After starring at both the 1994 and 1998 tournaments Dennis Bergkamp comes third in our list of the Greatest Dutch players in World Cup history.

berg 1998“‘Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! OHHHHHH!!!’

Jack van Gelder’s commentary of Dennis Bergkamp’s moment of magic against Argentina in the 1998 quarter finals, is still enough to make the hairs on the back of any Dutch fan’s neck stand up. The goal and the image of Bergkamp’s celebration is one of the most memorable moments in World Cup history.

Bergkamp may be most remembered for his contribution to the France 98 tournament, but he was a crucial part of the 1994 squad that reached the quarter finals in USA.

With Marco van Basten out through injury, Bergkamp started the tournament in 94 as the Dutch’s main striker, despite having a difficult time at his new club Inter Milan. The forward had left Ajax for Inter Milan the previous summer, but he struggled in Serie A, netting only 8 goals in 31 league appearances.

His form seemed to be carrying into the tournament, as Bergkamp failed to net in both the opening 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia, or the 1-0 loss to Belgium. However in the crucial third group game against Morocco, Bergkamp netted his first ever World Cup goal to set the Dutch on their way to a 2-1 win, which saw them top the group.

In the first knockout round, Bergkamp netted from close range in the 2-0 win over the Republic of Ireland, which set up a quarter final match with eventual winners Brazil. With the Dutch 2-0 down, Bergkamp started the comeback, but even though Aron Winter would equalise, Branco would break Netherlands hearts, and send them home.

The loss to Brazil had spelled the end in the national team for the generation that had won Netherlands their only major trophy, the European Championships in 1988, but Bergkamp showed in the USA that the future of the national team could be bright.

A move to Arsenal followed after another disappointing season with Inter Milan, and four years after 1994, Bergkamp headed into the 1998 tournament full of confidence. In the 1997/98 season, Bergkamp had netted 16 goals in 28 games, as Arsenal won their first ever Premier League title.

Bergkamp did not light up the tournament straight away and once again, like in 1994, the striker only netted once in the group stages, a 5-0 hammering of South Korea. Coach Guus Hiddink only brought Bergkamp into the starting line-up after Patrick Kluivert was sent off in the opening 0-0 draw with Belgium.

However Bergkamp came to life in the first knockout round, brilliantly firing the Dutch into the lead against Yugoslavia in a 2-1 win which set up the quarter final with Argentina.

The Dutch made a quick start to the game with Bergkamp brilliantly setting up Kluivert with a cushioned header into the forwards path, who made no mistake, and Netherlands were 1-0 up on 12 minutes. Argentina fought back through Claudio Lopez, and after both teams were reduced to ten men, the game seemed to be heading into extra time.

The clock was on 89 minutes, when Frank de Boer sent a glorious ball over the top of the Argentina defence, Bergkamp’s first touch to bring the ball down was out of this world, his second to fool Roberto Ayala was unbelievable, and his outside of the boot finish into the top corner was something most players could only dream of.

Not since Johan Cruyff dazzled in 1974, had Netherlands produced such a moment of magic in a World Cup finals, and it sent the nation into the semi-final against Brazil.

Brazil, like in 1994, would signal the end of Bergkamp’s Netherlands in the World Cup, as after a tense 1-1 draw, the Dutch would lose 4-2 on penalties. Netherlands would eventually finish 4th, after a 2-1 loss to Croatia in the 3rd place play-off. Bergkamp would be named in the team of the tournament, alongside Frank de Boer, and Edgar Davids

Like Cruyff in 1974, and Van Basten in 1988, Bergkamp’s brilliance in 1998 has inspired the next generation of Dutch forwards, such as Robin van Persie.

Six goals in two tournaments, one of them the greatest ever goal scored by a Dutchman at a World Cup, Bergkamp fired Netherlands to a quarter final, and a 4th place finish.

Bergkamp was the best Dutchman of his generation, but sadly two players from the 1970’s have beaten him to the top two places on our list.

Keep checking Football-Oranje to find out who is our Greatest Dutchman at a World Cup.

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