Monday, August 29, 2022

Soccer Memories-Part 42, When Johan Cruyff ‘almost’ Managed Holland in the 1994 World Cup


By 1992, Johan Cruyff’s vision of attractive Football was evident with the success of FC Barcelona featuring the likes of Stoichkov, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, and a young Josip Guardiola.

The Dutch had qualified for the 1992 Euros that was to serve as the swan song of veteran Dutch Manager Rinus Michels.

Photo From: Het Nederlands Elftal, De Histoire van Oranje, 1905-1989, Author Matty Verkamman

(Rinus Michels lifting the European Championship trophy, June 25, 1988, European Championships, Holland 2-USSR 0)

The 1994 USA World Cup was on the horizon and with the qualifiers in the Fall, a new National Team Manager was required. Naturally, the Dutch Federation (and the Public) clamored for the man who had transformed Barcelona into one of Europe’s best. This team would shortly (in May 1992) win its very first Champions Cup. This Barcelona Generation would be dubbed the ‘Dream Team’ and the example to follow for future Barça Teams.

While naturally everyone wanted Cruyff, he himself was less enthused. The life of an International Manager with 8-10 matches a year and seeing the players perhaps once a month was limiting to him. He preferred the daily grind of club Football where he felt he could achieve more working with players.

The Dutch Federation were so desperate to have Cruyff that they produced a compromise. Dick Advocaat, at the time Michels’ Assistant, would be in charge through the qualifiers. Following qualification, he would stand aside as Cruyff would take over at the World Cup Finals.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 41, June 1992

(Johan Cruyff)

Photo From: World Soccer, February 1994

(Dick Advocaat)

It would be unimaginable for any Manager to accept such a condition, but we must remember at that time Advocaat was unknown and did not have the same credit that he would gain as a top-level Manager at home and abroad into the next decades.

Advocaat accepted the task and faced difficulties: the surprising challenge of Group winners Norway, Ruud Gullit’s on-again/off-again National Team retirements and Marco Van Basten’s injury that would force his retirement in a couple of years.

He did complete his task and did qualify the Dutch to the American World Cup on November 1993.

However, on the eve of the World Cup Draw on December 18th, 1993, the Dutch Federation announced that talks with Cruyff had broken down. They had tried to contact him for days, but their fax and phone contacts had gone unanswered.

Photo From: World Soccer, April 1993

(Johan Cruyff)

The Federation announced that Advocaat would continue as Full-time Manager into the World Cup with a new four contract. Advocaat accepted after discussion with senior players.

A reason for the parting of the ways concerned Cruyff’s salary and kit for the World Cup. Cruyff ran a clothing line and he wanted to wear his own tracksuits and naturally the Federation was opposed, given their existing contract with Adidas.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 71, December 1994

(Johan Cruyff)

The Dutch would travel to the World Cup with Advocaat in charge and would acquit themselves well by reaching the Quarterfinals and losing to eventual winners Brazil (2-3) in an exciting match.

Shortly after the World Cup Cruyff broke his silence on the reasons. He downplayed the financial aspect of the dispute. He said the discrepancy was over $40,000, which was a small amount, since the Dutch reached the Quarterfinals and made a profit of $1 Million dollars for the Federation (KNVB).

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 66, July 1994

(July 9, 1994, World Cup, Brazil 3-Holland 2)

He also said that the KNVB had told him about half the personnel of the National Team would change following qualification, yet he saw the same players that were to leave at the World Cup.

This reason does not seem valid, because as the Manager in charge, he would have picked the players he would have desired.

He was also dismissive of the Dutch Team’s attitude. He felt they behaved like a friendly team who were simply happy to participate and leave with an acceptable loss. According to him, he would have created a more competitive atmosphere.

Difficult to tell if Holland would have performed better with Cruyff in charge. Perhaps, Ruud Gullit would not have left the squad just before the Finals. His presence and Cruyff’s pressure and undoubtedly different tactics might have been more effective (or not).

However, this incident was yet another example consistent with the narrative that the Dutch create their own problems ahead of World Cups and it would not be the last……

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 71, December 1994

(Johan Cruyff)

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