November 12, 2016

More "Brilliant Orange" - the long lead pass

Almost twenty years to the day after Rensenbrink’s hit post in the last minute of the 1978 final came its weird and perfect redemptive mirror image. Marseilles. The Stade Velodrome. 5 July 1998. Just after 5 p.m. It’s 1-1 in the last minute of an epic World Cup quarter-final between Holland and Argentina. Dutch defender Frank de Boer plays a sixty-metre pass, which finds a gap on the right side of the Argentina defence. At an unpromising angle, the ball drops from its high arc towards Holland’s player of the age, Dennis Bergkamp, who leaps like a high hurdler and cushions the ball so it falls perfectly under control without breaking his stride. It’s one of the most remarkable pieces of control ever seen on a football field. ‘Very good by Dennis Bergkamp,’ says Van Gelder, rather like an art critic describing the Sistine Chapel ceiling as ‘nice’. But as Bergkamp uses his next two touches to cut inside the last Argentinian defender and then lash the ball across goalkeeper Roa and into the net, Van Gelder rises memorably to the occasion...

I must’ve watched it on loop maybe 500 times or more. Okay maybe not 500 times. But it got better every time I saw it. It’s up there with the top three Dutch goals ever scored. With Bergkamp against Argentina. A moment of invention and technique and everything at the most extreme level of creativity and technique in an extraordinarily important game. It was decisive…A lightning flash.



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