We edge closer to naming Netherlands greatest ever World Cup player by revealing numbers 5 on our list, winger Rob Rensenbrink.

rensenbrink a55. Rob Rensenbrink

Tournaments played: 1974, 1978

One of Netherlands greatest wingers, Rensenbrink isn’t the first name many people would remember from the great Dutch side’s of the 70’s, but he was crucial in the two World Cups at the time.

Usually an outsider in the Dutch national team, having chosen to leave his homeland to sign for Belgian side Anderlecht, Rensenbrink was not expected to start in 1974, as Piet Keizer was set to partner Cruyff up front. However the two Ajax stars were apparently not speaking, and this opened the door to Rensenbrink.

The left winger started six out of seven games in the 1974 World Cup alongside Johan Cruyff and Johnny Rep, with the trio forming a deadly attack in West Germany.

The Anderlecht winger scored one goal in the tournament against East Germany, but in the game against Brazil, the winger sustained a leg injury, which meant he started the final with West Germany half fit. During the final defeat it was clear Rensenbrink was struggling and was taken off at half time.

In 1978, Cruyff was out of the World Cup, allowing Rensenbrink to step out of his shadow and prove to be the leader in the Dutch attack.

The winger was excellent throughout the tournament, in the  first game against Iran he netted all the goals in a 3-0 win, which would set the Dutch off on another run to the World Cup final. Further goals were scored from the penalty spot against Scotland, and Austria, as Rensenbrink headed into the final with a chance of ending the tournament as not only as champion, but also as the golden boot winner.

However the footballing gods were not with the winger, who to this day has come the closest to winning Netherlands a World Cup. In the 90th minute of the final against Argentina, Rensenbrink steamed onto a long ball from Ruud Krol, but from a tight angle, the wingers effort came back off the post. An inch to the right and Netherlands would have won the World Cup.

Argentina striker Mario Kempes would then punish the Dutch netting his sixth goal of the tournament as Argentina won 3-1 in extra time. Rensenbrink missed out on the trophy, and the golden boot.

As David Winner states in his book the Brilliant Oranje, if Rensenbrink had scored against Argentina, he would have been player of the tournament, and had street names named after him in his homeland, but instead he is now largely forgotten in Dutch football history.

Rensenbrink remains to this day, the only Dutch player to net a hat-trick in a World Cup.


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