProSoccerTalk’s flipping through the history books to catch up on the past Argentina and the Netherlands carry into the other half of this year’s final four bracket. But whereas Tuesday’s opponents had only met once before this year’s World Cup, the Albiceleste and Oranje have met four times – once with the world title on the line.
Here’s a brief look at Argentina’s history against the Netherlands at the World Cup:
1974 – Second round (second group stage) – Netherlands 4-0 Argentina
It’d been 36 years since the Netherlands, losers in the first round in 1934 and 1938, had qualified for a World Cup, but thanks to the influence of Total Football, head coach Rinus Michels, and attacker Johan Cruyff (pictured), the Oranje quickly established themselves as one of the tournament’s strongest sides, going 2-0-1 in the first group stage.
To open the second, the Dutch would face an Argentina side that needed a tiebreaker to qualify for the second round. Where it not for getting Haiti, their group’s weakest team, in the third group game, the Albiceleste may have gone home. Instead, a team that failed to qualify for Mexico 1970 was able to run up at the score, advancing past the first round for the fourth time in five tournaments.
Opening the second group stage, the Netherlands made it clear Argentina were out of their depth. Cruyff scored within 11 minutes, with Ruud Krol’s goal in at the 25-minute mark leaving the Dutch up two at halftime. Second half goals from Johnny Rep and Cruyff gave Michels’ team its most-lopsided win of the tournament, a 4-0 victory that helped vault the team to first in its group.
Argentina would go on to finish last in their second stage’s group. Netherlands would move on to the final where they’d lose 2-1 to the hosts, West Germany.
1978 – Final – Argentina 3-1 Netherlands
Amid the controversies born from the country’s 1976 military coup, Argentina overcame a second place finish in its initial group stage to claim first in the next round, though that finish remains contentious to this day. Speculation persists that Argentina arranged a final game fix with Peru, whose 6-0 loss allowed the host nation to overtake Brazil and secure a place in the final.
In the other group, the Netherlands, playing without Cruyff, beat Italy its final game to reach its second straight final. Unfortunately, the Dutch were facing the host nation.
That final game, delayed as Argentina was late coming out of its locker room, saw the hosts go up in the first half through Mario Kempes, who’d finish as the tournament’s leading scorer. Eight minutes from time, the Dutch equalized though substitute Dick Nanninga, but Kempes’ second goal of the match in extra time secured Argentina’s first world title. After Daniel Bertoni’s insurance, the Albiceleste claimed a 3-1 win.
1998 – Quarterfinals – Netherlands 2-1 Argentina
Fast forward 20 years, and the Dutch were on the rebound after missing two World Cups in the wake of 1978. The generation of players (led by Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard) that took the Netherlands back to the World Cup had given way to the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, and the de Boar twins: Frank and Ronald. For the fourth time in the nation’s history (and, second tournament in a row), the Dutch were in the quarterfinals.
By this time, Argentina were two-time champions, having added a title at Mexico 1986 to the crown they claimed on home soil. Within the 1998 team, however, were a number of young stars looking to establish their reputations. Though Gabriel Batistuta (29) and Diego Simeone (28) were their primes, Javier Zanetti (24), Juan Sebastián Verón (23), Ariel Ortega (24) and Hernan Crespo (22) were just coming into theirs. In terms of experience, it was a balanced squad, but eight years removed from Mexico City, the team had its own legacy to forge.
Twelve minutes in at Stade Velodrome, that quest was sidetracked by Patrick Kluivert, who gave the Dutch a quick but temporary lead. Within five minutes, Claudio López had the Albiceleste even, creating a deadlock that would last almost 70 minutes.
Just when extra-time appeared to be a foregone conclusion, two moments of brilliance turned the game Oranje. Playing long out of the back, Frank de Boar hit a perfect diagonal ball 70 yards to Bergkamp, whose touch around Roberto Ayala set up this 89th minute game-winning goal:
(Warning: Check your volume before hitting play. This one gets loud.)
The Netherlands produced another late goal in the semifinals, with Kluivert’s 87th minute equalizer sending Guus Hiddink’s team into extra time against Brazil. After 30 scoreless minutes, the Dutch were sent home, losing a penalty shootout.
2006 – Group stage – Argentina 0-0 Netherlands
Meeting in the final game of their group stage, both Argentina and the Netherlands had six points, but with a superior goal difference, the Argentines were in line to finish on top of the group. Though a win would allow the Dutch to avoid Portugal (in favor of Mexico), they were already guaranteed a spot in the second round, with both Cote d’Ivoire and Serbia and Montenegro sitting on zero points.
A contentious match that produced 40 fouls and six cards didn’t provide as much excitement on the scoresheet. Combining for a modest six shots on target, neither Argentina nor the Netherlands broke through. The 0-0 result sent the Albiceleste through as group winners (to lose in the quarterfinals to Germany) and the Dutch to a 1-0, Round of 16 loss to Portugal.