Netherlands put themselves in a strong position to qualify for the quarter finals with a 2-0 victory over a stubborn Switzerland team at Villa Park. Jordi Cruyff and Dennis Bergkamp found the net for the Dutch, who moved into pole position, ahead of England facing Scotland in Group A’s next game.
The Dutch lined up in a 3-4-3 diamond for this game, with manager Guus Hiddink making three changes from the opening draw with Scotland. Danny Blind, Aron Winter and Peter Hoekstra were drafted in, replacing Johan de Kock, Edgar Davids and Gaston Taument respectively. Ronald De Boer was moved to the attacking point of the diamond after a strong performance in the opening game.
Switzerland played in a 4-4-2 diamond system, with Artur Jorge making two changes from the opening draw with England. Midfielder Marc Hottiger replaced Alan Geiger, and Stephane Chapuisat was awarded a start after impressing off the bench in the opener, Christophe Bonvin being the player to make way.
The game did not quite begin in the storied traditions of ‘Total Football’ for the Dutch. Defender Michael Reiziger passed back to Edwin van der Sar, and the goalkeeper conceded a corner within 20 seconds of kickoff with a disastrous first touch under no pressure. The corner was wasted as Swiss playmaker Ciriaco Sforza fired the ball directly into the side netting.
Netherlands won a corner of their own in the 4th minute when Hoekstra was played in down the left flank, and Winston Bogarde stepped over to challenge and concede the corner. Clarence Seedorf’s corner was punched clear by Marco Pascolo, and Switzerland launched a swift counter attack that was capped by Kulbilay Turkyilmaz playing in Chapuisat. The midfielder received the pass on the edge of the penalty area, but no foul was given when Chapuisat cut across the front of Richard Witschge and went to ground.
During their buildup play, Netherlands placed emphasis on spreading out their midfielders, while Seedorf dropped in as a fourth man to help pass out of the back line.
The Dutch won another corner soon after, but for the second straight time, looked more likely to concede on the counter from it than they did to score themselves. An attempted pullback to the edge of the area was intercepted, and as play continued Seedorf was booked for grabbing the shorts of Swiss striker Marco Grassi to slow the counter.
Seedorf was put under pressure again when Turkyilmaz was played in behind down the right, and the Dutch midfielder bundled him down to stop the attack. After a nervous couple of seconds, Bulgarian referee Atanas Uzunov decided to not brandish another card to the already booked Seedorf.
Netherland carved out their best chance of the game so far with Bergkamp picking up the ball and sailing by two defenders before cutting it back from the byline, only for Pascolo to smother the chance with a sharp save at the feet of Winter.
Perhaps spooked by the reckless tackle while on a yellow, Hiddink made an early substitution, withdrawing Seedorf and replacing him with De Kock in the 26th minute. A clearly uninjured Seedorf was seen walking away from the Dutch bench into the locker room after the switch, showing the first public signs of a locker room divide within the Dutch camp that would be talked about for years to come after the tournament.
The Dutch continued to push forward and Hoekstra led Bogarde in behind with a pass down the left flank, before the onrushing defender squared for Bergkamp to fire into the side netting.
Switzerland opened up the Netherlands defense with a slick move in the 31st minute. Midfielder Johann Vogel teed up Sforza to find the feet of a forward in the area, but the danger was cleaned up by a recovering Hoekstra. The Dutch went up the other end of the field almost instantly and won a shooting range free kick when Swiss defender Sebastien Jeannaraet was booked for hauling down Bergkamp. Witschge took the free kick but his effort was lifted over both the wall and the crossbar.
Striker Grassi was tripped up on the edge of the Dutch penalty area in the 38th minute by Blind. Turkyilmaz took the free kick and his shot was deflected behind by the wall for a corner. Turkyilmaz strode over to take the corner, but his inswinger was headed clear, before Chapuisat was booked for fouling Hoekstra to stall the Dutch counter attack.
The game reached half time, with Netherland holding the upper hand slightly. But just as in their opening game against England, the Swiss had shown themselves more than capable of providing a threat on the counter attack.
The first chance of the second half came when Grassi dribbled across the edge of the Dutch penalty area before playing a neat through pass. The Dutch sea of defenders parted for Hottiger, only for the midfielder to blaze his shot over the bar. Netherland responded when De Boer lofted a precise long range pass into the penalty area, and Bergkamp latched onto it before firing a powerful shot wide.
An inswinging Swiss corner in the 51st minute caused a melee, and resulted in Turkyilmaz having his shot crowded out in numbers by the Dutch defense.
The game was starting to heat up, and Netherlands manufactured a good chance when BLind strode out of the back in possession. The defender passed to Bergkamp, who showed a neat piece of skill to beat one defender before threading a pass between the legs of Yvan Quentin. Cruyff raced onto the through ball but crashed his shot into the side netting.
The Dutch were denied taking a 54th minute lead by a spectacular play from Swiss defender Stephane Henchoz. Winter drove forward on the ball, displaying good strength before playing in the impressive Hoekstra. The winger hung a cross up to the back post where Cruyff beat Pascolo with the header, only to see Henchoz acrobatically hook the ball clear off the goal line.
Left winger Hoekstra was becoming more and more influential as the game progressed, and was released in behind once again before crossing to De Boer. Swiss goalkeeper Pascolo came off his line sharply to suffocate the attack by getting to the ball first. The left flank was becoming a real source of joy for the Dutch, and Bergkamp was soon played behind in that area again, only for Ramon Vega to challenge and concede a corner.
After some sustained pressure, the Dutch did manage to finally break the deadlock from the resulting corner in the 66th minute. De Boer took the kick and Pascolo came off his line to puch clear. Winger Cruyff collected the ball on the edge of the penalty area, and took a touch inside before burying a shot low into the corner.
Swiss coach Jorge responded to going a goal down, and possibly also to the ongoing issues against the Dutch left wing, by replacing right back Jeanneret with the more attack minded Alexandre Comisetti.
Comisetti made an instant impression by winning a wide free kick when he charged forward and was brought down by Reiziger. Sforza took the free kick but could not beat the first man, and his effort was headed clear by Blind.
Switzerland were soon back on the attack and won a corner when Chapuisat was challenged by Reiziger. Chapuisat whipped the corner into a crowd of bodies, but the ball was deflected way and out for a throw in.
As the Swiss continued to press forward in search of an equalizer, forward Grassi was booked for using his elbow in a tussle for the ball down by the corner flag against Witschge. The card meant Grassi would be suspended for Switzerland’s next game against Scotland.
The Dutch continued their assault down the left flank and Bergkamp released Hoekstra down the wing to swing over yet another cross. Cruyff rose above Quentin at the back post but directed his header over the bar.
Switzerland midfielder Chapuisat went on a left wing raid of his own in the 75th minute, and Reiziger came over to challenge once more and concede a corner. Sforza’s corner was headed clear by the Dutch, before Hoekstra lofted a long ball forward to Bergkamp, who took a touch beyond Hottiger out on the left sideline. Bergkamp advanced on goal, only for Pascolo to stay big and make the save.
Netherlands doubled their lead in the 79th minute, with the assist coming from an unlikely source. A Swiss attack ended up in the hands of Van der Sar, and the goalkeeper quickly launched a punt to Bergkamp who raced away from Ramon Vega, and had his initial shot saved before smashing home the rebound.
In the 85th minute, Hiddink flexed the Dutch strength in attacking depth, when he withdrew goal scorer Cruyff and replaced him with Patrick Kluivert. Teenage star Kluivert was quickly involved and teed up Bergkamp on the edge of the area, but his shot was right at Pascolo.
The final whistle blew and the Dutch players celebrated a win that had them in a strong position to seal qualification into the knockout rounds.
Regardless of the result in the upcoming England v Scotland game, a draw in their final group game against the English would see Netherlands into the last eight.
Hiddink’s team had put together two strong performances to start the tournament, not conceding a goal, while seeing Bergkamp, Cruyff and impact substitute Kluivert establish themselves among multiple attacking threats.
Flying winger Hoekstra played well here after sitting out the opening game, and it seemed he had done enough to start the next game also. Davids was on the bench for this game, and Seedorf removed early during the first half. Both would be pushing for a larger role in the upcoming game against England.
Switzerland would need to win their final game against Scotland, and hope for some help with other results in order to advance. A task that would not be made easier by the suspension of striker Grassi, who won the penalty for Switzerland’s only goal of the tournament so far, and had offered a real physical presence up top.
66’ NET Jordi Cruyff (Ronald De Boer) 1-0
79’ NET Dennis Bergkamp (Edwin van der Sar) 2-0
MAN OF THE MATCH
#10 CF Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands) – A performance full of skill, creativity and penetration from Bergkamp was capped when he netted the goal which killed the game off in the 79th minute.
3: CF Dennis Bergkamp – Man of the Match.
2: RM Jordi Cruyff – Winger Cruyff was a constant source of quality in attack, and also opened the scoring for the Dutch when he fired home from the edge of the penalty area.
1: LM Peter Hoekstra – A fast, direct winger who found himself running in behind the Swiss back line time and again, produced a large number of quality crosses to bolster the Dutch attack.
3: CD Stephane Henchoz – Showed fight under a heavy amount of pressure, and came up with a spectacular goal line clearance to keep the score at 1-0 during the second half.
2: GK Marco Pascolo – Defended set plays well and came up with a number of saves to keep the score close as the Dutch started to gain the upper hand.
1: CF Kubilay Turkyilmaz – The fast, powerful forward showed himself to be a threat on the counter in a tough outing for his team.