Home > Euro 2012 > Euro 2012 Preview – Germany vs Holland: More than just a game

Euro 2012 Preview – Germany vs Holland: More than just a game

Rivalry is present right throughout football, but when Holland and Germany meet it takes it to a new extreme. From a whole country celebrating victory on the streets, to a brawl on the field – this fixture has it all. ViewFromTheStands explores how this rivalry started off and why fireworks will fly yet again in this summer’s Euro 2012…

Many date it back as far as 1974, where West Germany defeated Holland in the World Cup Final to lift to trophy. The Netherlands were riding on the crest of a wave which saw them introduce ‘Total Football’ to the world – something which is replicated by teams in each of Europe’s top divisions still to this day. The Dutch would reach two World Cup Finals in this magic generation, but it was this defeat in Germany by the hosts that stayed bitter in the mind. It was the first competitive meeting between the two sides since the war, but the underdogs prevailed and went on to win the tournament.

In actual fact, it was 14 years later, in 1988 that the real rivalry began. The Netherlands met Germany once again in their own back-yard, this time it was in the semi-final of the European Championships. The game looked set to be heading to extra-time, but in the dying minutes, Marco van Basten scored to sink German hearts. The occasion is best remembered for events after the game however, where it is reported that around 60% of the Dutch population went out onto the streets to celebrate victory. This was more than just a game.

Holland went on to win Euro 1988, which still to this day is The Oranje’s greatest ever achievement – it is incredibly still the only trophy they have ever lifted after years of becoming nearly men.  That night in Hamburg which saw Holland come out on top against the old enemy will forever live in the memory in Dutch folklore, and after parading the European Cup around in front of jubilant fans in Amsterdam, coach Rinus Michels exclaimed: “We won the tournament, but we all know that the semi-final was the real final.”

This is when the rivalry had taken a turn, up until this point the Germans, to be blunt, couldn’t care about little old Holland. As put by Simon Kuper in the brilliant Football Against The Enemy: “German fans were less interested. Holland VS Germany had become special to them too, but not that special. After all, Holland was not the only country that Hitler had invaded.” But now it was different, and tensions were not helped in a match when Toni Schumacher and Huub Stevens broke into a fight on-field, whilst Rene van de Kerkhof punched Bernd Schuster in the face.  This rivalry was now at an all-time high, but this wasn’t the end.

With tensions running, the sides faced off again in the 1990 World Cup in a match that is still remembered to this day. The infamous battle (and I use that word wisely) is talked about over twenty years on due to the reckless tackles, the sending’s off, but most of all, the incident involving Rudi Voller and Frank Rijkaard. Voller had hacked down the Dutchman, who was subsequently booked, before spitting in Voller’s hair. Just moments later after play had gone on, Rijkaard shouted towards Voller with Rijkaard then pulling Voller’s hair – the referee sent off both players, and Rijkaard spat in Voller’s hair for a second time when the players left the field.

The infamous image that is always linked to this fixture

Germany won the match – and tournament – becoming World Champions at the expense of a side who had taken so much joy from defeating them just two years prior. Sadly, the match is now remembered for the incident involving Rijkaard and Voller, and the image of the Dutchman spitting at the German is now instantly thought of when the two sides are drawn next to each other in major competitions.

The two sides would meet again in Euro ’92 – that’s no surprise, this is the most frequently played match in European Cup history – with the two sides meeting in nine competitive matches in all. The Dutch beat their rivals 3-1 in the group stage of the tournament, and the two sides wouldn’t clash again competitively until 2004 when they were drawn together in their group at Euro 2004. The match finished 1-1, thankfully there was no repeat of the scenes from the match 12 years earlier.

Surprisingly, the two sides have met each other 38 times in total, with friendly matches being a somewhat regular occurrence. In fact, up until the Second World War, this clash was the most frequent for the Germans, excluding Switzerland, who they faced on a more regular basis.  Since the rivalry become more publicised, the sides have met on far fewer occassions – in fact since their last competitive match in 2004, they have played each other in just two friendly matches.

The latest clash, in November last year, saw Germany show why they are seen by so many as being the favourites to win the Euro 2012 trophy this summer. Running out 3-0 winners on home soil, Die Mannschaft truly tore the Dutch apart. But since then Holland have seen a steady improvement. A near perfect record in qualifying (they lost their last game to playing a weaker team and facing a Sweden side who needed all three points) and a 6-0 annihilation of Northern Ireland last week has seen the Flying Dutchmen come into Euro 2012 as a side to be avoided.

“I hate them. They murdered my family: My father, my sister, two of my brothers. Each time I faced Germany I was angst-filled.”

Though as luck would have it, they have been pitted alongside that side once more – and Germany come into this year’s tournament as joint favourites, alongside holders Spain. Joachim Low’s side have gone one better then Holland by qualifying with a perfect record, with 10 wins out of 10. Though the Dutch boast star names such as Robin van Persie, Huntelaar and Robben in their attacking ranks, Germany have arguably the most balanced midfield and attack anywhere on the planet.  It is likely that Mesut Özil – who was a key man in the qualifying for Germany – will play a big role in helping the Germans produce attack after attack in a relentless pursuit of the trophy they came so close to winning four years ago. As previously written, Germany are riding a crest of a wave, ironically in the same way that the Dutch were back on that summer night in 1988 when they were defeated by Franz Beckenbauer’s men in the European Cup Final.

It is in many ways the ultimate ‘Group of Death’, with fellow European heavyweights and finalists eight years ago, Portugal, joining them in Group B . The three sides are joined by 1992 winners Denmark, who, despite being written off by many, will have an important part to play in this killer group.

There’s no doubt that when Germany and Holland meet in the second round of group fixtures that fireworks will fly, but a cagey affair can perhaps be expected, with neither wanting to lose on one of the biggest stages of them all. But the result is not necessarily the most important outcome, as Dutchman Wim van Hanegem put it after the 1988 European Cup semi-final: “I didn’t give a damn about the score, 1-0 was enough, as long as we could humiliate them. I hate them. They murdered my family: My father, my sister, two of my brothers. Each time I faced Germany I was angst-filled.” This is more than just a rivalry. This is war.

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