We continue our countdown towards naming the best ever Dutchman at a World Cup by revealing numbers 15-11.

willy van15. Willy van de Kerkhof

Tournament played: 1978

Willy van de Kerkhof was a squad member of the 1974 World Cup, but did not play a single minute of the tournament, and like his brother Rene, it was 1978 when the midfielder was given his chance to shine.

Feyenoord star Willem van Hanegem left the squad a few weeks before the tournament began, giving Willy van de Kerkhof the chance to start in the midfield alongside Johan Neeskens, Wim Jansen, and Arie Haan.

The midfielder earned the nickname of “De stofzuiger” (Vacuum cleaner) for his work in front of the defence as he chased down the ball with a mad determination.

Willy van de Kerkhof didn’t miss a single minute of the 1978 tournament, and netted one of the goals in the 5-1 demolition of Austria in the second round, beating his brother to the ball to tap in Rensenbrink’s cut back.

Tidy on the ball, quick, and with great technique, Willy van de Kerkhof was a welcome addition to the squad from 1974, but he was not as dominant in the midfield than Van Hanegem was, and many debate whether the final result against Argentina would have been different if it was him, instead of van de Kerkhof controlling the midfield.

However the PSV legend is still one of the finest midfielders Netherlands has ever produced.

rene14.Rene van de Kerkhof

Tournament played: 1974, 1978

Rene van de Kerkhof only made one appearance at the 1974 World Cup, but it was in the second half of the final against West Germany. The substitute failed to change the outcome, but was a lively figure down the left wing, sending in a few good crosses, whilst screwing a shot wide when through on goal.

In 1978 Rene was given his chance in the starting eleven after Johan Cruyff pulled out of the tournament, and was one of the key players that helped the team reach the final. A speedy winger with two good feet, Rene van de Kerkhof was a star at PSV alongside his twin brother Willy, who he just edges out in this list of greatest World Cup players.

Unlike in 1974, Rene van de Kerkhof was now used on the right wing, with Rensenbrink on the left, and Johnny Rep through the middle. In the first game of the tournament, Rene burst through the Iran defence before being cynically brought down in the box, an incident that would require the winger to wear a cast for the rest of the tournament. The penalty was scored by Rensenbrink and Netherlands went on to win 3-0, with Rene providing an excellent cross for the 2nd goal.

Rene’s most important contribution to the tournament so far came in the second round game with West Germany, in a repeat of the final from four years previous. With the Dutch losing 2-1 in a result that could have seen them miss out on the final, the winger brilliantly skipped past Bernard Dietz before curling the ball into the net, despite the best efforts of defender Rolf Russman, who dived at the ball on the line.

The final was delayed due to extraordinary un-sportsmanship and mind games from Argentina, who tried to protest to the referee about Rene van de Kerkhof’s plaster which was protecting the broken bone suffered earlier in the tournament. The cast was not a problem at any other point in the tournament, but the referee ordered the winger to remove it. This sparked outrage among the Dutch players, and coach Ernst Happel threatened to pull the players of the pitch, which led to the referee then allowing the bandage to be put back on.

The winger made a huge contribution to the final as he sent in the cross for Nanninga to head in and send the game into extra time before the Argentinians would eventually triumph 3-1.

After the 1978 tournament Dutch football would fall into a slump, with the Van de Kerkhof brothers failing to help the nation to qualify for the 1980 World Cup

jongbloed13. Jan Jongbloed

Tournament’s played: 1974, 1978

Many were surprised to see the 34-year-old become the number one goalkeeper for Rinus Michels during the 1974 World Cup, with Twente’s Piet Schrijvers, and Feyenoord’s Eddy Treytel seen by many as better options to replace the injured Jan van Beveren.

The player himself even believed he was going to be third choice, and reportedly packed his fishing kit.

However the FC Amsterdam players inclusion in the side turned out to be a masterstroke by Michels, as the goalkeeper perfectly fitted into the attacking formation. Jongbloed almost played as an extra defender at times, rushing out of his box to clear danger, while recycling the ball quickly to one of the defenders each time he made a save.

Shot stopping wasn’t Jongbloed’s strongest attribute, but when a team dominate as much as Netherlands did in 1974, that didn’t really matter, and it was his all round game that made the goalkeeper a star in the tournament.

Leading up to the final, Jongbloed was only beaten once in the previous six games, and that was due to an own goal by Ruud Krol, who deflected a cross past the stranded goalkeeper in the 4-1 win over Bulgaria.

The first time an opponent would beat Jongbloed was sadly in the final, as Breitner sent a penalty past the goalkeeper before Gerd Muller won West Germany the trophy with a swivel and shot, that many felt the goalkeeper could have saved if he didn’t stand watching the ball go past him.

Four years later, Jongbloed now aged 38, the oldest player in the tournament, would get another chance to win the World Cup, as first choice keeper Jan van Beveren was once again unable to join the squad. The tournament started well for the keeper as he kept two clean sheets against Peru and Iran, but after conceding three goals against Scotland, none of which were really his fault, Jongbloed was axed by coach Ernst Happel.

The coach installed Piet Schrijvers as the new number one for the next three games against Austria, West Germany, and Italy, but after an injury suffered in the opening 21 minutes against the Italians, Jongbloed was back in goal. The tournament would end in defeat for Jongbloed and the Netherlands as they were beaten in extra time by Argentina, ending the golden generation of Dutch football.

Jongbloed’s style of play epitomised Netherlands in the 1970’s and although he was not as talented as Dutch goalkeeping greats such as Edwin van der Sar, or Hans van Breukelen, he will always be remembered by Dutch football fans.

davids 9812.Edgar Davids

Tournament played: 1998

After being sent home from the Dutch camp at EURO 96 by coach Guus Hiddink, Edgar Davids got the chance to redeem himself at the World Cup in France two years later.

The 1998 squad was packed full of brilliant players such as Dennis Bergkamp, Frank de Boer, Clarence Seedorf, Phillip Cocu, but in Edgar Davids they had a bulldog in midfield, who was determined to be the star.

His crowning moment came in the first knockout round game against Yugoslavia, with Davids firing a 25-yard rocket into the net with the game in stoppage time, and seemingly headed to extra time with the score at 1-1. The goal was the icing on the cake for Davids who was excellent throughout the game, popping up all over the pitch, and having his name chanted by the crowd.

Davids was again majestic in the quarter final win over Argentina, dominating the midfield which included Diego Simeone, Ariel Ortega, and Juan Sebastian Veron. The Dutch would eventually be knocked out in the semi-finals on penalties by Brazil, but Davids would eventually be named in the team of the tournament by officials.

Redemption had been achieved after Euro 96 for Davids, who would go on to play a key role at Euro 2000, but would not be seen in a World Cup again, after the failure to qualify for South Korea and Japan in 2002.

willem v han11. Willem van Hanegem

Tournament played: 1974

A lot of people remember the shock of Johan Cruyff deciding not to play at the World Cup in 1978, but Netherlands suffered just as much, if not more, from the absence of their midfield general Willem van Hanegem.

The Feyenoord star was at his peak in 1974, as his superior passing range, and ability on the ball added an extra dimension to the midfield along side the tricky Johan Neeskens, and tough tackling Wim Jansen. Nicknamed De Krome (the crooked) for his ability to be frequently accurate with curved passes, and also his curved posture, Van Hanegem was the architect behind some of the Dutch’s best play during 1974.

Van Hanegem was incredibly strong on the ball, making it hard for opponents to try and steal the ball of him, and although the midfielder wasn’t the quickest, he could often go on mazy runs. He was also an intimidating figure for opponents, and had no fear in jumping into tackles, something that was evident in the 2-0 win over Brazil in a feisty game.

Before the final against West Germany, Van Hanegem was famously vocal of his hatred towards their opponent due to the war, where he lost two brothers, his sister, and his father, calling on the Dutch to humiliate them.

West Germany would go onto win 2-1, and Van Hanegem would leave the field in floods of tears, later telling the media:

“I didn’t give a damn as long as we humiliated them. They murdered my father, sister and two brothers. I am full of angst. I hate them.”

A regular in the Dutch national side before the 1978 World Cup, Van Hanegem walked out of the pre-tournament training camp allegedly after being told by coach Ernst Happel that he was not guaranteed a place in the team. However the man himself would later say it was due to money.

He was sorely missed in 1978, especially the final against Argentina, were the Dutch midfield was outfought. Still Van Hanegem will be remembered as one of Netherlands greatest ever midfielders.


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