Whether the 1976 UEFA European Football Championship was the best yet was up for debate – that the third-place play-off between the Netherlands and Yugoslavia was the pick of the bronze-medal fixtures was beyond doubt.
The Dutch were dominant in the extreme in the first half, going 2-0 up inside 40 minutes, but found their lead halved before the interval when Josip Katalinski set the comeback in motion. Yugoslavia's half-time substitutions swung the balance further from the Netherlands and, after Dragan Džajić's equaliser, there looked to be only one winner. Ruud Geels had other ideas, however, and ensured the Dutch prevailed 3-2 in extra time.
The Netherlands could scarcely have imagined they would have been pushed so hard, though. Indeed, goalkeeper Piet Schrijvers was all but unemployed while Yugoslav counterpart Ognjen Petrović was forced to pull off early saves to deny Geels and René van de Kerkhof. That same Dutch duo then combined with more success, though, Geels sliding the ball wide of Petrović having been played into space.
After his twin had scored the second, René van de Kerkhof hit a post. So nearly out of the game, Yugoslavia then halved their arrears when Katalinski came up from the back and finished smartly. Reinvigorated by that goal and the break, Yugoslavia nevertheless had to ride out two more Geels chances before Džajić drew them level with a free-kick.
Danilo Popivoda and Katalinski came close but extra time was required. Dutch defiance then came to the fore, Geels taking Kees Kist's long pass in his stride and holding off Katalinski before applying a clinical finish. Wim Suurbier cleared off his line to ensure the Netherlands held on but it was scant consolation for this talented Dutch generation, who were soon to lose their second successive FIFA World Cup final.
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