Berti Vogts was at it again yesterday. In Munich's Olympiastadion on 7 July 1974, the man they call der Terrier snapped so assiduously at the heels of Johan Cruyff the Dutch masters of Total Football were reduced to the role of losers in the World Cup final. History will record that at Hampden on 15 November 2003 Wee Berti hounded poor Holland for a second time.
Scotland's manager of 21 months had urged his team of underdogs to play like the unfancied West Germans of 1974. "Apart from Franz Beckenbauer, all the Dutch players were better than ours, but we still won the title," Vogts said. He was being a little harsh on himself. The record books show that Vogts was picked, alongside Beckenbauer and Cruyff, in the team of the tournament - not least for his part in halting the Dutch dream team.
Gerd Muller scored the winner in that 2-1 German victory but Vogts' shackling of Cruyff was equally vital. The Dutch maestro slipped free just once: when he earned the penalty that Johan Neeskens converted in the opening minute. Christian Dailly did a similar job for Scotland and their manager yesterday. Patrick Kluivert probably expected to see the Dundonian when he turned back his bed cover last night. Twice yesterday the Dutch worked the ball to their chief-marksmen in the Scottish danger zone. And twice Dailly intervened with clinically-timed, clinically-executed retrieving tackles.
The pity is the West Ham man's joke booking will keep him out of the second leg in the Amsterdam ArenA on Wednesday night. Still, Scotland will have hope of making it to Portugal next summer if they summon the same kind of dogged determination they showed yesterday.
They were on the front foot from the start and their reward came at the mid-point of the first-half, James McFadden's driven shot deflecting off Frank de Boer on its way into the net. Hampden was already roaring; it had been since Ricky Ross' rousing pre-match rendition of Flower of Scotland. It moved up a notch to eruption mode and stayed that way until after the final whistle.
"It's only half-time," Vogts cautioned in the aftermath. "It's only 1-0, no more. But it was a great performance, especially in the first-half. We tired a little bit in the second half but we still functioned as a team." Which is more than could be said of the Dutch on Dick Advocaat's return to the city where he captured five trophies in three and a half years with Rangers. The Little General returned to the Mean City with Cruyff's stinging criticism of his conservative tactics ringing in his ears. The Dutch coach picked a team brimming with attacking promise on paper, but on the pitch his side retreated into a cautious shell for the opening quarter of the contest - Kluivert dropping deep behind Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Marc Overmars and Andy van der Meyde dropping even deeper on the flanks.
It would have mattered little had there been a cutting edge to the Dutch play, but it was all plodding, pedestrian stuff as Scotland seized the initiative. They seized their chance, too, McFadden striking with the Dutch in a state of disarray. Advocaat's men did manage to pick up the tempo before half-time but it was their two central defenders who threatened to equalise; headers by de Boer and Jaap Staam forcing point-blank saves from Rab Douglas. Significantly, Van Nistelrooy and Kluivert were little more than spectators.
It was little different for them after the break, either. Though it was a backs-to-the-wall job for Scotland from the 46th minute to the 90th, the threat posed by the Dutch central strikers was strictly minimal. Van Nistelrooy's first shot came in the 94th minute. It was comfortably gathered by Douglas.
Tellingly, it was Jaap Stam's temporary metamorphosis as a winger that led to the closest call; the giant defender crossing from the right flank for Kluivert to nod down and Van der Meyde to crash a right-foot drive against the bar. Before the end, Kluivert made way for Roy Makaay and Rafael van der Vaart, the Ajax wonder boy, was also added to an increasingly desperate Dutch attack. It made little difference. For the first time in 16 matches, Holland drew a blank.
It left Advocaat somewhat shaken and stirred. "At half-time Scotland deserved to be 1-0 up," he said. "We played poor defensively. In the second-half it was different. We pressurised Scotland. We still have a chance, though. We have a home game to come, but 1-0 down is a dangerous score. We have to be careful of Scotland on the break." Advocaat needs to be particularly careful. His job was on the line when he arrived in Glasgow and the Dutch press were already penning his P45 last night. "I know what to expect," he said. "It's part of the job. Let's just wait and see what happens on Wednesday."Reuse content