RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - The Netherlands have pretty much had their way with Argentina in international soccer matches over the years.
But it’s never about quantity. It’s about quality.
In eight matches between the two nations, Argentina has won only once while drawing three times.
That one win though was in the 1978 World Cup final, which was played in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. The Albiceleste won 3-1 to win their first world championship.
That was an interesting World Cup for Argentina, to say the least.
A military coup occurred prior to the tournament, with Argentine president General Jorge Rafael Videla taking over government. There were human rights violations and hundreds of people disappeared. It was an unsettled situation with the military trying to control its people.
General Omar Actis, chairman of the World Cup organizing committee, was assassinated before the competition, supposedly because he was set to speak out about escalating costs of the tournament.
There was even a call for a tournament boycott. The nation that led the call was the Netherlands, the eventual finalists.
While the boycott didn’t come to fruition, Germany’s Paul Breitner and Dutch legend Johan Cruyff did not play in the tournament.
Some 30 years later, Cruyff finally spilled his guts on why he didn’t compete. It had nothing to do with a protest against the Argentine government or the treatment of its citizens. Cruyff claims he was told that if he participated in Argentina, his family would be kidnapped.
Cruyff, in a radio interview, said the kidnapping attempt happened in Barcelona in 1977.
“I had a rifle at my head, I was tied up, my wife tied up, the children were in the apartment in Barcelona,” he said.
He never explained how it ended, but for the next four months his family was placed under police protection.
The Dutch didn’t really want to come to Argentina. And Argentina almost never made it to the knockout stages.
The Argentines needed a 4-0 win over Peru to move on. They won 6-0 and rumours began to swirl that a fix for either money or grain shipments had been arranged.
Years later, a Peruvian senator said that there was an arrangement made for Argentina to accept some political prisoners from Peru. The price was for Peru to lose large against Argentina.
The fact that Peru goalkeeper Ramon 'El Loco' Quiroga was born in Argentina did nothing to quell the rumours.
As surprising as this World Cup has been, don’t expect any of those kinds of shenanigans.