Crunch time! The evening would seal the Netherlands’ fate: Would they make it through to next year’s World Cup, or would they be sentenced to following the tournament from the comfort of their home chairs? A defeat against Finland, even by a single goal margin, would condemn the Netherlands to finish as the weakest of the three second placed teams across the three groups of four. Sweden and England from Group 2 were already through, and so the key had been the Romania v Denmark Group 1 fixture which had been played earlier in the afternoon. An away win there would have left Romania behind, but a win for the hosts or even draw in Bucharest, and the runners-up of Group 1 would get to eight points and have a better goal difference than the Dutch should the Netherlands lose against the Finns. Romania got the better of the Danes through winning by the impressive scoreline of 3-1. The Netherlands had the immense advantage of playing already aware of the outcome between Romania and Denmark, and so they knew what was expected of them to go through. The pressure was on, but no matter the circumstances, they would’ve been expected to topple Finland. They would also just need to equal or better West Germany’s result against Wales in the game which kicked off simultaneously in order to win the group. The result in Bucharest had favoured both the Dutch and the West Germans for World Cup participation.
Finland had gone down heavily in their most recent qualification fixture in West Germany, and they would have been aware that they were massive underdogs in Rotterdam. To return home with anything from the game would be a big bonus to them. They had little or no pressure at all, and would be hoping that playing nerve free could spur them on to an unlikely result in the Dutch port city.
Netherlands team news
On the back of their significant 2-1 win in Wales, Netherlands manager Libregts could have been forgiven for not wanting to alter much in terms of personnel. However, he would have available to him some vital performers who had been missing in Wrexham: sturdy defender van Tiggelen, back from suspension, and composed midfielder E Koeman. This would relegate previous starters Rutjes and Hofkens to the bench, even if they had not done their chances any harm through their performance in the UK. Still absent, however, was star player Gullit, whose only starting contribution had come in the qualification opener. In addition, he had come off the bench for the 1-0 win in Finland, but other than that, the Netherlands had had to make do without their talismanic attacking player. Another vital cog in the selection which was missing, was midfielder Vanenburg. Koot, who had played at the heart of the defence in the win in Wales, was not even selected for the squad.
Libregts seemed pleased with his 3-4-3 formation, and he would make use of this once again here in Rotterdam. Between the sticks, van Breukelen would feature in his fifth qualifier for Italia ’90, whereas his PSV team mate van Aerle would be appearing from kick-off for a sixth straight time. Ever-present was skipper (in the absence of Gullit) and libero R Koeman, and his defensive compatriot Rijkaard was another who had started every one of their qualification matches for ’90. To complete the back three, van Tiggelen won back his place from Rutjes. Wouters would again take the more defensive midfield role, with Bosman in the advanced position, and up top was a reinstalled van Basten, who so far had not had a prolific qualification, with his sole (and hugely important!) goal coming in the 1-1 draw at home to West Germany. The wide positions had perhaps caused Libregts some worry, though with Vanenburg ruled out, there was a second straight inclusion for Ajax man van’t Schip along the right. Krüzen, Huistra and Witschge had so far performed in the left-sided forward berth, something which also Ellerman had done. And the PSV wide man would make his second start of the qualification against Finland.
There were capable players on the bench, though perhaps oddly there was no substitute striker there. Libregts will have kept faith in van Basten, and surely also Bosman could have moved into the front position should the Milan ace have to come off. Kieft, who had played 90 minutes in both their two previous qualifiers, was nowhere to be seen.
Finland team news
For the second time in this qualification and the second time against the Netherlands, Finland would be without experienced defender Lahtinen. Whatmore, they would be missing his missile like long throws, which had caused even West Germany some concern last time around. This meant a recall to the starting line-up for Kanerva, who would slot into the left-back berth left vacant by Lahtinen. Heikkinen would partner Europaeus in the heart of their defence for the fourth successive match. In midfield, manager Vakkila opted for the same quartet which had started in Dortmund, though he would, to a lot of people’s surprise, switch positions for playmaker Ukkonen and attacking midfielder Tarkkio. The latter would take up a central position on this occasion, with Ukkonen moved out wide left to lend defensive support for Kanerva against van Aerle and van’t Schip.
Vakkila had brought back veteran midfielder Ikäläinen earlier in the campaign, and the 32 year old would make his fourth straight start as the holding midfielder. To the right, Myyry seemed to be one of the very first names on the team sheet. This was the diminutive midfield man’s 22nd anniversary. Perhaps was that why he had been given shirt number 10? This jersey had been kept by a forward for each of their five previous qualifiers. It was Myyry’s fourth different starting number in successive qualifiers.
Up front, Dutch based forward Lipponen had scored in his last two qualifying appearances, so despite hardly setting the world alight with his rather slender frame, he would have been an easy pick for Vakkila. Paatelainen would again accompany him. Unfortunately, 1989 had not been a prolific year for the Scotland based, powerful striker. His performances throughout the qualification had deteriorated in parallel with his lack of goals for Dundee United.
There was no Lius on the bench this time around. Previously, it had been noted how Vakkila had included up to three attackers among his five substitutes, but on this occasion there was not a single one! He would probably have moved Tarkkio up top if need be. Defensive alibi among the substitutes was domestic based Vuorela, who had featured during their two match October trip to the Caribbean, where they had won and lost respectively in two friendlies against Trinidad & Tobago. This mini-tour had also brought about the debut of young Reipas Lahti forward Litmanen, an 18 year old who had received rave reviews in the press already at this stage. There was no room for the teenager in this squad, though.
32 year young Norwegian Nervik would take charge of proceedings. This was the up and coming referee’s second appointment in the ongoing qualification tournament, with his previous appearance coming in Dublin for the Republic of Ireland’s 2-0 win against Hungary in June. It was Nervik’s only fourth international since his debut two years earlier.
In the modern day era, the Netherlands and Finland had met three times, where one occasion had been the Dutch’ 1-0 triumph in Helsinki six months earlier. The Netherlands had also won twice in qualification for the 1976 European Championships. Finland’s sole win in seven previous attempts had come in a 1950 friendly, when the Dutch had gone down in a 4-1 scoreline, an identical outcome to another friendly in Helsinki only a year before, though that time it had been the visitors triumphing.
|1 Hans van Breukelen||33||PSV|
|2 Berry van Aerle||26||PSV|
|3 Adri van Tiggelen||32||Anderlecht|
|4 Ronald Koeman (c)||26||Barcelona|
|5 Frank Rijkaard||27||AC Milan|
|6 Jan Wouters||29||Ajax|
|7 John van’t Schip||sub 79′||25||Ajax|
|8 Erwin Koeman||sub 71′||28||Mechelen|
|9 Marco van Basten||25||AC Milan|
|10 John Bosman||24||Mechelen|
|11 Juul Ellerman||24||PSV|
|12 Graeme Rutjes||29||Mechelen|
|13 Aron Winter||22||Ajax|
|14 Wim Hofkens||on 71′||31||Mechelen|
|15 Rob Witschge||on 79′||23||Saint-Étienne|
|16 Joop Hiele||30||Feyenoord|
|1 Kari Laukkanen||25||Stuttgarter Kickers|
|2 Markku Kanerva||32′||25||HJK Helsinki|
|3 Ari Heikkinen||25||TPS Turku|
|4 Jari Europaeus (c)||26||RoPS|
|5 Erik Holmgren||24||GAIS|
|6 Kari Ukkonen||sub 57′||28||Anderlecht|
|7 Jukka Ikäläinen||32||Kiruna|
|8 Kimmo Tarkkio||sub 76′||23||Hammarby|
|9 Mika Lipponen||25||Twente|
|10 Marko Myyry||22||Lokeren|
|11 Mika-Matti Paatelainen||22||Dundee United|
|12 Olavi Huttunen||29||Haka Valkeakoski|
|13 Jouko Vourela||26||HJK Helsinki|
|14 Pasi Tauriainen||on 57′||25||RoPS|
|15 Erkka Petäjä||on 76′||25||Östers|
|16 Markus Törnvall||24||IFK Norrköping|
Their formation is again something in between 3-4-3 and 3-3-4. This uncertainty is due to Bosman’s role: Is he a midfielder with license to wander forward or is he a deep-lying attacker? With the home side pushing their visitors back for large spells of the game, at times he certainly resembles a second striker, although van Basten is identified as the main striker. At the back, the younger Koeman brother is again leading the team from his libero role, whereas van Tiggelen more or less acts as man marker against Lipponen. Rijkaard’s role against Paatelainen is much more loose, and the AC Milan ace does have a lot of liberty in his central defensive role: He’s very prone to joining in attack. In central midfield, Wouters is the deeper player, whilst the older Koeman and van Aerle keep width left and right respectively. They will both seek to overlap each their wing player, van Aerle more frequently than E Koeman. Among the two wide forwards, Ellerman more often than his compatriot van’t Schip on the opposite side comes in field.
During the second period, the Dutch bring on both substitutes. Firstly, Hofkens comes on in the place of E Koeman, something which sees the substitute take up van Aerle’s right-sided position, with the Netherlands’ number 2 moving across to the left. This move seemed a surprising one, considering how both players were possibly more familiar along the opposite side. Libregts will also replace van’t Schip with Witschge. The latter comes on in the left-sided forward position, with Ellerman moving across to the right for the remaining time.
At the back, Heikkinen has the clearest marking role of any one individual out on the pitch as he tries to stick to van Basten throughout. Europaeus is again the spare man, but he does more cover work to the left of centre than right, and so does appear to assist left-back Kanerva in dealing with the twin threat from van Aerle and van’t Schip. Holmgren tussles with Ellerman, and does receive some assistance from Myyry, who is, as always, a hard-working player. Ikäläinen sits in the deep midfield role, whereas ahead of him there is the surprise inclusion of Tarkkio in a central, more attacking, role. This position has belonged to playmaker Ukkonen so far in the qualification, but the latter is in this match seen out on the left hand side. Ukkonen goes through a whole lot of defensive work, as he’s yet another player deployed to look after the Dutch threat from their right hand side. Among the two Finnish forwards, Lipponen is again seen towards the right of centre, with Paatelainen moving distinctly into left-sided territory.
Like the hosts, Finland will also bring on both their substitutes during the final half, and this will also see some reshuffling. When Ukkonen early comes off for Tauriainen, it is, however, a straight swap. Later, Tarkkio will depart and be replaced by Petäjä, who immediately slots into the left-sided midfield position which his fellow substitute had held since coming on. This saw Tauriainen move into the centre where Tarkkio had been.
De Kuip was clad in orange and packed to the rafters with just under 50k party prone spectators. Despite seeing their team having had a relatively mundane qualifying campaign yet according to their own high standards, and despite rumours of some player unrest earlier, no one could take away the fact that the Netherlands were 90 minutes of football away from making it through to Italia ’90. They would leave kick-off to the visiting Finns, whose wide midfield duo of Myyry and Ukkonen opened the festival.
No Lahtinen for the visitors
Finland had shown a lot of fighting spirit throughout the qualification, but they had also shown a tendency to buckle under pressure, and indeed to lose a bit of morale once they’d gone behind. This had been evident in their most recent outing, the 6-1 defeat away to West Germany. Interestingly, manager Vakkila had made few changes both in personnel and tactic wise since then. The only player to lay claim to a berth in the starting eleven since Dortmund had been left-sided defender Kanerva, who had replaced veteran Lahtinen. Kanerva had shown earlier in the qualification that his presence didn’t necessarily have to mean a step down in quality. He was a tall, robust player with decent positional awareness, and as such not unsimilar to the man he’d replaced, though Finland would miss the asset which was Lahtinen’s huge throws. On more than one occasion had the experienced defender’s attacking throw-ins caused problems for the West German defence. This time around, attacking midfielder Tarkkio would be given responsibility for throwing in, but he simply did not possess in his locker anything near the mould of Lahtinen. Finland were deprived of one of their main weapons.
The home side’s defence and defensive midfield
The Netherlands had been utilising three at the back throughout their qualification campaign, and quickly it turned out that this match saw no exception to that. And why would it? They had been very solid defensively since Day 1. Again, the excellent R Koeman sat at the heart of their three man defence, and again carrying the captain’s armband in Gullit’s continued absence, flanked by solid man-marker van Tiggelen to his left and the brilliant Rijkaard, who had stepped back into defence since his brief midfield appearance during the impressive win in Wales. Combined, these players had it all: Power, guile, pace, awareness and not least the ability to instigate attacks from the back. The visitors knew they were up against a very resourceful defensive line, and they quickly found out that their nimble front man Lipponen, indeed based in the Netherlands with Twente, would be marked by the fearsome van Tiggelen. The capable Anderlecht defender had won back his place in the side despite Rutjes’ sound display in Wrexham last time around. Lipponen would have to be at his best to get anything from the rugged defender.
When up against the group’s two lesser teams, the Netherlands had typically been seen with an attacking central midfielder. This role was really tailor-made for Gullit, but since the talisman was riddled with injuries throughout their campaign, the job on this occasion had fallen to Bosman. The latter did certainly not possess Gullit’s flair on the ball, nor had he the x-factor which the AC Milan ace possessed, but he brought other assets to the team, such as endeavour and also good physical capability. Bosman would sit atop the four man Dutch midfield, not far behind van Basten in a role at times resembling that of a second striker.
Behind him was the tireless Wouters, a player generally known for his workmanlike performances at the back of the midfield, where his defensive prowess would allow for others to steam ahead. In a side where several players enjoyed going forward, Wouters was the perfect holding man, keeping the hosts together even should they lose possession and be counter-attacked. However, these opponents were not necessarily known for their ability to catch sides on the break, so the Netherlands could rest assured that they were unlikely to be heavily challenged defensively.
van Basten more involved at last
The home side would often seek to engage their wide players. They had van Aerle and E Koeman to the right and left respectively in the midfield constellation, and though they were not first and foremost attacking players, they were both well capable of linking up with each their wide man: van Aerle with van’t Schip and E Koeman with Ellerman. These combinations were what the Finns had to try and neutralize, or they knew they would be in for an exhausting evening. Up top, van Basten, who had hardly resembled a top quality marksman for the majority of this qualification, would be up against the blonde figure of Heikkinen, the man-marking Finland centre-back. Where the AC Milan striker had often cut something of a peripheral character in their previous qualifiers, and even having been benched in Wales, he now appeared to be playing with more of a spring in his step. The recently turned 25 year old seemed to have more enthusiasm on this occasion, taking Heikkinen into wide positions both right and left of centre. Surely, the lone striker’s role in Libregts’ system was no easy job, but van Basten at long last seemed to have sussed it out.
Ukkonen in a wide role
The Finns had often been described as ‘plucky’, something which was certainly no disregard to their ability to put up a fight. With a couple of exceptions, they were a tall team, and they were bent on working together to try and deny their opponents space. Both wide midfielders had important tasks in assisting their respective full-backs, and it was particularly surprising to see Ukkonen out wide on this occasion. The Anderlecht player had started each of their former five qualifiers in a central role, though tonight the advanced midfield position had gone to former wide man Tarkkio. The two had simply swapped places, possibly because Vakkila had thought Ukkonen as a sounder defensive option in order to deny the home side space wide to the right through van Aerle and van’t Schip. As the game progressed, Ukkonen displayed greater defensive responsibility even than Myyry on the opposite flank. Myyry had so often showed a great appetite for helping out his right-back. Again, he made up a tandem with the solid Holmgren, and together the pair would try and do their utmost to prevent E Koeman and Ellerman from making inroads along the Dutch left. Myyry was also a fairly direct player when going forward, with his ability to utilise pace in order to get into crossing positions. He would indeed swing in the first cross of this match, when he only just failed to reach the head of Lipponen after four minutes of play.
Netherlands have two gos from distance
The home side would quickly reply with a couple of attempts from distance. Firstly, Ellerman cut in from his left hand side and fired right-footed from 25 yards, a powerful shot which only just crept wide of Laukkanen’s upright. This action certainly brought the crowd even further to life, and within two minutes they will see how Rijkaard strikes the ball as sweet as you’ll like from almost 30 yards out. Bosman had teed it up for the attack-minded central defender, and Rijkaard’s shot hit the crossbar clean with Laukkanen beaten. The Netherlands had almost got off to a flyer, as the atmosphere inside the impressively noisy De Kuip sought to reach new levels.
Tarkkio again struggling against quality opposition
Finland were probably losing some attacking flair in leaving Ukkonen to assist Kanerva along their left hand side. This left a lot of forward responsibility to Tarkkio, who had burst onto the scene with an impressive display in their 1-0 home win against Wales. However, the burly wide midfielder had been found out in their 6-1 defeat in West Germany, and it was not as if he would find it much easier on this occasion, appearing in that central attacking midfield role. Tarkkio clearly thrived on rather than off the ball; he was someone who would instantly set pace ball at feet and seek to challenge his man. Perhaps instinctively more than as per instructions, Tarkkio would move out towards the left hand side when appearing on the ball. Having played wide to the left in their two previous qualifiers, this was well-known territory for the Sweden based player. In this area he would seek to combine with Paatelainen, who also would at times engage himself in play towards the left hand channel. Tarkkio’s directness would only get him so far. He would rarely be able to make an impact on the solid Dutch defence, and van Breukelen would not have his work cut out in these early stages of the game. Finland were having enough to stop the home side in their tracks, as the Netherlands were, unsurprisingly, having the lion’s share of possession.
The hosts lay siege on Finland’s goal
Since the two efforts from Ellerman and Rijkaard, there had been an attempt from out wide by van’t Schip which had failed to test Laukkanen, but the home side would again work their way to an opportunity when Heikkinen made a mess of trying to clear van Aerle’s cross from deep along the right hand side. The defender, whose marking on van Basten on several occasions throughout the game would leave a lot to be desired, had left his striker in order to try and cut the cross out, but having failed, he contrived to expose the visitors’ goal badly. This would see Bosman feed van Basten inside the area, and though the latter was unable to get properly over the ball in order to keep his effort down, it was yet another scare for the visitors, who at times were living a charmed life inside the opening quarter of an hour. They could not afford to leave the home players with such amounts of space, or they would be punished sooner rather than later.
It would have been interesting to have Finland manager Vakkila’s thoughts on the early proceedings, as his team were easily played through in midfield. Tarkkio, the advanced central midfielder, was unable to lend the more defensive alibi, Ikäläinen, much support, and the home side were able to burst through midfield with almost embarrassing ease at times. This brought almost relentless pressure on an overworked Finland defence, where in particular captain Europaeus was prominent in heading away crosses. Balls into the box from wide positions was a clear Dutch piece of tactics, and they appeared to be particularly efficient down their right hand side, despite Ukkonen’s focus on trying to deny van Aerle scope. Whereas Ukkonen did reasonably well in his defensive endeavours, Kanerva would often struggle to keep the lively van’t Schip at bay, and so crosses would appear from this region. Few found their way through to goalkeeper Laukkanen; they were usually dealt with by either of the remaining three defenders after van’t Schip had made it beyond Kanerva. On another occasion, just shy of the 19 minute mark, the Ajax wide man’s cross indeed hit the full-back on its way into the box, something which saw the ball take a heavy deflection which almost caught Laukkanen by surprise. To his credit, the ‘keeper adjusted his movements quickly and got down well to save just inside the near post. Had it not been for Laukkanen’s quick actions, Finland would’ve found themselves one down courtesy of the deflected cross. One still felt, though, that it would only be a matter of time before the opening goal would appear judging by the rate at which the home side were able to work their way into the final third of the pitch.
As the first period was reaching its halfway point, the home side twice in quick succession come close to opening the scoring. It had already been demonstrated with which ease the Netherlands were able to get into crossing positions from their right hand side, and van’t Schip and van Aerle would again combine along the right, the former feeding the latter who’s made a fine run into the area and got to the byline, where his angled cut-back is perfect fodder for Bosman, who’s positioned himself on the near post. The Mechelen forward attempts to poke it first time past Laukkanen, but the ‘keeper is alert to the danger and makes a save with his leg. Bosman had also on more than one occasion been able to avoid attention from his advanced midfield position, and on this particular incident there was no defender anywhere near him. After Laukkanen’s parry, the defence had only been able to clear the ball out into predatory territory, where the indomitable R Koeman would often lurch.
Preying on downpour, he would not be shy to have a go from distance with his fearsome right foot. From all of 30 yards he made Laukkanen, who by now was certainly earning his wages, work again as the goalkeeper would have to palm away the stinging shot from underneath the angle of the post and the crossbar and out for a corner. The home captain had struck his shot really well, but the Stuttgarter Kickers stopper had once again been equal to an attempt from the hosts. The 0-0 scoreline was certainly flattering the visitors by now. From the subsequent left wing flag kick, which van’t Schip would swing into the area, Laukkanen got a fist to the ball, but could only clear it until the left-sided corner of the box, where another Koeman boot was ready to launch an effort on goal. However, older brother Erwin was only able to direct his volleyed effort straight back into the expecting hands of the Finland number 1.
Paatelainen off form
What had happened to Paatelainen this last year or so? The exciting striker, who had scored plentiful of goals for his Dundee United in Scotland early in the 1988/89 season, had almost completed the calendar year of 1989 without finding the back of the net. He had played with a lot of confidence in Finland’s early qualifiers, and had troubled both West Germany and Wales in their first two matches. He was hardly recognizeable in Rotterdam, where he was always too slow, beaten for pace and power by the gritty Dutch defensive line. Paatelainen would often seek to engage himself towards the left side of attack, and he would try to link up with Tarkkio, who we’ve already established would move out towards the left when coming across the halfway line. The powerfully built striker, however, was almost embarrassingly unable to keep on to the ball or even to try and play his team mates in, as he would either be bustled off possession or not even be involved. His forward partner Lipponen, who did not seem to be struggling with the same confidence problems which had hit Paatelainen, was still being marshalled well by van Tiggelen, and so the Finnish attackers were unable to offer their defence much respite. Having won back possession, the Netherlands would soon again focus their attention towards the other end of the pitch.
The home side turning the screw
With the home side well on top of the game, there was precious little that they had to be concerned about inside their own half of the pitch. This would release Rijkaard more and more into a position which would resemble that of a midfielder rather than a central defender. So comfortable on the ball, the Italy based ace would time and again be an outlet for his team mates, and he would make Wouters’ tidy up job at the back of the Dutch midfield an easy task. It was a Netherlands team full of movement and cohesion, and the only worry so far would have been that they had been unable to make their dominance count. However, it remained, one felt, only a matter of time until the Finns would be breached. With van Basten moving into the channels and thus stretching Heikkinen, Europaeus would often need Ikäläinen to drop back from his central defensive midfield role to assist him, and with the non-stop worry from the Dutch right through the two said messrs of van Aerle and van’t Schip, added to the stealthy threat from Bosman, Finland appeared to have too many worries at the same time. It might perhaps not have been Dutch total football’s absolute finest hour, but they were certainly digging into their meal with almost frenzied appetite. Along the left, though, crosses would come from the deep through E Koeman rather than Ellerman, who prefered to cut inside rather than challenge full-back Holmgren directly along the flank.
Surprise development in the other group match
Across the border in West Germany, Wales had gone ahead early against the Netherlands’ table top rivals, something which had been met by the audience with great enthusiasm. Should the Dutch somehow fail to score against the Finns, they would still win the group to qualify for the World Cup as long as the West Germans could not break down the Welsh resistance. However, there had been an equalizer during the first half, and on account of the West Germans’ superior goal difference, Libregts was aware that his boys would most likely need to win the match to finish top of the group table. Not that he will have been hugely worried, even with the scoreline still being 0-0 as the game was moving into the last quarter of an hour before half time.
The match was played in a sporting atmosphere, and the referee seemed to deal well with the occasion. No mean tackles were flying about, although there was one occasion on 32 minutes, when Kanerva’s frustration probably got the better of him.
The Finland left-back clattered into van’t Schip from behind well inside the Dutch half, and for his efforts he would be rewarded with the only booking of the game. It was not the meanest of challenges, more clumsy than anything else, yet one which probably just warranted a yellow card. Mr Nervik would not again have to display either of his two cards.
Dutch cease fire
Inside the final ten minutes, Finland appeared to have it more their way, as the home side’s pace seemed to have relented. This meant that the Finnish midfield were able to hold on to the ball for a bit longer than during the spells when the home side had been so much on top, and this would give the visitors’ backline a timely breather. There were, however, few threats from the visitors when they attempted to come forward, as they were unsuccessful from either flank as well as through the centre. Holmgren, Tarkkio and Myyry had wanted to combine along the right hand side, but their efforts were easily brushed aside as the Finns simply did not possess enough individual quality to make telling passes inside the Netherlands’ half of the pitch. They would have been mightily pleased to have shut up shop so far, but the worry that was the second half was still a major concern. Surely, a similar game pattern would see the Finns concede.
Late opportunity for van’t Schip
The absence of Lahtinen’s long throw weapon diminished the Finnish chances of causing worry from such set-pieces. Tarkkio was by now the designated throw-in person, but wisely he chose not to attempt anything which he would not master anyway, and so kept his throws short. With less than three minutes remaining until half time, though, the Finns do manage to give the home side a scare when the Dutch defence fail to deal convincingly with a ball into the box after a left wing Tarkkio throw.
The ball works its way through to the far end of the area, where van Breukelen can not get to the ball before Paatelainen, who lifts it high back into the area where a crowd of players has gathered in expectance. With the ‘keeper being out of position, the goal is gaping, but neither Finnish player is able to get their head to the ball, with the home defence able to clear their lines and launch a counter, from which van’t Schip will arrive at a marvellous opportunity on the far, right post following a deep ball in from Wouters. With all the time and space in the world, the winger seems to be caught in two minds, and having probably taken his eyes off the ball, he scuffs his effort disappointingly wide of goal to the relief of the visitors.
End of the first 45
As the referee decides to put an end to first half proceedings, there’s whistles of disappointment heard from the home crowd, and this despite their team being on top for virtually the whole of the half. Their only, yet main, failure had been to find the back of the net, though they would have fancied their chances after the break. Finland had conceded on five occasions during the second half in West Germany, and it would take a grandiose effort to keep out the Dutch for the entire 90. Little had so far suggested that they were capable of just that. 0-0 after an eventful first period.
With the home side appearing much the stronger during the first 45 minutes, there seemed little reason for Libregts to make any half time changes, and the Netherlands reappeared precisely like they had been during the opening half. Perhaps had Vakkila felt the need to address certain areas after his selection had been exposed on a few occasions so far? As it were, there had been no changes in Finland’s line-up either, and Bosman and van Basten would recommence the game at the start of the second half.
Rijkaard in focus
Often, and rightly, Finland had been pointed out as a team with a lot of physique; they possessed tall, strong players. They had a few performers who were capable of covering a lot of distance. However, the Netherlands were also not short in this compartment: They too were a tall, robust side, and they had a few players who were very impressive in the air, even without the presence of the imposing Gullit. Rijkaard, for example, matched most players in the air, and within the first few minutes after the restart he would get the opportunity to showcase this particular piece of skill. On the first occasion, he would try to head across goal E Koeman’s right wing corner. He would only succeed in prolonging the flag kick onto the top of the net, whereas secondly, the defender cum midfielder would get on the end of van’t Schip’s high free-kick into the area from the right hand side. Again, he failed to pinpoint his header where he’d wanted it, and it crept a yard to the right of Laukkanen’s goal frame. Rijkaard had claimed aerial bragging rights, though, and he was not a player you should let finish from a fine position inside the box. Whatmore, the Milan star seemed very up for the game; he appeared to have a great appetite for the occasion.
The more than useful E Koeman
E Koeman had been something of a Dutch success story throughout the qualification, although he was hardly a player who would win lots of individual awards for his performances. His contributions were usually more of the solid, unspectacular kind, the type of character you’d miss when he was not there. He had indeed missed out on the recent 2-1 win in Wales, but being available for selection again, Libregts had not hesistated in reinstalling him. The older of the two Koeman brothers was equipped with a very fine left foot, and he appeared to be the perfect fit as the wide left midfielder in the manager’s 3-4-3 formation. In a team with a lot of attack-minded players, E Koeman would, together with Wouters, tie the Dutch midfield together and keep them stable.
In this particular game, he would often be up against Finland’s wide right man, the diminutive but very workmanlike Myyry, and as early as 23 seconds into the second half, E Koeman should have been the second player on the pitch to be shown the yellow card when he wickedly kicks the Lokeren man to the ground just inside the Netherlands’ half of the pitch. It is a fortunate escape for the home side’s number 8. Myyry needs attention from the medical staff before the game can resume.
van Basten’s improved performance
It had been claimed, and perhaps even rightly, that van Basten had not had a qualification which epitomised him as a player. The super striker was nearing the age where he would be at the pinnacle of his career, yet he had had little personal triumph in terms of goals hitherto, something which could also partially be explained by the fact of him appearing somewhat isolated up front. This despite Libregts’ use of an attacking central midfielder which at times would resemble a second striker and almost a partner up top for the Milan ace. He had, though, shown endeavour and initiative in his most recent performances, and he looked pleased to be back in the starting line-up again, having come off the bench in Wrexham, where he’d struggled with a minor injury pre-match. The 25 year old clearly showed a lot of hunger for this tie, and he was a match for Heikkinen, the Finland man-marker, so often drawing the stopper into wide areas through his chasing balls up from the back. For it was so, that the Netherlands would at times be very direct, looking for their striker with quick balls up ahead. On most occasions van Basten would get there first, and he would also win his share of headers. With his size, he was no mean performer in the air too. It must also be added, that Heikkinen often appeared sloppy in his marking, leaving van Basten too much scope to take advantage of, not sitting close enough to such a top quality striker.
Nearly eight minutes into the second half, van Basten gets his head to R Koeman’s ball into the area, though in order to win the aerial challenge, he had used his arms too actively to defeat Heikkinen. Laukkanen had made a diving save from the header, but the central defender would win a free-kick for van Basten’s irregular approach.
More on Finland’s struggles
How about the visitors after the restart? There’s not a lot which could be say positively about them other than that they were still keeping their sheets clean. Yet it did seem more as a matter of time when they would be breached. They were fighting with the means with which they were equipped, but they were seemingly fighting a losing cause against superior opposition. Kanerva had been struggling all night to keep the lively van’t Schip under control, and Heikkinen’s problems in monitoring van Basten’s movement had already been mentioned. The spare man at the back, Europaeus, had been instrumental in heading away crosses, whereas Holmgren was so far relatively successful in denying Ellerman too much space along his side. Holmgren was capably assisted by Myyry along Finland’s right hand side, so the Dutch left was far from as effective as their right.
In midfield, Ikäläinen was able to keep up as long as the home side did not up the pace, though once the ball was shifted around at a higher tempo, he would struggle. He had showed on a couple of occasions that he was far from a novice in aerial challenges, although this part of his play had not been highlighted much until now in the qualification. For example had he been able to win in the air against Bosman at the start of the second half, something which was no mean feat. Ukkonen, Vakkila’s choice at left midfield for this match, would run when he saw fit, but being something of a rare artist in this Finland select, he would also at times allow himself breathers which the others were not due. He was with a clear defensive focus, most likely told to watch the Dutch right to protect Kanerva, but whether it was a successful recipe was up for debate. It must be said, though, that Ukkonen would not shirk away from a challenge, something which had not always been the case early in the qualification.
West Germany move ahead of the Dutch in standings
As it were early in the second half, the Netherlands were still heading for the World Cup at 0-0, but less than ten minutes out, they were told of West Germany’s 2-1 goal against Wales. This meant that the West Germans rather than the Dutch found themselves atop the Group 4 table. Not that it meant too much as far as qualification mattered, since the second best side in Group 1, which was Denmark as things were (they were trailing 2-1 in Romania), could not get beyond eight points. Yet, the Dutch would have been bent on defeating the opposition which was in front of them. And despite the often sole efforts of Tarkkio, Finland’s advanced central midfielder, there had not been any real threats against van Breukelen’s goal so far in the match. Tarkkio would have a wild shot from 35 yards well over target on 54 minutes. He seemed to be a player well capable of making some odd tactical choices, did Tarkkio. This had been one of those moments.
Netherlands make their dominance count
12 minutes into the second half comes the first substitution of the match. Finland decide to replace Ukkonen for whatever reason, and bring on Tauriainen in his place. Yes, certainly the Netherlands had been dangerous along their right hand side in the first half, but so far after the break, the hosts had not enjoyed the same kind of success through van Aerle and van’t Schip, although the latter had just won a corner off Kanerva having first moved past Ukkonen. Perhaps had this been the decisive moment for Vakkila which urged him to take his left-sided midfielder off? Ukkonen came off without any hint of an injury, so the decision clearly seemed to be a tactical one. Tauriainen, who had also come on as the left-sided midfielder late in the 1-0 win at home to Wales, would slot directly into Ukkonen’s role. The first thing he was faced with was another Dutch corner, as E Koeman prepared to swing one in from the right hand side with his left boot. Had it been a slightly odd decision to make a substitution as they were facing a defensive set-piece? Perhaps. The question would remain lingering as the visitors never managed to clear their lines properly following the corner, with Kanerva twice failing to get enough conviction behind defensive headers. The Netherlands were chewing into the visitors, and their central midfielders Wouters and Bosman were instrumental in them regaining possession deep inside Finland territory.
And when Rijkaard won in the air against Holmgren on the far post to head the ball back in the direction of Wouters, the seasoned Ajax campaigner would swing with his left foot a ball high towards the back post, where Bosman had snuck in on the blind side of the Finland defence, and where both Kanerva and Heikkinen were, in vain, shouting for offside, whilst Europaeus was caught in no man’s land. Bosman did not connect cleanly, but only a few yards out his finish was too much for Laukkanen to keep out. De Kuip errupted as the Netherlands went 1-0 in front.
van Basten again
Home striker van Basten’s revival had already been highlighted before he would embark on a run which brought most of the crowd to their feet. Hardly particularly famous for advancing beyond several men before unleashing a stinging effort on target, he would take the ball from just inside his own half and then leave Heikkinen, Europaeus and Holmgren for dead in an impressive run. Having entered the 18 yard box from the left, he then proceeded to fire a strong left-footed shot which Laukkanen got down to parry, and ultimtely Kanerva had to boot the ball away. In fact, the ball only reached as far as van Basten again, and faced by the recovering Heikkinen, he got to the byline to pull back for Bosman to sky an effort well over goal from close range. This was certainly the van Basten which the Oranje fans wanted to see. It was an uncharacteristic run for a tall, gangly forward, but it showed the 25 year old’s desire to get back among the goals for his country. Finland were threading a fine line.
That fine line was to be crushed only moments after, when R Koeman would lift into the area a free-kick from halfway inside the Finland half. Holmgren, one of the Finns’ more consistent players throughout the qualification, failed to connect cleanly with his left foot in his attempt to clear the ball, and so the loose object only found its way out to the edge of the penalty area, where E Koeman would pop up with his much weaker right foot to prod the ball into the back of the net for 2-0.
Laukkanen had seemed to get down late, but he’d perhaps been shielded for sight from Heikkinen in front of him. And credit must nevertheless go to E Koeman for finding the gap between the ‘keeper and the left hand post. Suddenly, the home side were finding the back of the net, having scored twice in the space of four minutes and 20 seconds. By now, it seemed only a matter of how big the margin of victory would be.
More threats from the Dutch right?
Perhaps oddly had the two home goals coincided with Finland’s decision to take Ukkonen off and replace him with Tauriainen, although no direct blame could be placed on the recently arrived substitute. It had not been through their threatening right hand side that the Dutch had worked their way into a powerful goal advantage. However, Tauriainen would appear to have less strict defensive instructions than his predecessor, and would this not be something which the home side could take further advantage of, as van’t Schip with van Aerle still behind him could exploit an even greater level of space along the hosts’ right? Not that they were no longer strongly looking to advance at all costs. Perhaps could the two quickfire goals at long last give the Finns some respite.
Silent Finnish forward line
The second half is almost 20 minutes old when van Breukelen is called into action inside the penalty area for the first time. Not that there ever appeared to be a great deal of danger, but he needed to get down and collect in front of Tarkkio as Wouters had an attempted clearance bounce off the visitors’ number 8. The Finns’ forward pairing of Lipponen and Paatelainen had had little luck all evening, and in particular the latter had been muted. It was only Lipponen of the two who was being marked by a designated defender (van Tiggelen), whereas Paatelainen had found himself up against various opponents on the few occasions that he had been in possession of the ball inside the Netherlands’ half. This was far from the striker which had brought fear to opponents early in the qualification. He was playing with a low level of confidence and he did not seem 100 % fit. He was not giving chase, and at times he would go AWOL out in the left handed channels. Lipponen, despite being shackled by van Tiggelen, at least gave it a go. Finland would remain a very limited goal threat to the Dutch throughout.
The home side add to their tally
When Dutch skipper R Koeman makes it 3-0 from the penalty spot with just over 20 minutes remaining, it is fair to say that the game is long since over as a contest. From the home side’s back three, it had predominantly been Rijkaard who had made the most inroads into Finnish territory, but since the break, even the libero had advanced on a few occasions inside the enemy’s half. On this occasion it had been the lively van Basten, who only a couple of minutes earlier had been wide with a left-footed effort from inside the penalty area after he had turned Heikkinen with great ease, who had headed down for the younger Koeman as the libero had made his way into the penalty area. Up against his opposite number 4, R Koeman went to the ground from Europaeus’ challenge.
The referee never hesitated in awarding the home side a penalty, and there were no protests from the visitors. Replays showed that Europaeus had brought Koeman down, although the home side’s spare man at the back had hardly needed a second invitation to go to the ground. The PSV defender got up and dispatched the penalty low to the left, with Laukkanen diving in the opposite direction. De Kuip’s party atmosphere would just gather in sound levels. At 3-0, the Dutch were about to end their qualification campaign with a resounding win at last. And there was no way they could be caught as group winners.
Immediately in the wake of 3-0, Libregts make his first change as he takes the solid E Koeman off and replaces him with Hofkens. The latter had featured in the win in Wales, and he would come on as the right-sided defensive midfielder, thus shifting van Aerle across to the left, perhaps surprisingly given the fact that Hofkens had previously appeared as a left-sided option in the Dutch select. The move was tactically motivated. E Koeman had put in a creditable shift.
van Tiggelen shoots – a rare sight
A player you could always rely on was Dutch defender van Tiggelen. On this occasion he had possibly not been up against the most fearsome opponent in Lipponen, though it has to be said that the Twente forward had scored in Finland’s two previous qualifiers, and so knew how to find the back of the net. The Brussels based veteran defender had kept his opponent quiet throughout, and though you hardly thought of van Tiggelen as someone to make much in ways of contributions inside the opposition’s half, he would be teed up by Ellerman in order to have a pop at goal from 30 yards out.
The big defender strikes the ball cleanly, and with some venom, but Laukkanen is well positioned and can make a comfortable claim, even if he must stretch to his left. A van Tiggelen goal from distance would’ve made for some interesting headlines.
Second Finland substitution
The third goal did seem to have taken some of the sting out of the game, as the pace was clearly slower than it had previously been. The Dutch were content playing for time, and Finland simply did not possess the ability to cause their hosts any danger. The home side would keep possession with ease inside the Finland half, and on the back of a wave of interpassing, the home crowd would cheer loudly every time a new player touched the ball. The Finland manager then decided to bring into play his second substitute, as he took the ineffective Tarkkio off for the curly-haired figure of Petäjä. The latter had been Vakkila’s initial left-back choice for the qualification, though the blisteringly quick wide man was possibly of better potential going forward than he was at defending. Petäjä came on to play to the left in midfield, with Tauriainen, the player who had earlier come on for Ukkonen, moving from his left-sided position to the advanced central midfield role. Tauriainen had shown some endeavour, as you’d have expected, and he had impressively won a couple of headers.
He would get ahead of van Tiggelen to win a header from the edge of the area after a cross field pass from Lipponen, and although Tauriainen’s effort had initially not seemed dangerous, it would eventually cause van Breukelen, who had probably been caught slightly off guard, some bother as the ‘keeper had to collect the ball from near the angle of his post and crossbar. It was Finland’s sole attempt on target all night.
van’t Schip can sit down – Witschge on
With just over ten minutes left for play, Witschge, the young Ajax winger, came on to replace his team mate at club level van’t Schip. The latter had roasted Kanerva during a busy first half, but the home side had focused less on wing play since the half time break, and so van’t Schip had had fewer opportunities to showcase his talent. He had perhaps also tired by the time that the substitution came about, and so he seemed a natural player to replace. Witschge was, however, a left-sided player, something which meant that Ellerman would move across to the right, with Witschge taking the PSV forward’s left-sided position.
van Basten with another effort
The remaining few minutes contain little of interest, at least as far as goalmouth action mattered. There was time for another van Basten effort from inside the area, as the striker outwitted Heikkinen once again when feeding off a Bosman header down to the right inside the area. Although recently only remotely interested, van Basten would for sure have wanted to get his name on the scoresheet, but having guided himself into position for a curled left-footed effort, he could far from get enough direction on the ball to guide it away from Laukkanen, and the ‘keeper can save effortlessly. Bosman, who had won the header to direct the ball for van Basten, had had a fine game in his advanced midfield role, often relying on his stealthy movements to direct him in behind the opposition’s players.
Lap of honour
Referee Nervik brings an end to the game 25 seconds into time added on, and the home players reach their arms into the air, well aware that they have finished the qualification campaign as group winners ahead of their arch rivals, and the Dutch players can embark on a lap of honour in front of an extatic De Kuip crowd.
Media folk take to the pitch to have pictures and interviews with the players, and Libregts will also select a good few words to a live Dutch TV audience. The manager had taken the Netherlands through to the World Cup, and ultimately they had done it in style. ‘Style’ had not always been a word with which their qualifying perfomances this time around had been associated.
The Netherlands showed from the outset that they wanted to win. They proceeded to give Finland a lot of first half problems, but despite creating a number of chances, they failed to go in at half-time in front. They had been particularly threatening along their right hand side through van Aerle and not least van’t Schip, but Laukkanen had stood tall in the visitors’ goal. After the break it was a different story, as the hosts, despite enjoying relative success wide to the right in the opening 45, went more direct through the centre, something which seemed to bring the best out of van Basten, who was sharp and certainly enjoyed the better of his marker Heikkinen. After the opening goal through the at times impressive Bosman, a goal which had seemed inevitable, the visitors folded, and the Netherlands scored two further times in the next 12 minute period. As the group win was sealed, the home crowd let their emotions sound, and the noise levels inside the ground towards the end were impressive. So too had the home performance been, to see the Dutch exit the qualification stage with aplomb.
1 van Breukelen 6.9
confident in what little he had to do
2 van Aerle 7.1
a good partner for van’t Schip in first half
3 van Tiggelen 7.4
a very competent performance in which he completely nullifies any threat from Lipponen
4 R Koeman 7.5
bossy at the back, some fine contributions inside Finland’s half, one which lead to the penalty which he himself converted
5 Rijkaard 7.3
at times bossed midfield – as a central defender
6 Wouters 7.2
some excellent recovery work which never allowed the Dutch to be counter-attacked against
7 van’t Schip 7.3
shows his worth in the first half, but only sparingly used after the break. Should have scored just before h-t
(15 Witschge –
next to no impact in the dying minutes)
8 E Koeman 7.2
simple and effective, and is on hand to guide home the second Dutch goal
(14 Hofkens –
slots in almost at right-back)
9 van Basten 7.6
worked the channels, great appetite, close to scoring wonderful individual goal
10 Bosman 7.0
not always highly visible, something which also is his asset
11 Ellerman 6.9
performance of team work rather than individual brilliance
1 Laukkanen 7.1
makes some fine first half stops, slightly hesitant when coming for crosses, but not truly exposed. No fault for goals
2 Kanerva 6.3
often problems with containing van’t Schip
3 Heikkinen 6.1
woeful as man marker, gives van Basten all too much space
4 Europaeus 6.6
headed away a few crosses, but rashly gave away the penalty
5 Holmgren 6.6
rarely directly challenged defensively, of little support inside the opposition’s half
6 Ukkonen 6.6
almost solely a defensive focus, disciplined, though not always useful enough aid for Kanerva behind him
(14 Tauriainen 6.3
a couple of moments after coming into the centre, but in initial wide role as good as invisble)
7 Ikäläinen 6.3
not as mobile as he needed to be in the protective midfield role
8 Tarkkio 6.4
too much work on his own
(15 Petäjä –
little time to have much of a say at a time when the game anyway was over as a contest)
9 Lipponen 6.4
shows enough interest, but lacks in quality
10 Myyry 6.7
delievered two crosses which both failed to hit a team mate, some good recovery work inside his own half
11 Paatelainen 6.2
wins four headers, but has a sluggish, flat performance