By Luke Williams
Germany and the Netherlands will resume one of football's most enduring and compelling rivalries when they meet in a friendly in Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday.
'Good measure of our strength'
"It will be a good measure of our strength against the No2 side in the world," said Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat, whose side currently top UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 3 after their failure to qualify for the summer's FIFA World Cup. "
Games against Germany are always special. We will now see where we stand."
Special or not, Advocaat has agreed with FC Barcelona that Patrick Kluivert, Frank de Boer, Michael Reiziger and Philip Cocu will not play for more than 45 minutes ahead of Saturday's match with Real Madrid CF.
Meanwhile, Germany coach Rudi Völler, who led his country to the World Cup final in Korea/Japan, is keen to cap a memorable year. "The Netherlands have a world-class team with strong individuals," he said. "
We face a difficult test, but an exciting one. We would obviously like to finish a great year with a good performance. Since the World Cup we have done our duty by picking up six points in [EURO 2004™] qualification."
Völler - who is without Dietmar Hamann, Jens Nowotny, Christian Ziege, Carsten Ramelow and Carsten Jancker - is still remembered by some for an unseemly spat with Dutchman Frank Rijkaard in the 1990 World Cup, when the underlying rivalry between the two countries exploded to the fore.
Germany and the Netherlands may neighbour each other, but they are diametrically opposed in footballing attitude. Germany, the epitome of professionalism, are the most successful European footballing nation, with three World Cup and UEFA European Championship triumphs. By contrast the Dutch have just one European crown, together with a multitude of what-ifs.
Including their first encounter in 1910, which the Netherlands won 4-2, the countries have met 34 times, with Germany winning 13 and the Dutch nine. In competitive matches, Germany edge proceedings three wins to two. Of these matches several are acknowledged classics, with the 1974 World Cup final, won 2-1 by the Federal Republic of Germany, remaining the most painful for the Dutch.
Rinus Michels' side, which contained Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Rob Rensenbrink in their pomp, were strongly favoured to win the final and went ahead through a Neeskens penalty in the opening minute, before a German player had even touched the ball. However, Germany fought back with a Paul Breitner penalty before a Gerd Müller's goal secured a 2-1 win.
The sides met again in 1978 and fought out a 2-2 draw that contributed to the Germans' elimination and helped the Dutch reach the World Cup final - where they lost to Argentina. The Germans were 3-2 winners in the group stage of the 1980 European Championship en route to winning the trophy, but the Dutch gained revenge in the semi-finals of the same competition in 1988 when they won 2-1 in Hamburg before beating the Soviet Union to lift the title.
The Germans knocked the Dutch out of the 1990 World Cup with a 2-1 win in a bitter last-16 match in Milan that saw both Rijkaard and Völler sent off. Two years later the Dutch were 3-1 winners in the group stage of the European Championship in the last competitive meeting between the sides.
Pointers to success
The Netherlands won the most recent friendly meeting 2-1 prior to EURO 2000™ - a tournament where they reached the last four while Germany disappointed. Whether Wednesday's match provides any pointers to their EURO 2004™ prospects remains to be seen.
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