July 10, 2010

Sorry, but there's no vintage video of past World Cup games between Spain and Holland, simply because the World Cup finalists have never played each other in this tournament. Not only that, but they've never been placed together in the same qualifying group. They've never played against one another in the next biggest international tournament, the European Championship, or in the third, the Confederations Cup. To find the last time the two teams have met with anything on the line, you have to go back to 1983, when the teams battled to qualify for the Euros the following year.

That is itself an interesting story. Head-to-head, Spain and Holland both had 2-1 wins against the other at home, so the matter of qualifying came down to how well they fared against the other teams in that group; specifically, who could pound the bottom team in their group, Malta, by the most goals. The sport of soccer not having figured out yet that games needed to be played simultaneously to maintain integrity when something like goal differential was involved as the tie-breaker, Spain went into the final qualifying game knowing that if it beat the Maltese by eleven or more goals, it would qualify for the 1984 European Championships. The Dutch, having played their final game four days earlier, could only sit on their hands and watch.

Spain scored first that night, but Malta came right back and tied the game up ten minutes later. After 25 minutes, the game was tied, but the Spanish scored two quick goals to retake the lead. That's where the game still til halftime, 3-1; Spain needed to somehow score nine goals in the second half to win the group. Which it then proceeded to do, obliterating Malta 12-1, and sending them on their way to the Euros, where they finished second. This they managed in spite of the fact that Spain had not scored more than three goals in a game up to that point, and had not beaten anyone by more than two goals. A fishy result for all concerned, one that still rankles the Dutch:

No comments: